Here’s a succinct description of open source software and its benefits. It’s from Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure from the Ford Foundation.

Free software makes it exponentially cheaper and easier to build software.

Uber, a transportation service, recently announced that some developers had built a way to request cars through Slack, a team collaboration app, instead of using Uber’s own mobile app. The project was completed in 48 hours by a team of developers at App Academy, a coding school.

Uber noted that the team was able to get the project done quickly because they “implemented open libraries such as rails, geocoder, and unicorn [sic] to speed up development and build on a solid foundation.” In other words, the amount of coding that the team had to do themselves was greatly reduced because they were able to use free libraries built by others.