India official: No government edict on open source
IDG News Service - The Indian government will not back open-source software to the exclusion of proprietary software, according to Arun Shourie, India's minister for information technology and communications. The government is a key buyer of information technology in India, and backers of open-source software had been hoping the government would throw its weight behind open source.
"In India we always like to think in terms of either/or. The formula we want to adopt instead is 'and also,' and encourage all kinds of software development in the country," Shourie told reporters shortly after the formal launch in Bangalore today of the PARAM Padma supercomputer, designed by the government-run Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Pune.
"If there is an important security software that we need urgently, for example, we are more likely to buy it than spend time deciding whether we should develop it in India in open source," Shourie said.
Earlier in his address to the staff of C-DAC, Shourie said that in cases involving national security, it was wiser for government research agencies and laboratories to develop software in-house. Shourie later explained, however, that individual government agencies would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to import software or develop software in-house in open source or on any other platform.
"Do not expect a general decision from government on this," Shourie said.
That's the first categorical statement by a senior Indian government official in the debate about whether to adopt open-source or proprietary software. The controversy was sparked in November during the visit to India by Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.'s chairman and chief software architect.
Gates announced during his visit to Delhi that his company planned to invest $400 million in India over the next three years in a number of areas, including computer literacy and localization of its software products. Gates' announcement was seen by analysts as an attempt to preempt the Indian government from making a formal decision to adopt open-source software.
Besides contributing its software to schools, Gates said Microsoft will also assist in training about 80,000 school teachers and 3.5 million students in government-run schools in India.
"This 'gift' is no act of generosity," said Richard Stallman, president of the Boston-based Free Software Foundation, who was in India in November to drum up support for free software but found media and government attention shifted to Gates' high profile visit. "Giving Microsoft software to schoolchildren is like giving them cigarettes -- it is a way to get them hooked, so that once they grow up, they will be a captive market for Microsoft."
Microsoft has tried to
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