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Broad consensus on use of open source software
POLITICAL parties may have different ideologies, but when it comes to e-governance they seem to agree on the type of computer software the country needs.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (bjp) IT vision document, released on March 16, endorsed Free and Open Source Software (foss) that can drastically cut costs of computerization (see 'foss time in India', Down To Earth, April 30, 2008). The Left parties and some senior Congress ministers have been supporting foss for some time.
Unlike proprietary software like Microsoft Windows or Adobe Photoshop where companies hold patents to the programmes' codes and charge fees for using the software, free and open software like Linux make codes accessible to all without charging fees. So whether it is the Congress, the bjp or the Left supported Third Front that forms the government after elections, foss is likely to get a boost.
One of the highlights of bjp's vision document, released by prime minister aspirant L K Advani, is making foss code available to all and "help the student community experiment and innovate". The Left supports foss as it would help break the monopoly of proprietary software companies. "Monopoly over knowledge has become the new avenue for earning profits. There is a need to liberate people from this stranglehold," said cpi(m) leader, Sitaram Yechury.
The Knowledge Commission, in a report in 2006, recommended use of foss. Panchayati Raj minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has been promoting its use in his ministry."This means there is a broad consensus on foss and it would be interesting to see what happens in the next five years," said Venkatesh Hariharan of Open Source Foundation of India, a non-profit.