BytesForAll: Can IT be relevant to the poor?

BytesForAll: Can IT be relevant to the poor? An interesting update from my friend Niklas Vainio with some relevant insights into Free/Libre and Open Source Software and India. See it at this blog.

At the moment, India is a “net taker” in the open source movement, but in few years it should become a “net giver”. Dr. Phatak is currently running a program to get computer science students involved in open source development.


Third day was the most interesting for me. Jitendra Shah spoke about his Janabhaaraati Live CD with localized software. He said a couple of things I hadn’t thought about the use of IT in government offices. For government use, you need: Indian language support, office tools, printing, network, communication utilities, document management, search in Indian languages, name translitteration, GIS and low-cost support (can IBM/Red Hat/Novell do that?).
The most interesting session was an ad-hoc session right after the official program about why Open Source still hasn’t gotten off in India yet. This session had the most discussion and argumentation, about piracy vs. free software etc. Somebody from the audience criticized David Axmark (of MySQL) that it’s easy for him to develop software and give it away since he’s from a social democracy. On one hand it’s very true that FLOSS has hidden assumptions on the background of the free software hacker. A large part of free software is software somebody wrote on their free time. Not everybody can afford that. On the other hand, freedom of the software is part of the strategy of MySQL – it wouldn’t have become so great piece of software if it hasn’t been free. Same applies to Linux, gcc, KDE, Firefox and many others.


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