Open IT: Govt to rewrite source code in Linux
TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 09, 2002 01:29:29 AM]
NEW DELHI: If the Chinese have IT, get it. The Indian government seems to
be taking a leaf out of China's operating system, and is planning a
countrywide drive to promote the open source operating system, Linux, as
the 'platform of choice' instead of 'proprietary' solutions.
For proprietory, read Microsoft, which controls over 90% of the desktop
The Department of Information Technology has already devised a strategy to
introduce Linux and open source software as a de-facto standard in academic
institutions, especially in engineering colleges through course work that
encourages use of such systems.
Research establishments would be advised to use and develop
re-distributable toolboxes just as Central government departments and state
governments would be asked to use Linux-based offerings.
DIT is in talks with leading industry players like IBM and HCL to get a
feel of their work in the area and invite proposals for joint projects. "As
a first step we are persuading all government institutions to offer courses
on Linux and programming for Linux environment. We would also set up Linux
Resource Centres in academic institutes (with co-funding from government
and industry)," said a senior government official.
Though India has made a name for itself selling solutions, software as a
product is expensive within the country. And the cost will bite once India
starts implementing IPR protection in earnest, as it has committed itself
While redistribution of proprietary software is restricted through a
licence agreement, the licensing terms for Linux grants the right to obtain
and redistribute copies. Many analysts believe that China's growing
dominance in the IT space is fuelled by its low cost open source bias.
The Chinese government has consistently promoted its local software based
on Linux, both for cost reasons, and reportedly for 'security' concerns as
The source code for proprietory software is not revealed, and this, it is
believed, has not found favour with the Chinese, especially in defence and
security related applications.
Microsoft, in what many observers and reports say is an attempt to soften
the Chinese government's stand, recently committed to investing $750m in
China in three years to help set up a software college and put its money
into Chinese education.
In comparison, Microsoft has announced investments worth only $75m over a
three-year time frame in India. Howver, the Chinese company Redflag
Software, which was set up by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the
country's most prestigious research institute, has often come out with
low-cost software based on Linux, in direct competition to Windows-based
The Indian government's plan, however, is not driven by security concerns,
but by the far more simple arithmetic of costing. To put it simply, India
being a developing country needs low cost solutions.
Unlike the Microsoft-developed Windows operating system, Linux code is free
and downloadable from the internet. With the addition of special
applications, it can be personalized to meet specific needs.
An industry-government-user-developer conference on the subject would be
organised to throw up ideas for specific initiatives including funding,
reliable sources told ET.
The only issue here is support and services, which Indian government
sources feel is not likely to be an issue in a country known for its
software support and service skills.
Like China, the government is also eyeing the increasingly lucrative global
support and services market for the Linux environment may prove lucrative.
While proprietary support agreements govern only the systems purchased
(with licences), for free software support is independent of the number of
"With applications in security being a focus area, inputs have been sought
from the Defence on their experience with Linux. Indian-language based
solutions, e-governance, embedded and high performance cluster solutions
are other areas. But firstly we want to concretise the position on IPR
issues in the use of Linux," the source said.
DIT is planning a three-tier mechanism, with itself as the first, industry,
user groups and state governments as the second and a national apex
committee headed either by a government representative, an industry expert
or an academician to oversee manpower and skill development, applications
development and deployment and public policy support, said sources.
According to IDC's figures for '00, Microsoft still controlled 94% of the
desktop software market and while Linux is expected to overtake the number
two - Apple Mac OS - by '03, it would still control less than 4% of the
In server software, it fares a little better and is expected to control
around 30% of the market by '03, according to IDC. Linux, which has
established itself in the server space, is an open reliable OS that runs on
virtually any platform and was developd by Finnish technologist Linus
After developing the initial source code, Linus made it available on the
Internet for use, feedback and further development.