The government officials will get lessons on freedom soon; that is freedom in the virtual sphere. A workshop, mainly for government officials, is being organised by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) on Wednesday to create awareness about Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) and to entice them to look for FOSS-based solutions within their respective departments.
The open-source movement is about evolving software solutions through collaborative community effort and providing complete freedom to each individual to modify the source code according to his specific needs.
“Many State governments have area-wide networks and e-governance is taking off in a big way. There is a lot of scope for the deployment of localised solutions using open-source platforms,” says M.R. Rajagopalan, director, C-DAC (Chennai).
While using open-source software, the upfront and maintenance cost is minimal in comparison to proprietary software. There is also room for innovation and modification because of the absence of ‘vendor lock in’. Proprietary software cannot be modified and the user has to go back to the vendor even for minor changes.
“The online payment system being used by TNEB was developed using open-source applications. The code was modified after six months incorporating some of the lessons learnt through user experience. This would not be possible with proprietary software as it does not recognise the user’s expertise at evolving solutions for his own problems,” says S. Srinivasan, project scientist, National Resource Centre For Free/Open Source Software (NRCFOSS).
The open-source platform developed by C-DAC is called Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS). It is based on the Debian Linux platform and has a lot of rich Indian language features.
According to Mr. Rajagopalan, the software does not require multiple licensing unlike proprietary software. So network based central database centres can be implemented for e-governance programmes at minimal cost. “Open-source applications also mean better monitoring of quality as the source code is monitored by a community. More eyes means more software bugs are detected and corrected,” he says.