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FSF India urges AICTE to withdraw the circular recommending engineering colleges to use Microsoft Office 365

This has reference to a recent news report regarding a circular from AICTE that instructs engineering colleges to use Microsoft Office 365 in their college computers. We believe that every piece of proprietary software denies freedom to the users and is bad for society. It keeps people divided and helpless by keeping the source code secret and making the piece of software a black box that one can only use as specified by its creators. In practice, this is like a car that is sold with its bonnet locked and the key retained by the manufacturer so that only they can open it and do any repairs.

This is especially bad in the case of the education sector because students need to see the insides of pieces of software to learn and develop their skills. Moreover, the formats in which proprietary applications save files created using them are also secret, forcing anyone who desires to open the files to use the same piece of software. In this sense the circular mentioned above is very unfortunate.

Further, with this circular, AICTE is behaving as a marketing representative of Microsoft Corporation. We believe that this goes against the very grain of the principle of a fair and level playing ground for all players in the field.

Moreover, the Government of India, in its latest education policy has favoured free and open source software and sharing of knowledge among the teaching and learning community. We would like to point out that the present circular goes directly against the spirit of the policy.

Finally, we believe that when good and popular software that is widely used and powerful and more secure is available with freedom and also free of cost, spending so much of public money to purchase the software of a private company that restricts the freedom of the user and keeps everything in secret formats is a very serious and needless waste of public funds that can certainly be much better used, especially in a poor country like India.

We, therefore, urge AICTE to withdraw the specified circular if it has really been sent to colleges and allow the colleges to use software that they find most convenient and best for the students and staff.

We also urge the engineering colleges to opt out of this arrangement in the interest of the students and teachers and the colleges in general.

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