[Fsf-press] Press Release -- On Corporate Agreements and Partnerships with Public Bodies

Thu Dec 21 11:30:23 IST 2006

Press Release -- On Corporate Agreements and Partnerships with Public

Microsoft Inc. has now openly claimed that it had entered into
agreement and strategic partnership with 14 Indian State Governments,
prestigious public institutions like National Informatics Centre and
the Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India (see
Microsoft has claimed that it has been working around some of these
agencies for the past 13 years. Most of these projects, now identified
as e-Governance projects in operation in various central and state
governments, needless to say, are on proprietary non-free Microsoft
platforms. The states with which Microsoft claims to have entered into
strategic partnership and the states where its projects are in
operation include Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Tripura, West Bengal,
Kerala, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh,
Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Punjab and Maharashtra.

Some of the top executives of the corporate (Jean Philippe Courtois,
President, Microsoft International and Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman,
Microsoft India) have expressed happiness and excitement about the
prospects of having entered into successful partnership with various
governments in India, which, according to the corporate's statement,
include 150 e-governance applications running on Microsoft Windows
platforms that bring citizens closer to government services. This
statement also debunks the claims by some of these e-governance
projects on Microsoft becoming their choice for applications. For
instance, Information Kerala Mission, a project under the Local Self
Governance Department in Kerala had for long claimed that it had
decided on the Microsoft platform after extensive technical
discussions, a claim that has now turned out to be bogus with
Microsoft Inc. asserting that it had entered into strategic
partnership with e-governance agencies and state governments.

The performance and operations of all these 150 e-governance projects
now stand in direct contrast to the expectations as listed out in the
Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 as well as to the recommendations
of the Knowledge Commission of India on such e-governance projects.
The RTI Act insisted on preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information as well as its accessibility - both of which cannot be
guaranteed on a proprietary non-free software platform (see
http://persmin.nic.in/RTI/WebActRTI.htm (RTI Act 2005, Govt of
India)). Confidentiality requires prevention of loss of information,
which cannot be guaranteed on closed proprietary non-free platform
without continuous inspection for existence of spy-code through which
information loss can occur. Guaranteed accessibility can only be
implemented if open and free standards and formats are deployed for
public information, which also cannot be guaranteed on closed
proprietary non-free platforms. Usage of closed and proprietary
systems for e-governance applications builds heavy dependance on
proprietary software which again runs contrary to the spirit of Right
to Information Act. The Knowledge Commission set up by the Government
of India to make recommendations on e-governance efforts had
explicitly recommended such projects in India to be on free software
platforms using open standards taking into consideration the size and
scope of such projects, which will also help in improving scaling (see
(paras 3, 7)).

In view of the contemporary situation, the state governments and other
public agencies that have entered into strategic alliance or
partnership with Microsoft Inc, should immediately abandon such
projects. Ignoring the spirit of the Right to Information Act 2005 and
the spirit of the recommendations of the Knowledge Commission of India
on e-governance efforts can well be considered as a naked aggression
on the emerging information society in the Indian sub-continent. The
Free Software Foundation of India appeals to the Governments involved
to shun proprietary non-free software from being used in e-governance
efforts and invest in developing such applications only using free
software and open standards.

Issued by Free Software Foundation of India in public interest.

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