Technology Myopia in Kerala
It doesn't happen everyday that a government sets itself in a way that may well turn out to be a disaster. The recent decision by Kerala Govt. to mandate Linux in high schools is just one of them. This is in the aftermath of having banned Colas in the state. (So tell me are colas more dangerous or are cigrattes and alchol? Why not ban them instead? )
"Stallman has inspired Kerala’s transition" quotes the education minister. Since when did foreign nationals start insipiring Indian govts. to take action? The interest of a state and region are now better understod by a foreign national?
"Achuthanandan’s government to develop the state as a FOSS (free and open software systems) destination" - WHY? WHY? the govt. is now deciding on behalf of its citizens what technology will students study? after liberalisation in '91, it was amply clear that there is merit in delinking economy and politics. why link up politics and technology now?
I would really like to know whether this decision was based on any project report or finding? Why not share with the world the report if it exists? There is no single reference to any benefit the state is going to derive by making this decision in any of the news reports! Why doesn't the CM or the education minister elaborate or is that there is no benefit?
Some news items referred by me:
The reason for this decision smells strongly of politics rather than development and fairness.
My support is to development as it is the key to everything else in governance. Here is why this decision doesn't make sense and is detrimental to overall devlopment in Kerala:
- Freedom Curtailed: The freedom to choose the platform/tools that a person finds more amneable should be in the hands of the citizens. Give citizens a choice and let them decide! MAndating a technology over the other takes the citizen's right away from them.
"Initially, schools were given the option to choose whether teachers were to be trained in Linux systems or Microsoft." - that was great! And when FREEDOM of choice prevailed, it was in the hands to the schools to choose the platform they deemed fit for their students. The whole act of mandating one technology over other is anti-Freedom and that is what i dont' support.
- Job Opportunities Lost: In real world, do IT implementations only happen in Linux or Microsoft? No they don't. Getting young minds to artifically bend towards a technology, upsets their competitiveness in the real world. Would Kerala want its Microsoft based technology companies to take away its business from the Technopark? Does Kerala govt. think that discouraging Microsoft technology companies in the state is anywhere related to the betterment of their citizes?
- Economy is technology agnostic: The core industries in Kerala are tourism and healtcare. Do they care about what technology they use? Industry knows that technology is just a tool not a means. If a technology does what it was supposed to do, it serves its purpose. The question of what technology is irrelevant.
What govt. needs to decide on is the what do they need for high schools? Once they do then choose the tool for acheiving the same. Don't put cart before the horse. IMHO, some needs for high schools are:
- Usability (a strength of MS platforms) is extremely critical in grass root levels. Learning curves have to be as short as possible and support for accessibilty, speech etc considered as well. Citizens benefit when it can be demonstrated that one technology is superior over the others in these areas.
- Free S/W tools from Microsoft: Schools need to have cost effective solutions. MS now provides FREE development tools to everyone. You can download Visual Studio Express Edition for FREE, even XNA gaming studio (the suite to develop games on MS platform including XBOX) is now avaialable for FREE.
- Local Language Support: MS products fully support local languages e.g. malayalam. Windows interface can be customised to display Malayalam. MS Office is also avaialble in Malayalam. I think the MS platform has better local language support than any other technology.
"Officials say political parties in Kerala have been using the Microsoft versus Linux issue to settle scores. "The Congress government had launched an IT literacy project with the support of Intel and Microsoft. Now the Communist government has abandoned it, and wants to migrate everything to free software platforms," an official at the Kerala IT Mission Secretariat pointed out."
The project refered was called "Akshaya" where one person from each family gets educated on IT leading to better opportunities for the family. This scheme was much appreciated in the state and created opportunities for people in need. Settling scores on expense of people is simply replusive.
Now is Linux going to be free for the state? NO. The answers lie in the questions below:
- Who will install and support Linux in high schools? Is it going to be FREE?
- Who will train the teachers on Linux? Is it going to be FREE?
So, who benefits from the above - some implementation vendor or some Linux distro company (Red Hat, Debian, IBM ????)
Here are two more view points from resident Indians on this issue who are in technology area:
I just hope that govts. stop fighting with each other at people's expense and focus on development of their regions. Use whatever you want - Just don't loose sight of what you are trying to achieve..
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.