[Fsf-friends] [Fwd: [Ilugc] [Fwd] Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with Min. of IT]

Ramanraj K ramanraj@iqara.net
Sun Jan 9 21:22:45 IST 2005

  -------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Ilugc] [Fwd] Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with Min. 
of IT
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2005 03:46:48 -0800
From: Suraj <suraj@symonds.net>
To: ILUG-Chennai <ilugc@ae.iitm.ac.in>

----- 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
To: sanand@au-kbc.org
User-Agent: KMail/1.4.1

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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
Chromepet, Chennai-44.
- --------
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 & 
international levels?

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 
Encoding policy)  

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.  

Content Development: 
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 
country too. 

2. What policies / guidelines should be evolved to create a strong HRD  in FOSS in India?

Digital Encoding: 
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.  

Nagarjuna G.
Free Software Foundation of India.
Version: GnuPG v1.0.6 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: For info see http://www.gnupg.org


----- End forwarded message -----

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