Invitation: FOSS brain-storming session with Min. of IT
Mon Jan 10 13:42:02 IST 2005
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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
- - -- 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 & 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
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
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
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
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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