KERALA

State plans training in free software

T. Ramachandran

Kerala State IT Mission, C-DIT to launch CATFOSS next month



20 students for the first batch

Selection to be over in few days



Kochi: A unique initiative of the State government to build up a manpower pool trained in the creation and deployment of free and open source software (FOSS) is to be formally launched in Kochi next month, probably by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

The selection of the maiden batch of 20 students for a six-month FOSS course will be completed in Kochi in the next few days and the initiative will get going around mid-February. It will be conducted by the Centre for Advanced Training in Free and Open Source Software (CATFOSS ), and the selection of a dozen general category candidates for the course is already over. The remaining candidates will belong to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes.

Experts associated with the government’s FOSS initiative feel that the present economic climate will give an impetus to the spread of free software, given the inclination of companies to cut costs. The government itself is committed to the promotion of FOSS, as the Kerala State IT Policy enunciates that FOSS has a key role in building an ‘egalitarian knowledge society.’

Proprietary software, produced and sold by companies in the private domain, still reigns supreme in the IT world though FOSS is emerging as an increasingly viable alternative. Proprietary software is largely subject to legal restrictions and comes with a cost burden that will depend on the kind of package.

Benefits

In comparison, free software is often produced through a collaborative effort and is shared with the rest of the world. It can be used freely and even modified and redistributed. The lack of an adequate number of IT specialists trained in creating and handling FOSS has been a limiting factor in its adoption.

The new initiative will help the government and its agencies meet their manpower requirements. FOSS gets primacy in e-governance projects and many public sector units are already using or are building or migrating to FOSS platforms. All major Kerala State IT Mission projects involve use of such software.

A massive e-procurement project that is in the making itself will require a good number of FOSS-trained personnel as will the establishment of IT cells in each department of the State Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, for instance. As such, the government itself will require a pool of technical personnel trained in building and using this kind of software.

The private sector too has been shifting from proprietary to free software platforms, sources said. CATFOSS itself is an initiative of the Kerala State IT Mission and C-DIT (Centre for Development of Imaging Technology).

The course is aimed at those who have done B.Tech. in computer, IT or related subjects. The CATFOSS centre in Kochi, located at the ITeS Habitat, Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, will offer training in development of FOSS-based software tools, live training in FOSS-based software development and soft skill development.

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