Friday, February 11, 2011

May The tribe of Abdul Rahman, Hon'ble Member Parliament, increase!!!


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 rahmanexec@yahoo.com. 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...

9 comments:

Arin Basu said...

Very encouraging trend no doubt. But given the state of corruption in our public life, your conferring "messiahdom" to the honorable minister may not turn out to be hasty. After all, how different is Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu), or Sun Microsystems or Oracle (ref OpenOffice) from Microsoft?

MK Yadava said...

Well, your views are very apt and to the point. Basically there are two vital issues on which you have touched. First, given the state of corruption in public life, is there any hope in Parliament for things as FOSS? It may not appear so in the macro view, but if you examine the way the parliamentary institutions function, there is a definitive trend in the positive direction, and FOSS has a lot to gain from it. I do not see anyway we can lose.(Just see, "RTI" or "CAG" are products of the same process which we all tend to condemn in the first place)

Secondly, you have also mentioned about Canonical, Sun Microssystems, Orcale and Microsoft. To this a lot more companies should be added such as Google, Yahoo, Cisco, eBay, Amazon... However, we need to look at the FOSS eco-system and how the communities can drive it to fruition. Here, governments can play a critical role by supporting FOSS and creating talent pool of young students and professionals who can thrive on such endeavours.

Definitely, it is neither going to be easy, nor should we abandon our efforts because of some big sharks.

Tamojyoti Bose said...

Sir,

Your work towards FOSS is commendable. I have attended an session on FOSS organised by AMTRON(http://tamojyotibose.blogspot.com/2011/04/foss-forward-guwahati-bharat-operating.html). Really we need to do a lot on adoption of FOSS. Its really nice to see ur Laptop running on Ubuntu

Minakshi said...

When the migration to FOSS will happen? We are implementing Dharitree in one of the districts and newer and newer vesrsions of Dharitree is being sent to us. Now a state has reached that every other day Dharitree is finally installed in a circle in brand new servers with licensed Windows server 2008, SQL server 2008 and of course the latest Antivirus software. Then when......

Tamojyoti Bose said...

Huge financial burden of purchasing licenses will eat the real benefit of e-governance. Unless and until we completely migrate to FOSS it would be very difficult to implement e-gov in real sense. More change mean more cost incurred in training also .

MK Yadava said...

Well Dharitree is a specific project. We all want it to run on GNU/Linux and FOSS. It can be easily done. We have told NIC local office at Guwahati about it several times. The local NIC team led by Sri Goswami is a FOSS enthusiast team. I hope they better listen some day...

The cost of procuring licenses have been very high. The only saving grace has been adoption of OpenOffice.org. However, due to regular formating etc. of the hard disks in the field, I cannot be too sure of that now...

Tamojyoti Bose said...

usual approach of the hardware guys is to provide with the pirated one after format unless the user insist. So in that scenario chances r there .....

MK Yadava said...

Dear Tamojyoti,
Its a very valid and key point that you have raised. According to me its the mail battlefield. If fought well, half the people would be won over to FOSS camp. However, the IT professionals at the fore front of providing hardware sales and services are the key to success. Its they who know the customer and have convincing power. I wrote about it in some form i my blog http://letsbetteroursociety.blogspot.com/2010/01/while-working-on-pc-today-i-got-mail.html.

I have personally seen that while recommending GNU/Linux Ubuntu to some of my close relatives, it became a nightmare, as because when they approached the dealer (in Delhi and Lucknow, forget about small towns), they said they never heard the name Ubuntu and only free dos laptops were available and they offered pirated MS OS on top of that for a sum of few hundred rupees.

Now look at this model, sell UBUNTU or any other GNU/Linux OS with media at Rs. 700 (say) to the customer and assure him best of experience and support. The customer will never buy that Rs. 7000 worth(less) of MS Windows OS and another Rs. 180000 worth(less) of MS Office Suite. However, such a business model needs to be build in the Indian hardware retail sector. This would actually stop piracy... The customer today does not have the right, correct and full information so that he can consciously decide to buy a genuine system...I have full faith in the Indian customer. Somewhere we need to change our approach.

I am in touch with NECTA members to start such a model. They are willing, but nothing much has happened so far. I am also in touch with canonical for implementing such system of service packs depending upon the support model...

Anirban said...

Dear Sir,

Very commendable of you to start this blog on open source. Just a suggestion that you should provide a link to MS office equivalents

regards

Anirban