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Free software centre likely by December

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S. Anandan

Experts to take part in international seminar in State

Kochi: The Kerala State Information Technology Mission is keen to set up the proposed International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) by December this year.

In order to achieve this, M. Arun, secretary, Free Software Foundation of India and coordinator, Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE), has been appointed its ‘special officer.’ The Centre will be located in Thiruvananthapuram.

Concurrent with the launch of the Centre, the government will hold an international seminar on ‘Free Software, Free Society: Freedom in Computing, Development and Culture’ with a view to highlighting the State’s feats in FOSS. It is also aimed at formulating a consortium of FOSS-related organisations the world over.

“We expect several developing countries in Asia and Latin America, especially countries like Brazil and Venezuela that have some experience of developing free software for public/private sectors, to participate in the seminar,” said Mr. Arun. Naturally, collaborative development of commercial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) packages will be high on the agenda of ICFOSS.

Logistic clearances

Meanwhile, the Information Technology Department is on an overdrive to obtain logistic clearances from the government for the project. It is in consultation with several experts, including free software guru Richard Stallman, in a bid to broaden the scope of ICFOSS.

“The focus is as much on spreading the philosophy of freedom as it is on the technicalities involved,” said Joseph C. Mathew, IT Adviser to the Chief Minister. The government, on its part, has earmarked Rs.60 lakh for the project.

Rahul De of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, has already submitted the mission plan for ICFOSS. He feels that the Centre “is going to be a pioneering institution for promoting FOSS in India and dealing with FOSS issues”. Prof. De has identified six key areas that the Centre could operate on.

It may investigate what political, cultural and economic benefits FOSS would reap for the country.

Software development apart, this could be extended to issues such as patents, copyright, digital content and scientific publishing. Providing leadership in identifying FOSS technologies for different applications for the government, public enterprises, educational institutions, small business, individuals and other key sectors could be another thrust area.

The ICFOSS could be a consultancy for all government departments in the State for IT-related activities, besides creating a level- playing field for all software acquisitions.

It could certify FOSS software considered for adoption and facilitate FOSS-based initiatives in the State by setting up infrastructure.

On a larger scale, the Centre may also draw up an action plan aimed at making the State a global leader in the open source community by developing and customising FOSS applications for developing countries.

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