Free Software is not just about writing GNU/Linux software or choosing one technology over the other. Taking forward the ideology of Free Software — that includes free knowledge, science and digital societies in its ambit — delegates at the National Free Software conference announced the formation of a national coalition, the National Free Software Movement of India.
The third National Free Software conference brought together ideologues, Free Software organisations and stake-holders in the public sectors, from at least 10 States across the country.
This coalition, which has 16 movements in its fold, to begin with, aims at taking Free Software and its ideological implications to computer users “across the digital divide” and to various streams of science and research. Further, the organisation will work in policy domains, such as introducing software patents or adoption of Open Standards.
Free Software activist Kiran Chandra told The Hindu that while there have been several coalitions and companies working in this domain, all efforts have been largely scattered. “The movement, which originated in small Linux User Groups at the IITs [Indian Institutes of Technology], has gained significant momentum recently. However, this needs to be taken to the next level to increase its user base and subsequently push the need for Free Software, and free societies, across the country.” He emphasised on the need for public discourse on these issues.
The conference, that had around 1,500 participants, had parallel session that deliberated on many of these social and technical facets of the Free Software philosophy. Besides presenting case studies on implementation of Free Software in States such as Kerala, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, it also offered popular hands-on technical or ‘coding' sessions on GNU/Linux-based platforms.
Organisations that are part of this coalition include, Free Software movements in different states such as Swecha (Andhra Pradesh), FSMK (Karnataka), Democratic Alliance Knowledge Forum (DAKF), FSFTN (Tamil Nadu), FSMWB (West Bengal); sectoral movements such as Knowledge Commons, Academics Initiative and the National Consultative Committee of Computer Teachers (NCCCTA). Office bearers include academics from institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science, Delhi Science Forum and several State Universities.