Tag Archives: India

India Election Mashups Web 2.0 Style

India Election Mashups

India Election Mashups

India engages in the important ritual of democracy – an Indian general election — every five years. This ritual will be held from April 16 through May 13, 2009 when all 543 seats of the lower house of the Indian Parliament known as the Lok Sabha are up for grabs.

714 million voters, 828,804 polling stations and boatloads of money spent to engage in this process.

The Indian subsidiaries of two of the largest global web companies – Google India and Yahoo India have launched two mashups in Web 2.0 style. Both sites do a good job of educating the English speaking voters of India on the latest in election news, analysis, voting myths, election abbreviations and symbols, and polling schedules. The sites have some interactive features such as maps, polls to understand the citizens’ priorities on issues such as infrastructure, power, water, jobs, economy and national security.  The sites personalize data based on the voter’s location and permit searching voter rolls to find your polling booth.

These mashups could be even more helpful if they were provided in local languages. The non-English speaking majority of voters in India would benefit by access to modern and unbiased election information services. Hopefully next time an Indian startup will see the opportunity to help inform and build a nation!

Check out the Yahoo! mashup here and the Google mashup here.

GNUnify 2009: Community Support Matters

GNUnify 2009

GNUnify 2009

I’ve been supporting GNUnify in Pune for many years now. And every year it has been great to see the deep support of local organizations like the Pune Linux Users Group (PLUG), Pune Tech and others.

GNUnify has come a long way. It started off as a small college festival in 2003 and has blossomed into a full-fledged technology conference today that represents the diverse and talented free and open source community of Pune. In an earlier era, while I was organizing LinuxAsia in Delhi, I was happy that I could help Harshad Gune, the key mover behind Gunefy, er… GNUnify, to grow the conference by having key players in the global open source community participate, speak and mentor at GNUnify. I’m proud to have been able to get many of my open source colleagues and friends including David Axmark of MySQL, Brian Behlendorf of Apache, Louis Suarez Potts of OpenOffice, Danese Cooper of OSI, Zaheda Bhorat from Google, Bob Adkins of Technetra, Matt Barker from Ubuntu, Chander Kant of Zmanda, Tony Wasserman of CMU and others to participate locally and help GNUnify grow. In addition, India’s FOSS community poured in their support in the form of speakers, participants, and mentors. That’s why I consider GNUnify to be a serious community contribution to growing open source and collaboration.

This year was another step in the right direction. I was excited when I met with Seth Bindernagel at Mozilla HQ in Mountain View and he agreed that it would be great to pull together a Mozilla Camp at the conference. Seth and his colleague Arun Ranganathan came all the way from California to deliver a fantastic Mozilla Day at the conference. It was also an opportunity for members of Mozilla’s India localization volunteer team to meet, discuss and make things happen for Firefox.

Another project that I was happy to see participate this year was Fedora India. The Fedora Activity Days (FAD) at GNUnify were a high energy effort that pulled together India’s Fedora team. I thank my friends at Red Hat, especially Sankarshan, for making this happen. FAD mentored and inspired developers and students interested in learning and participating more in the Fedora project.

It was also good to see the diversity in the technology program at the conference this year. Other workshops and talks that I thought were well done included Bob’s workshop on “Ruby from Basics” which had more than 70 hands-on participants (wow!), Rajesh’s “Programming with OpenOffice.org” workshop, Bain’s talk on git, Namita’s talk on ext4 filesystems, Dexter’s talk on WordPress tips and tricks “Blog A Way”, Pradeepto’s “Hello World – the KDE way”, and Navin’s talk on FREEconomics: the economics of free open/source. My talk on “User As Contributor: Best Practices For Growing Open Source User Communities” had lots of interaction on how and where FOSS users can contribute to growing the adoption of open source in their local communities, using local languages and locally relevant applications.

A new session at GNUnify this time was the Frequently Used Entries for Localization (FUEL) session which brought together a small but dedicated group (Rajesh Ranjan, Sandeep Shedmake, Sudhanwa Jogalekar, G. Karunakar) working on accurate translations for Marathi localization.

Another new program at GNUnify this year was “FOSS in Academics“. The session perhaps could have been better organized and better attended, but then this reflected the reality that technology education in India is by and large FOSS ignorant and unaware of many of the changes sweeping through the software world. As the need to provide FOSS-ready talent to the Indian IT industry grows, the urgency to incorporate FOSS in education is expected to follow. Its good to see GNUnify try its hand at FOSS in Academics. It might start a trend!

GNUnify 2009: Community Feedback

GNUnify 2009

GNUnify 2009

GNUnify always creates buzz in India’s FOSS beehive ;) and this year was no different.

Here are some blog posts from participants at this year’s conference which I feel provide valuable feedback to tune the conference further to serve its community.

GNUnify 2009 photos can be viewed here.

Open Source in India Today

Open Source in India

Open Source in India

There is a lot happening around the world in open source. And open source is becoming more mainstream in the Indian economy. A variety of interests on the part of government, industry and academia are encouraging adoption of open source software in India. Demand for open source has followed the increase in demand for information technologies in all sectors. Liberalization in procurement policy has also contributed to the demand for open source solutions. Industry, academia and community groups are providing training for open source software skills. All of these trends indicate that India is poised to begin to leverage open source software in a bigger way.

Read more in my recent article on FOSSBazaar.org about what’s happening in India.

FOSS seminar by IOTA Kolkata on Dec 26-28

IOTA Kolkata

IOTA Kolkata

The Institute for Open Technology and Applications (IOTA) will be holding its “Freedom in Computer Technology” seminar later this month at Science City in Kolkata on December 26-28. This seminar aims to promote FOSS in West Bengal and is targeted at state policy makers, industry professionals and academics from Kolkata and neighboring areas. Panel discussions and sessions on open source technologies, business models, licensing, standards and open hardware are on the program. FSF has announced a 3 hour talk ;-) on ‘Copyright vs. Community’ by RMS at the event on Dec 26. If you’re able to attend, please send me feedback about the event.

IOTA’s charter includes promotion of FOSS in government and academia and was founded in 2007. Supported by Sun Microsystems India and Red Hat India, IOTA seeks to provide information on FOSS and open standards to organizations looking to understand how open source can fit into their IT infrastructure. IOTA’s resource center at Jadavpur University also offers training on Linux and Open Office. It would be great to see more quality training on other components of the LAMP stack from IOTA as well as more community participation from ILUG-Cal and other local groups.

GNUnify 2009 announced, CFP now open

GNUnify 2009

GNUnify 2009

Pune’s popular FOSS conference GNUnify has just announced its dates for 2009 – February 13-14. The conference has been organized annually by the Pune FOSS community, Linux User Group (PLUG) and Symbiosis’ Institute for Computer Studies and Research (SICSR) since 2003 and is a favorite meeting place for India’s FOSS community.

The seventh GNUnify plans to bring together another round of excellent technology talks, workshops, BOFs and install-fests. The call for participation is now open – so send in your proposal for an in-depth talk, a serious workshop or a BOF on the latest open source technologies to Harshad Gune or Sudhanwa Jogalekar at GNUnify.

Twincling’s Open Source Summit Programming Contest: Show-off Your Code

Twincling Open Source Summit 2008

Twincling Open Source Summit 2008

The Open Source Summit coming up in Hyderabad this weekend has lined up some exceptional talks, workshops and a fun programming contest. Sessions I’d like to be at (and I know you’d be too) include Using Git in your project, Hadoop: a data intensive distributed application framework, Map-Reduce: a distributed model of computation, open source routers, layered security using open source tools and hands-on workshops on Threading Building Blocks (TBB) and OpenMP multi-core programming.

The programming contest challengeFind the Words” is already underway. All entries must include an English-language explanation of your solution’s design. Contest entries must include source code for the implementation. Also don’t forget to add contributor names, e-mail addresses, and brief resumes (including postal addresses and telephone numbers) of everyone who contributed to the project. The project must be submitted as a gzipped tar file via email to leela at twincling dot org. The submission deadline is midnight (IST) December 12 2008.

Take on this challenge, show off your code and impress your peers.

Twincling’s Open Source Summit ’08: Contributing to Open Source

Twincling Open Source Summit 2008

Twincling Open Source Summit 2008

Cool technology, hacking code, phenomenal energy — that’s the upcoming Twincling Open Source Summit in Hyderabad.

Over the last few years it’s been fantastic to see the growing energy around open source software in Hyderabad resulting from the dedicated efforts of the Twincling Technology Foundation. This year, Twincling is organizing its 2-day Open Source Summit on December 13-14 at the beautiful IIIT Campus in Gachibowli. The agenda includes in-depth sessions on open source technologies like KDE, Git, Hadoop, OpenSUSE and Gentoo. Plus, the second day will have hands-on workshops by Intel engineers on Threading Building Blocks (TBB) and openMP. There also will be sessions on open source Web 2.0 frameworks, virtualization, networking, operating systems and multi-core software development technologies.

At Twincling events, I’ve come to expect a high level of participation from attendees, high quality discussions, and good technology sessions. Earlier this year, I conducted the Open Source Entrepreneurship Forum organized by Twincling. I was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the local developer community. They are eager to build software and start-ups based on open source tools and techniques.

At this year’s Open Source Summit, developers can expect to learn about the latest in open source software, share their knowledge and, as always, network with peers. So mark your calendars for December 13-14 (Saturday-Sunday) and participate at the summit. Don’t miss this opportunity to join in the excitement.

ISRO’s GIS software: Indigenous but not Open Source

The announcement in today’s Express India on new GIS software to be released by India’s Space Research Organization (ISRO) caught my eye. The article describes how ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) in partnership with Scanpoint Geomatics of Ahmedabad is all set to release a geomatics application – Indigenous GIS and IP Software (IGIS).

Express India and Scanpoint are proud to announce that this effort will result in the first Indian software package for geomatics. The application uses GIS data, images, and GPS real time information to perform satellite image processing. It runs on Unix and Windows NT.

IGIS promises to save ISRO millions of dollars in licensing fees for 3rd party geomatics software. It is also expected to help grow India’s local GIS software product industry.

Noble goals but using an old approach.

The technology architecture of IGIS, as presented on Scanpoint’s website, left me puzzled as to why a taxpayer funded project did not consider open source software as a viable model for development.

Instead IGIS seems to have been built with a proprietary product model in mind. Its software components – map explorer, image processing and GIS modules, geodata databases, map browser, and web application server – all standard fare are built with the old-fashioned assumption that IGIS can be yet another proprietary product that ISRO can somehow license and sell to others. But closed software models have rarely worked in the past for any kind of indigenous software. Also proprietary software that involves relatively standard components is extremely difficult to build in a clean room environment. So due diligence would demand a health check for IP integrity.

Why would a taxpayer funded agency such as ISRO not use the power of open source to

  1. Build on the shoulders of giants. ISRO can take advantage of high quality, open source technologies. It is prohibitively expensive to reach the same breadth and depth of quality through silo’ed development efforts. Using open source could provide substantial up-front savings for ISRO.
  2. Use collaboration methodologies. This can help grow IGIS’ developer and user communities.
  3. Market the software virally with the power of the internet. Once “viral marketing” establishes an interested and engaged market, the strategy of adding customized components, providing technical services and support, and even packaging can become the basis for a thriving revenue model. If ISRO or Scanpoint want to make money off this software, open source is a proven way to go. Think MySQL, Red Hat, Alfresco, Zmanda.

It is not to late for ISRO to consider this model:

  • It could save ISRO tens of millions of dollars in development and licensing costs.
  • It could give ISRO the ability to build a global community of developers and users.

Old habits are hard to break but closed software products are old news. Today national level government supported software projects are well advised to consider open source models to control costs, build high quality software and to realize the potential of the “indigenous” brand.

Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst in India

Red Hat’s CEO James Whitehurst is currently on his first trip to India since he took over from Matthew Szulik last December. Whitehurst is to meet with top industry and government leaders. He is also scheduled to meet with members of the open source community as well as famous academics such as Dr. Deepak Phatak of IIT Bombay.

In an interview in Mumbai, Whitehurst hoped that open source software adoption would continue to grow as more e-governance projects are sanctioned. India’s central government continues to increase its investment to make IT services accessible to a larger percentage of people in rural and small town communities. Red Hat India continues to focus on growing Linux and open source deployment in four key markets in India – government, BFSI, telecom and education.

Localization and Open Standards

Other areas that Whitehurst sees as big ticket items for India are local language localization and adoption of open standards. Both these areas are crucial for supporting large e-governance projects. Red Hat India continues to make serious contributions to language localization by incorporating support for 11 Indian languages in RHEL and Fedora. Languages that are fully supported include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Telegu and Tamil. Whitehurst reiterated the need for localization in helping reduce the digital-divide in India.

Whitehurst highlighted Red Hat’s efforts to promote open standards as a dynamic that could change society in the long run. Red Hat has made significant headway in lobbying for adoption of open standards by the central government. India voted against OOXML in favor of ODF earlier this year at ISO. However, despite objections against OOXML, it was approved by ISO as an international standard in August. Appeals from Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela that stemmed from irregularities surrounding the approval process were rejected by ISO.

India’s Fedora Community

Whitehurst also praised the Indian Fedora community for actively working on Fedora. India has the third largest group of contributors to the Fedora project. 26 contributors (many of whom work for Red Hat India) are listed on the Fedora project wiki.