ICTpost Governance Bureau
India represents the aspirations of a billion people. And open source is the ideal vehicle for quickly bringing the benefi ts of mass computerisation at a reduced cost. Even when you view it from the point of localisation, open source represents tremendous opportunities. For a nation that has close to 22 official languages, Linux is an ideal platform for making technology accessible to the majority of the population of India that does not speak English.
Many localisation groups in India that are working on brining Indian language computing to the masses have embraced open source software and Linux as their de-facto standard. Since proprietary software vendors did not take the initiative to localise their operating systems and applications to Indian languages, localisation groups turned to open source software like Linux, OpenOffice.org and other programs. The Indian open source community has localised OSS programs to Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali and many other languages. Localisation plays a huge role in adoption, as governments can use technology to communicate to citizens in their own language. Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop for instance, is available in 11 Indian languages including – Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
In the area of e-Governance, the government spending on software development can be made more efficient if it adopts the open source model that promotes the sharing of software code. Government departments across different states have the same requirements and instead of each government department developing separate programmes for the same task, they could share the same code base and make minor changes to suit the needs of each state.
One huge benefit of such sharing is that state governments can cut down their risk by implementing software that has been tried and tested in other state governments. Since a significant percentage of new software implementations end up as failures, such sharing eliminates a lot of the risk involved in IT implementations. The biggest benefi ciaries of such sharing are the newly formed states of India where the IT departments have limited manpower. Given the population and geographical spread of India, the open source model based on collaboration, community and shared ownership of intellectual resources can save the country thousands of crores of rupees and eliminate much wasted time and effort. In India, open source adoption has moved from hype to reality, and a huge number of state governments have evinced deep interest in using open source.
As a country, India faces enormous challenges of development, and we need to encourage such efforts that make the best use of taxpayers’ money. OSS offers such a model, and can enable India to be a knowledge superpower based on the foundation of affordability, innovation and sensitivity to local needs. The Internet was such a huge success as it was founded on open standards. Now, it is time for India to take such a step in Open Source, and reap the benefits of a nation whose time has surely come – be it cricket, space or technology!