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

Sridharan Anand sanand@au-kbc.org
Mon Jan 10 13:42:02 IST 2005

Hash: SHA1

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
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

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

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.

Nagarjuna G.
Free Software Foundation of India.
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