BANGALORE: Consider the analogy of the proverbial elephant and the blind men. While different people may develop a nuanced understanding of the tail, tusk or head; in a proprietary world there is no economic calculus that allows them to talk and share their knowledge.
This is where the concept and philosophy of Free Software becomes critical in solving global, interdependent societal problems such as climate change, observes K. Gopinath, professor of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and a supporter of the Free Software movement. He is also the chairman of the National Conference on Free Software being held at the Central College campus starting today.
“Free software can be a necessary lubricant in allowing for transparency and flow of information between science and society,” he explains. In a crucial issue like climate change, he observes, the software used for modelling is almost always free, however, the data is not shared or accessible is a great impediment. Prof. Gopinath observes that the Free Software movement has shown the way that harnessing the energies of individuals can result in great collective works such as GNU/Linux
Prof. Gopinath says he is overwhelmed by the response the event has received what with over 1,500 participants having registered. “In 1993 when IISc. organised a conference on intellectual property and its social/technical implications, it followed a top-down approach. In contrast, this conference is no longer an academic exercise but driven by people who are touched by, and believe in, Free Software,” he explains.
Today, Free Software is ubiquitous. Be it browsers, servers or applications, now you see a lot more application of free software in many parts of the information economy, Prof Gopinath says. He points out that in addition to the philosophical aspects of what Free Software stands for, there is a tangible aspect of being able to deliver a system that is affordable. Prof. Gopinath believes that in the Indian context, the opening up of mobile platforms will offer a lot more possibilities for health care, literacy and delivery of services.