It was on the 8th February, 2011 that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT visited Assam to review e-Governance and NeGP status in the State. In one of its first meetings chaired by Sri Jesudas Seelam, Hon'ble MP on the progress of e-Registration, a string of question and answers were going on. The Government of Assam was represented by Sri V. K. Pipersenia IAS, Principal Secretary, Revenue, Sri Niraj Verma IAS, Commissioner & Secretary, IT and truly yours. It was also attended among others by Sri Deepak Goswami, SIO, NIC, Assam. Deepak himself is a FOSS enthusiast. Sri VK Pipersenia has the reputation of over-ruling purchase of Microsoft Office for the CLR (Computerization of Land Records) Project rolled out in 200+ Circle offices in the State last year. Due to his strong stand, we not only were able to push OpenOffice.Org in all the PCs supplied, but also gave training to the Revenue Staff in FOSS. Here I would mention that the Dharitri, which is otherwise a very good software prepared by NIC for Land Records, is in Client server model and is based on MS .Net.
The reason why I am writing this Blog is that while the Standing Committee was sitting on one side of the conference table, and we on the other, among the several questions being bombarded by the Hon'ble Committee members, i heard one question and it got me floored, "Are you using open source? What is the platform of your application?" To this Deepak replied that It was on Microsoft .Net. Then another question, "Why you are not using open source?" to which Deepak promptly replied that they were migrating to FOSS in the third version of the Software.
I never expected such a question from an MP in India in the first place. To have an MP who is so well versed and committed to FOSS was a news of life time. Who is this firebrand MP?
He is none other than Abdul Rahman, MP from DMK representing Vellore in Tamilnadu. His email ID is firstname.lastname@example.org. He is MA in Economics and holds Diploma in Computer Programing. he has been in IT for more than three decades. He deserves a big hand from all the FOSS enthusiasts of the country.
Later in the evening I showed him one of the papers submitted to the Committee outlining issues and challenges which mentioned among others, "Use and Promotion of Free and Open Source Software and Open Standards" which essentially talked of the following:-
"The Government of Assam has already adopted use of Free and Open Source Software in all its programmes and projects in the IT sector, as per the Policy guidelines of the Information Technology Policy of Assam, 2009 notified on the 4th August, 2009. Most of the programmes of the Government are being launched on GNU/Linux Operating Systems such as Ubuntu and use the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The Government is also implementing adoption of Open Standards.
It may be noted here that there DIT, Govt. of India has also come with adoption of Open Standards. However, there are no implementation guidelines, as a result of which most of the line Ministries are still toeing the proprietary software line such as that of Microsoft (which are against the Policy guidelines), resulting in a Non STANDARD implementation of operating systems, application development, capacity building and training. The Hon'ble Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT may recommend use of FOSS by all line Ministries and Departments of the Govt. of India and monitor enforcement of the Open Standards."
The FOSS community has now a Messiah in the Parliament, and who also is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT. We should approach the Hon'ble Committee with a very good case as to why the Parliament ought to enforce the use of FOSS in e-Governance, schools and all walks of public life and make all the Ministers and officials accountable in this regard.
I solicit the views of the FOSS enthusiasts...