FOSS – A boon for e-governance and educational institutions

Niraj Dubey
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Community is By the Community, For the Community, of the Community, To the Community on No Profit No Loss Basis. Open Source Software, is and will always remain free. There is no license to pay to anybody.The central government mooted out a policy on adoption of open source software, which makes it mandatory for all software applications and services of the government be built using open source software, so that projects under Digital India “ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs”. “Government of India shall endeavour to adopt Open Source Software in all e-Governance systems implemented by various Government organizations, as a preferred option in comparison to Closed Source Software,” said the policy statement, put on the website of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.The Open Source Software shall have the following characteristics:- A) The source code shall be available for the community / adopter / end user to study and modify the software and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified software. B) Source code shall be free from any royalty.
The Government realizes that Free Software presents a unique opportunity in building a truly egalitarian knowledge society. The Government will take all efforts to develop Free Software and Free Knowledge and shall encourage and mandate the appropriate use of Free Software in all ICT initiatives.The state governments in the different states of India are expected to come up with their own versions of this policy around open source adoption for implementation at the state government levels. Government of Kerala policy on Free Software undertaking one of the most progressive educational reforms, this South-Indian state has declared to welcome open source in a huge way. As per a report by The Hindu, more than 2 lakh computers in schools across the state will soon be powered by the latest version of the Linux-based free Operating System (BOSS) – Bharat Operating System Solutions under IT@School that provides a variety of applications for educational and general purposes.According to Kerala Infrastructure & Tech. for Education (KITE), it would help the government of Kerala in saving Rs. 3000 crore. The Vice Chairman and Executive Director of KITE, K. Anvar Sadath while talking to The News Minute, says that if these applications would have been proprietary in nature, a license fee of Rs. 1.50 lakh would have incurred for each computer. According to Sadath, the FOSS-based Libre-Office instead of Microsoft Office, GIMP/Krita software instead of Adobe Photoshop Premier, and Inkscape instead of Corel Draw are some of the alternatives to the proprietary versions that cost thousands of rupees.
Major FOSS Initiatives :-
National Resource Centre for Free & Open Source Software has been established to provide design, development and support services to the FOSS community in the country and also strengthen the global FOSS ecosystem by contributing to the open source pool. Several milestones have been achieved including indigenized GNU/Linux Operating system distribution “Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS)”- is a GNU/Linux based localized Operating System distribution that supports 18 Indian languages – Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. BOSS has been certified by Linux Foundation and is expected to meet the stringent demands of e-governance. The participating agencies in this consortium mode project are CDAC (Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi), AUKBC Research centre, Chennai and IIT (Bombay, Madras). Research and development has been undertaken in the areas of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) stack delivery, Service oriented architecture (SOA) design, Service oriented kernel for Linux, GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), mobile applications on Android platform, enhancing accessibility of FOSS Desktops for disabled persons, Human Resource development and On-line courses & certification.
BOSS Linux deployment:-
BOSS has been deployed for e-governance applications in Chattisgarh and Kerala. A MOU has been signed with National Informatics Centre (NIC) for deployment of BOSS/Linux across the country in e-governance applications developed and maintained by NIC. Punjab State Government has deployed BOSS in many schools under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme. BOSS has also been deployed in Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Haryana in various applications. A) BOSS Server – BOSS server is a light-weight version of Debian based GNU/Linux with necessary security features enabled, designed for hosting web server, proxy server, mail server, network server, database server, file & print server, virtualization server, etc. Particularly useful for SMEs & Government organizations for hosting their website & internal servers. B) EduBOSS – Educational variant of BOSS, full-featured, user friendly Linux operating system; pre-installed with educational applications, games, paint & graphic tools, typing tutor and a host of tools & packages for learning & teaching useful for schools. C)- Meghdoot – Indigenously developed cloud suite using free & open source software’s to offer cloud services. D) Swar-Suchak – An open source voice enabled information retrieval system in multiple languages.
The voice gateway successfully integrates the mobile telephone network with automatic speech recognition system, text to speech system for Hindi & English and web navigation system based on open standards using open source softwares only. E) Creative Computing @ Schools – An educational e-journal for CBSE to share educational pedagogical experience by teachers and students’ innovative ideas. As an e-product, it is cost-effective and has the advantage of quick & definite delivery to ‘student & teacher’ community. F) ILMS – Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) is a most advanced & cost effective open source automation solution for Public, Academic and Digital Video Libraries with comprehensive functionality successfully integrating Koha & D-Space. Several promotion/ training programs are being conducted across various government departments, academic institutions, schools etc. for further proliferation. E-Learning solutions such as LMS, CMS, Authoring Tools, Video streaming tools and e-Learning standard compliant solutions have been developed. Applications for live weather information, daily vegetable prices, current flight information, real-time currency exchange rate information and BSE Sensex information have been developed. Rahul De – Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor, IIM Bangalore , released a study on Economic Impact of FOSS in India where it is estimated that India could save Rs10,000 crore per year, if half the PCs sold in India come with FOSS. As far as J&K State is concerned, they have yet to think upon this perspective to implement Foss in Schools/Colleges as well as in Govt. Institutions.
But it needs a sincere effort & honest approach to spread awareness about open source software, free tools. To enhance skills by conducting workshops on open source software. To help in decreasing dependence on proprietary software, thus saving financial resources. To assist researchers and to improve technical writing using open source. To adopt Educational Institutions, rural areas with open source support.
(The author is Sr Faculty & Warden (GCET- Jammu)