[Fwd: [Ilugc] [Fwd] Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with
Min. of IT]
Sun Jan 9 21:22:45 IST 2005
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Ilugc] [Fwd] Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with Min.
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2005 03:46:48 -0800
From: Suraj <email@example.com>
To: ILUG-Chennai <firstname.lastname@example.org>
----- Forwarded message from Sridharan Anand -----
From: Sridharan Anand
Subject: Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with Min. of IT
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2005 17:09:46 +0530
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Dear Free/Libre Open Source Software Enthusiast,
There is a committee of the Ministry of Information
Technology, Government of India, that is visiting the AU-KBC
Research Centre (http://www.au-kbc.org), MIT Campus of Anna
University, Chromepet, Chennai, on Thursday, January 13, 2005, in
connection with launching a programme on `HRD for FOSS Capable IT
Professionals.' The committee would like to have a
brain-storming session with all persons interested in FOSS from
10:30 AM -- 1:00 PM on the following issues:
- -- Status of current usage of FOSS in Industry, Government,
Education and Research, worldwide and in India.
- -- Human resources needs in the FOSS sector in India and abroad.
- -- Available FOSS human resources development programmes in the
formal and informal sectors (in the world and in India).
- -- Government's possible role in promoting FOSS in India.
- -- Any other steps needed to promote FOSS in India.
Kindly make it convenient to attend this meeting and give
your valuable inputs so that the Ministry of Information
Technology can formulate the necessary plans and schemes to
further the cause of FOSS which you have been serving
individually and collectively in a voluntary manner. Enclosed
please find a note on the theme of `HRD for FOSS Capable IT
Professionals' from the Free Software Foundation (India) for
your information and comments. In case you would also like to
circulate any note to the participants in this connection,
please send the same to us. The meeting will end at 1.00PM with
lunch. Please e-mail confirmation of your participlation to
me (Mob.: 98410 26505) or Anand Sridharan (Ph. 2223
4885/2711/1034). Additional information on how to reach here etc.
will be supplied to you on geting your confirmation of
participation. Look forward to seeing you here on the 13th.
Prof. C. N. Krishnan.
AU-KBC Research Centre
MIT Campus of Anna University
Comments sent by Professor Nagarjuna, Chairman, FSF (Free Software Foundation), India on
the subject `HRD for FOSS Capable IT Professionals.'
1. What are the focus areas that need to be addressed by Govt. at national &
Most urgent focus area should be to identify, encourage and support the already ongoing
groups that are striving to localize (private IT solutions in Indian languages) the
GNU/Linux operating system. How urgent this is becomes clear if we take into account the
fact that currently only 4% people (based on the approximate english literacy) are
capable of using computers, while our country has about 65% literacy. So far IT is
enabling only the upper strata of the country. If we want our people to participate in
this information age, making content available to Indian languages should be a top
priority. In this regard, another serious matter: most of the already localized and
digitized content in Indian languages is done in an unethical and inappropriate way,
because the documents are encoded in proprietary standards (both at the level of font and
data encoding). This is serious becomes clear if we know that this is not allowed in
any other country except in India. Govt. must enforce all the industries who are
presently in this market (including Govt's CDAC) to develop filters to covert all such
documents in ISCII, TISCI and Unicode formats. (please see below our proposals on
Conversion of schools to FOSS:
We should work towards the target of 100% FOSS use in schools 5 years from now, and
before 2020. Starting now, we shouldn't install any new machines in schools/colleges and
public institutions with non-free software. This will eventually solve not only HRD
related issues for FOSS but also to nurture a good ethos within the learning institutes
that shape future societies.
While this might seem not a related issue of FOSS, but FOSS practiced and demonstrated a
unique model where people can generate and maintain content that they require on their
own if they follow the wikipedia model (http://www.wikipedia.org) and other such
community portals. We should not only create a mirror of sites like wikipedia in our
country, but also should make efforts to create and translate the existing public content
in Indian languages. This will also encourage a large number of Indians to contribute in
such portals worldwide.
Mirrors of Free Software:
Indian mirrors (repositories that keep upto date versions of the software developed) must
be created and located within the country for faster and sustained access.
Internet is the nurturing media of swatantra software. It is difficult to visualize the
success of free software without Internet. Providing faster and economical access to
this facility particularly for public institutions will help support and sustain the
movement further. Though not related to FOSS directly, we must have the network work
within the country independent of the international backbone. Seriousness of this becomes
clearer if we look at the fact that when our up front ISP's are disconnected to the
international backbone, two people within a city in India may not be able to communicate
with each other despite the fact that they are completely wired. This could be due to
the non-availability of root DNS servers, and not a very clean routing of packets within
the country.] Not having such an independent network may cause serious problems in case
of international pressures. Having such a facility is crucial for a good bargaining
power of a developing nation. China, I was told, has such a network which works
independent of the international backbone.
At the international level we should protect our freedom in matters related to imposing
software patents. The current stand by India on this very important issue should be held
strongly and no modification is required. We should withstand and stand on our feet and
defend our independence in this matter without yeilding to the pressures of the so
called developed countries and bigger financial powers to enforce software patents in our
2. What policies / guidelines should be evolved to create a strong HRD in FOSS in India?
A very important issue is to drive industry and all govt and other public bodies to
encode all their documents in open standards (non-proprietary). E.g.,
exchanging and storing documents in MS Word should not be allowed, since these documents
being binary not only propogate viruses with them making them vulnerable, but since the
encoding method is not a standard and the companies change them in every next version
merely (without any technical reason) to keep their users locked and continue to use
their upgraded software. If we encourage such usage, then govt. is actually supporting a
monopoly practice to flourish within the country. Alternatively, the document encodings
be done in text, html, xml, pdf, rtf, in that order of preference. A similar policy for
encoding spreadsheets, databases, audio, video etc. All digital encodings of public
documents as a policy cannot be done in propreitary standards. FSF India wishes that we
work towards enforcing this by bringing in other stakeholders and confederations like
NASSCOM, FICCI, CII, MAIT etc should be alerted to take up this issue in the national
interest. This will encourage good business ethos within the industry. We wish that
Govt. take this initiative and lead. FSF India will provide any help to Govt. in this
regard in arriving at a policy document.
Second major issue for human resource development within the country is to plan in a major
way to restructure the technical curriculum of schools and colleges within the country.
What is happening now is no less than a crime: e.g., existence of brand names within the
curriculum/syllabi at all levels (schools, colleges and universities). This is a
direct endorsement of a particular company and a specific application. This is a serious
issue and should be considered very urgent. We need to alert and bring together the
policy makers of technical education immediately and ask them to remove all mentions of
brand names in the syllabi. For example, eliminate Oracle and replace it by RDBMS,
eliminate Exell and replace it by spreadsheet etc. This kind of secular syllabi will
provide enough freedom also to the instructors to use what is available. When we went to
schools and organizations to promote free software we were astonished to find such glaring
omissions. We request that Govt. must look in to this matter. Keeping in mind that
schools and colleges are the places where the trained technical persons are getting
generated, it is here that we need to concentrate to create a secular technical
curriculum. Please keep in mind that a large number or private IT training colleges are
directly funded by major software companies to provide education only in a specific
technology. If technical training is entirely left to private interests bigger companies
will dictate what is good for the country and not the Govt. We should also monitor this
area also, since many people opt for getting trained in such institutes.
Swatantra Software Consortium:
By inviting all the stake holders and confederations a consortium (similar to the W3C)
should be formed to make informed decisions on technical and policy issues related to
software and technical matters.
Standards to be followed by Websites:
Access to content available on the Internet depends on the delivery method followed by
the content publishers. Most content publishers unknowingly support some specific
encodings again proprietary, which will enforce the users to use a particular
technology, again promoting certain business interests.
A much bigger and broader issue is to drive towards a policy where no technology is
allowed to be distributed (marketed) in a proprietary mode of delivery. Just as we seek
our automobiles come with nuts and bolts we should demand that every software that is
marketed must carry the source code along with the right to modify and distribute the
software. This is going to encourage a lot of innovation, as is already evident within
the FOSS world, within the country. This is the best way to achieve the self-reliance
enshrined in our Constitution, and is the main focus of the 2020 vision of our Honarable
President Kalam. Let people participate in shaping the technology of our society.
Law mandating use of Free and Open Software and Standards in public affairs is necessary
to enable wider and stronger use and adoption of FOSS. Just as the GNU Manifesto, and
the GPL together laid a firm foundation for growth of free software, a clear statement of
objects and reasons for using FOSS for Computerisation, with enunciation of it as
legislation alone will enable use, adoption and evolution of workable solutions. A
'Computerisation [FOSS] Act' may help establishing public networks to handle
routine transactions, using FOSS, with transparency at every level, for productivity and
growth. Without this, there would be wastage of resources resulting in poor
implementations not usable or workable.
It is also necessary to have laws that compel hardware and software manufacturers to
disclose technical specifications and details about their products to buyers, to
enable interoperability and portability. For example, new AGP cards like NVIDIA are
getting far more complex than the CPU, and it may become increasingly difficult to
reverse engineer such complex hardware to make such devices accessible to free
software. Selective disclosures to non-free software entities alone promote
monopolies, and therefore harmful. Manufacturers should disclose full information about
their products, which will also enable independent checking, testing and
verification of product integrity and security.
All research projects funded by the state should be made free and open to the public.
FSF India has already elaborated the necessity for this in its recent memorandum
addressed to CSIR.
Software Patents Policy to be arrived at as mentioned in response to the first point.
Keep reverse engineering legal. This is required till all the technology is not free.
India should reject US pressure to prohibit free software to play a DVD, etc.
Any attempt by other bodies that try to create policies that would limit what can the FOSS
community can do should be resisted. One way is to play an active role in WIPO to block
any proposed treaties that would limit what people are allowed to do with FOSS. For
instance, the proposed WIPO Broadcast Treaty would do this.
3. Any other suggestions on the subject `HRD for FOSS capable IT Professionals'.
If the above mentioned basic issues are addressed most of the ground work for creating FOSS
professionals get created.
Contests, Events, Festivals and awareness camps may be organized to enthuse the community
to develop Swatantra software solutions. FSF India will help organizations that come
forward to organize such events. Special projects for developing Swatantra software may
be given to qualified professionals to develop the required software.
Free Software Foundation of India.
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| Papanasam Sivan is also known as the "Tamil Thyagaiah"
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