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FSF India sends letter to Education Minister of Kerela

This letter was sent to the Minister of education to point out aberrations between its stated policy and implementation in the e-governance initiatives of the education department.

 

 

					06/26/08
To
Sri M A Baby,
Minister of Education
Governement of Kerala
Room No.208, Second Floor, North Sandwich Block,
Govt. Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram 1



 

Dear Sir,

Subject: Forcing schools to use proprietary software illegally

 

During the last few decades, Kerala has been following a unique development path that has been considered a model for the rest of the country and even other underdeveloped countries. Kerala, again showed a model to the world with its vision to build an inclusive Knowledge society. Its IT Policy clearly states that the "Government realizes that Free Software presents a truly 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." (section 2.10, IT Policy document, Kerala Govt.)

We congratulate the government for its efforts to support Free Software and free knowledge initiatives. Schools, KSEB, Kerala State Khadi Board etc. successfully completed their migration to Free Software. Public sector initiatives like Keltron are doing mega projects completely in Free Software. With these examples, the state showed that "Free Software" is a feasible technological alternative to any proprietary technology.

 

Under the leadership of the IT@School project, the schools in Kerala were the first to successfully migrate to Free Software. The migration to GNU/Linux operating system and software tools not only saved money but also helped teachers to keep their ethical and moral values by allowing students and others to share the software they use.

However, we would like to point out some abberations from the stated policy particularly in the e-governance initiatives of the education department, like the Higher Secondary Single Window system,  data entry application for SSLC, Child Census,  etc. The above stated e-governance projects necessitated the installation of Microsoft Windows operating system as the software for the above projects were dependent on that operating system. This has forced the schools to install these proprietary operating systems. Most of the schools do not have the necessary licenses for these proprietary systems and consequently, they have to install and use illegal copies of the operating system. By using unauthorized copies of proprietary software, the schools and the teachers who install the operating system are breaking the law. This also puts the teachers in a moral dilemma of having to use proprietary software while teaching and promoting Free Software. Also, it is a clear violation of the IT policy of the state.

The software used for data entry operations are very simple applications which are very easy to build on a free software platform. Also, as all schools in Kerala have already migrated to Free Software, it is easy for them to use a software that works in GNU/Linux. An example is the IT Practical Examination software. Around 5 lakhs students used the IT Practical Examination software for SSLC this year without any problems, and it was made completely using Free Software technology. Government agencies like Keltron, CDAC etc have proved their capabilities in building software using free software technology.

We hope that the State will keep up to the leadership role it has taken in the adoption of Free Software in the education sector. We strongly recommend the government to stand by its policy to use only Free Software in all government departments and convert all software installed and used in schools to free software technology.


Looking forward to your support in spreading the use of free software.

 

Thanking you

best regards

 

Dr. Nagarjuna G.

Chairperson, FSF India.

 

 


References:
IT Policy 2007, Kerala Government: http://www.keralaitmission.org/web/main/ITPolicy-2007.pdf
CPI(M) supports Free software : http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/04/stories/2007030411510400.htm
Kerala schools use free software : http://www.indianexpress.com/story/280323.html
ORUMA: the result of KSEB’s concerted efforts : http://www.hindu.com/2008/03/09/stories/2008030953940500.htm

 

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