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While there have been significant advances in open source software development and products available to public health, there appears to be much confusion around this topic related to open source licensing, management, fair use, and implied cost. This article will provide needed definitions of open source and proprietary software; describe the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) around each; and provide examples of key open source products in use outside of public health. It postulates that the shared tradition of collaboration in both public health agencies and open source communities provides a unique opportunity for the success of open source in public health; and explores this with a case study of open source management and community which may serve as an exemplar of how an open source perspective can fuel a healthy alternative to the proprietary software market in public health.
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