Opensource – IT Policy – Impact on the society

March 22, 2009

I am very happy to note that one of the key political parties in India- BJP – has unveiled a comprehensive IT policy. Reference to the use of open source software is even more noteworthy.

It is very nice to see that a political party acknowledges the role of open source software in innovation. (as it mentions on page 23 of the IT vision document). I am just hoping that BJP’s IT policy making team has much more in mind about the use of open source. I am listing how open source software can be leveraged for building good society and  good governance :

Use of open source software and open standards create the level playing field and helps to bridge the gap between haves and haves not. It also helps to bridge the gap between developed and developing nation by making the knowledge available without boundaries. Today’s era is all about access to knowledge, leading to faster innovation. The era of developing knowledge in a the closed door and then try to use it as an edge over the other part of the society or other nations is gone. It is a matter of faster innovation and access to all.

Use of open source software creates empowerment. Today government can not be seen as the only force that offers jobs. Youths and businesses have to come forward and create employment. Through the use of and encouragement of open source software governments can empower youths and students that would make them ready for the jobs. The empowerment is possible because tools needed in today’s knowledge era are affordable and accessible through open source software.

Use of open source software creates open and proud minds. It is like in the poem of Rabindranath Tagore “Where the mind is without fear and head is held high…”. The use of open source software helps to create “made in my country ” feeling in the globalised economy. By developing more software and more applications in the country, making those applications world class the proud feeling of “made in my country” get bolstered.

Local services industry : The use of open source software leads to creation of local service industry. Open source software commoditises the products and thrives on excellence in services, which is a boon to creating more jobs and more opportunities.

Impact on the education segment : When governments want to make the education and knowledge available to the poorest of poor children through the use of laptops, only the use of open source software can make it affordable. Besides that it is not just giving the laptops or software through the government scheme, but it is also about using the legal software on your home computer. Think of the very real issue. Governments make PCs /Laptops along with  the proprietary software available at the subsidized rates.  When the children want to use the PC at the home, they can not afford to buy the costly proprietary software for it. They end up using pirated software. Is this what we want our children to have the feeling? By encouraging the use of open source software we can give them the feeling of use of legal software. That is the way of developing “Free minds”.

Also one important aspect of digital education is availability of contents in local languages : It is very important to have these contents based on open standards and open source technologies. For the proliferation of contents and lowering of their costs, this is a crucial factor. If these vital contents are based on proprietary and costly software, their use gets restricted or becomes unaffordable.

Going further the impact of open source can be harnessed in developing the right mindset in the society. The open source software is based on the principles of “Collaboration”, “Sharing” and “Community Building”. These are vital ingredients of a good and progressive society.

There is more to write about each of these issues. We all can collaborate to turn them into concrete actions and build stong communities.

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