The Corona warning app of the German government is on everyone's lips. Since last week it is clear: The app should be available in mid-June. Together with Deutsche Telekom and other partners, SAP is working intensively on an open source solution.
Open source (OS) refers to a concept according to which software and applications are delivered with their source code so that it can be viewed and optimized by anyone and everyone. The advantages of open source range from increased innovation potential and more efficient error correction to a faster pace of development thanks to the voluntary commitment of many independent developers.
Transparency through Open Source
This approach was chosen for the Corona-Warn-App in order to create trust through technological transparency and thus also to strengthen the acceptance of the app among the population. In addition, the disclosure and verifiability of the source code gives everyone the opportunity to actively contribute to the success of the solution, for example in the form of correction or improvement suggestions.
Axel Sturm, Chief Operating Officer of the SAP site in Berlin, heads the Open Source working group in the development project. In a short interview, he talks about the current state of development, the biggest challenges and gives an outlook on what lies ahead.
Mr. Sturm, what is the status of the open source work stream?
Axel Sturm: The project team is working in a very focused and goal-oriented manner on the implementation of the development plan. Since the beginning of this week, the project's outline description is available on GitHub, a public service for managing software projects. In the future, the source code will also be available there and the actual community interaction will take place there.
What are the biggest challenges?
Axel Sturm: SAP can look back on almost 22 years of open source history. We are currently listed on GitHub among the top 10 participating companies. We are therefore familiar with classic OS concepts like "publish often and early". We also bring this experience to the app. However, the resulting publicity in this particular project is a new experience for our development teams. As part of this project, they and their work are directly in the focus of the public and the media.
I see further challenges in the increased need for coordination that underlies every cross-organizational project, as well as in the clean setup of the actual community and the rapid incorporation of the feedback received there. Here, rules of conduct, a so-called Code of Conduct, must be established, processes defined and licensing issues clarified.
The Corona Warning App is designed to help interrupt chains of infection. In the end, however, the aim is to provide an application that supports us as a society in breaking chains of infection and thus gradually returning to normality. We are pleased that we can make our contribution to this goal.
What further measures can we expect in the coming days?
Axel Sturm: As mentioned before, our community platform on GitHub is already accessible to everyone. Over the next few days and weeks, parts of the app code will gradually be made available there. For example, the backend code but also details about the user interface. We also expect a lively exchange with the developer community. We also plan to launch a website soon to provide information outside of GitHub for people who are less interested in technology.