[Fsf-friends] ]Open IT - Govt to rewrite source code in Linux

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Thu, 10 Oct 2002 03:37:30 +0530 (IST)

Inspite of all one's enthusiasm about Free Software and Open Source, it's
hard to be too sure or optimistic about the story below.

If government decides on such policies (i) shouldn't the policy decision
be taken openly, on the record and without the possibility of any later
hanky-panky? (ii) is nobody willing to take responsibility for such a
stand -- which is very welcome -- and say so publicly? (iii) if not, why
should we not conclude that this is just some kind of kite-flying, which
actually may be intended to pressurise some 'proprietory solutions'
vendors to come up for equally behind-closed-doors negotiations?

In a neighbouring country, Pakistan, some quaters at least were trying to
use the GNU/Linux-is-great argument to get Microsoft to reduce its prices.

[One recalls times when a number of attempts were made to appeal to
Microsoft to offer discounts for the use of their products in
schools. These appeals were studiously ignored, or snubbed. Today, when
there is a growing demand for GNU/Linux being implemented in schools
(inspite of blocks like a Microsoft-products-only syllabus in parts of
India), the proprietory coders are willing to offer 'special discounts'.]

It might be a good thing if companies like Microsoft could be convinced to
offer more realistic prices to the Third World (just as, say, book
publishers have special prices for South Asia, which are one-seventh or
less of the Western prices) to take care of the lower earning capacity and
the unfair exchange rate we get for our currencies.=20

But it would be surely a better thing to ask fundamental questions about
what should be the nature of software, whether knowledge should be meant
primarily to harvest profits or to meet desperate human needs. Free
Software and/or Open Source needs to be adopted not just as a cheaper
option, or a matter of convenience, but as a rational choice that would --
in some small way -- make ours a less iniquiteous world by taking the=20
gift of skills and knowledge to those who need it so badly.  -FN

PS: To put things very bluntly, is this report a plant? If not, then let's
see that scrap of paper which would make it something more than loud

On Wed, 9 Oct 2002, Ashish Kotamkar wrote:

> Open IT - Govt to rewrite source code in Linux
> http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/articleshow?artid=3D24598339
> NEW DELHI: If the Chinese have IT, get it. The Indian government seems to=
> taking a leaf out of China's operating system, and is planning a countryw=
> drive to promote the open source operating system, Linux, as the 'platfor=
> of choice' instead of 'proprietary' solutions.
> For proprietory, read Microsoft, which controls over 90% of the desktop
> software market.
> The Department of Information Technology has already devised a strategy t=
> introduce Linux and open source software as a de-facto standard in academ=
> institutions, especially in engineering colleges through course work that
> encourages use of such systems.
> Research establishments would be advised to use and develop re-distributa=
> toolboxes just as Central government departments and state governments wo=
> be asked to use Linux-based offerings.
> DIT is in talks with leading industry players like IBM and HCL to get a f=
> of their work in the area and invite proposals for joint projects. "As a
> first step we are persuading all government institutions to offer courses=
> Linux and programming for Linux environment. We would also set up Linux
> Resource Centres in academic institutes (with co-funding from government =
> industry)," said a senior government official.
> Though India has made a name for itself selling solutions, software as a
> product is expensive within the country. And the cost will bite once Indi=
> starts implementing IPR protection in earnest, as it has committed itself
> to.
> While redistribution of proprietary software is restricted through a lice=
> agreement, the licensing terms for Linux grants the right to obtain and
> redistribute copies. Many analysts believe that China's growing dominance=
> the IT space is fuelled by its low cost open source bias.
> The Chinese government has consistently promoted its local software based=
> Linux, both for cost reasons, and reportedly for 'security' concerns as
> well.
> The source code for proprietory software is not revealed, and this, it is
> believed, has not found favour with the Chinese, especially in defence an=
> security related applications.
> Microsoft, in what many observers and reports say is an attempt to soften
> the Chinese government's stand, recently committed to investing $750m in
> China in three years to help set up a software college and put its money
> into Chinese education.
> In comparison, Microsoft has announced investments worth only $75m over a
> three-year time frame in India. Howver, the Chinese company Redflag
> Software, which was set up by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the countr=
> most prestigious research institute, has often come out with low-cost
> software based on Linux, in direct competition to Windows-based software.
> The Indian government's plan, however, is not driven by security concerns=
> but by the far more simple arithmetic of costing. To put it simply, India
> being a developing country needs low cost solutions.
> Unlike the Microsoft-developed Windows operating system, Linux code is fr=
> and downloadable from the internet. With the addition of special
> applications, it can be personalized to meet specific needs.
> An industry-government-user-developer conference on the subject would be
> organised to throw up ideas for specific initiatives including funding,
> reliable sources told ET.
> The only issue here is support and services, which Indian government sour=
> feel is not likely to be an issue in a country known for its software
> support and service skills.
> Like China, the government is also eyeing the increasingly lucrative glob=
> support and services market for the Linux environment may prove lucrative=
> While proprietary support agreements govern only the systems purchased (w=
> licences), for free software support is independent of the number of copi=
> owned.
> "With applications in security being a focus area, inputs have been sough=
> from the Defence on their experience with Linux. Indian-language based
> solutions, e-governance, embedded and high performance cluster solutions =
> other areas. But firstly we want to concretise the position on IPR issues=
> the use of Linux," the source said.
> DIT is planning a three-tier mechanism, with itself as the first, industr=
> user groups and state governments as the second and a national apex
> committee headed either by a government representative, an industry exper=
> or an academician to oversee manpower and skill development, applications
> development and deployment and public policy support, said sources.
> According to IDC's figures for '00, Microsoft still controlled 94% of the
> desktop software market and while Linux is expected to overtake the numbe=
> two =97 Apple Mac OS =97 by '03, it would still control less than 4% of t=
> market.
> In server software, it fares a little better and is expected to control
> around 30% of the market by '03, according to IDC. Linux, which has
> established itself in the server space, is an open reliable OS that runs =
> virtually any platform and was developd by Finnish technologist Linus
> Torvalds.
> After developing the initial source code, Linus made it available on the
> Internet for use, feedback and further development.