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:

http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=229949#229949

http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS7058002470.html

http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/52701.html

http://linux.wordpress.com/2006/08/28/kerala-logs-microsoft-out/

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

from rediff.com:

"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:

  1. Who will install and support Linux in high schools? Is it going to be FREE?
  2. 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:

http://manand.typepad.com/thoughts_from_india/2006/08/is_teaching_onl.html

http://vinodunny.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!F162DB18909CE884!257.entry

 

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..

 

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Comments

r_a_trip said…
Sad. A technology blind MS shill thinks condoning an artificial and abusive software monopoly is in the best interest of a free market.

(Free as in freedom. Money does not have to be the goal of everything).
abhishekkant said…
A FREE market is one in which all software technologies get an opportunity to compete (including MS and Linux and FreeBSD and UNIX and VMS). People should get to choose which one not the state. It is myopic to assume that Govt. knows best in matters of technology rather than governance.
I would like to understand what are the "monopolistic" tendencies of MS in Kerala that you talk about?
Deepak Kumar said…
From: http://www.financialexpress.com/latest_full_story.php?content_id=138497

Comment 1:
"Children in 12,500 high schools in the state, India’s most literate, will not be taught Windows."

I have read about our delegates fighting in state parliaments, even if there is a single wrong/ambiguous sentence in NCERT books chapters.. Here the question is for whole Kerala... 12,500 high schools.. What to teach and what not, amazingly this decision was taken quietly. I tried to find why we needed this decision, but could not. (Was it licensing cost for running windows?? which is available after huge discounts to academic institutes all over the country)



Comment 2:
"The decision was taken in 2004 to push open source systems, but this was not actively followed,"

Technology changes day by day.. Approach to work faster, automated, error free and in reliable way are being welcomed by everyone, every organization, every state and country.. Therefore new software’s are being launched on monthly basis. Did Kerala govt review a 2 year old decision before implementing it? I don't think so?

I am not against Linux nor to Microsoft, but as a citizen of INDIA.. I want to raise my voice against govt to stop forcing orders.. What people prefer is like, provide those available options, Ask and let people choose what best suit to them?

What is the reason? Why Kerala govt forcing to have only one technology in the state, why not Microsoft as well like previously.. When both options are available easily? Is this the Kerala govt only which can see far beyond skies unlike other states in INDIA?

Microsoft technology run on 90% of computers and banning it will defiantly return negative impacts on the students studying in the state.. The time when impacts can be observe undoubtedly.. Who will be responsible for this decision?
NinethSense said…
This is a bad news. As far as I know, Linux not yet bacome stable and each version of Linux follows it's own way of handling. Only an expert can install and bux fix the OS and even a small power failure can stop working of the computer. It is very sad that the Government took this decision without any proper study.

-PraVeeN
...I remember a photo on old malayalam daily - 'Malayala Manorama'.. that Ministrer Achudanandan holding a laptop with Windows Operating System... with a sub-title blaiming his Anti-Microsoft policy.
Deepak Kumar said…
-PraVeeN
...I remember a photo on old malayalam daily - 'Malayala Manorama'.. that Ministrer Achudanandan holding a laptop with Windows Operating System... with a sub-title blaiming his Anti-Microsoft policy.

-- This is really silly, a person who can not make out what he is doing, is deciding for techie's future. LOL.
Well siad Deepak. They can't leave with out Microsoft and Windows OS
and they restrict on people and children to ban Microsoft.
This is like a kind of Hypocrasy
Vadivel said…
My views on this topic is logged here http://vadivel.blogspot.com/2006/08/kerala-logs-microsoft-out.html last month.
arun said…
Windows Operating System is too much expensive for Govt Schools.
They are not exposed to any big thing till 10th.
To teach Office.
Linux is enuough
Abby said…
My two cents...
http://baxiabhishek.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!8A8DB02C6AB8F265!1139.entry
Roji. P. Thomas said…
My 2 cents
http://toponewithties.blogspot.com/2006/09/forcing-linux-in-schools.html
Shijaz Abdulla said…
An extremely sorry and sickening state-of-affairs in Kerala... Forcing a particular platform down the throats of children and making them learn it instead of letting them choose what OS they want to work on..

Where is freedom?

As Abhishek rightly puts it -- its just stinky politics. Getting a whole generation biased to a particular brand of OS is preposterous. Almost everybody kid who has a computer in Kerala knows how to use Windows - why teach them some "new basics" and re-invent the wheel?

Sure the licenses are free, but who's gonna maintain and teach linux? Are they going to hire some rocket scientists at school too?
./Arun said…
Mr Kant,
I am not sure if you realize this, but in ALL schools/universities in the united states, the OS for programming is a UNIX flavour (Linux/BSD/Solaris are most common). Why? Because the internals of the system they decend from (the original UC berkeley "BSD" UNIX) is well documented. Linux will run on a measly 486 (minus GUI of course) as well as supercomputers. Hardly anyone uses windows except on low-end servers - mail servers, small websites etc. Huge databases, compute intensive jobs like EDA tools, scientific computing are always run on a UNIX flavour. Windows' instability is legendary: Here is an infamous example when a Win2K bug caused an 800 plane pile-up at LAX airport. This, after the ATC at LAX airport "upgraded" from a stable UNIX machine to Windoze. http://software.silicon.com/applications/0,39024653,39124122,00.htm and http://www.techworld.com/opsys/news/index.cfm?NewsID=2275
Imagine if I am running a job that runs for months (some scientific simulations do) and windoze gives up on me... Plus, why should I pay for the overhead of GUI, IE's dll's loaded at startup etc when I am not going to use it? The registry based architecture of windows makes it slower and slower the more packages you install in it - a bottleneck. UNIX is modular - it calls the binary directly, install as many packages as you like.

Now, even people who are employed at M$ never learnt to program in M$ tools until they got there - they were products of this UNIX education in the US, and were lapped up by MS. They had little idea of what MS's OS is like but they knew UNIX internals. Guess what, deep inside windows has just used the ideas that OSs like UNIX pioneered. ( I have interacted with 6 MS programmers who work on the kernel/networking and they all told me that all they care about is fundamentals - namely UNIX fundamentals).

Now, here's the thing: The state is free to choose whatever OS it decides to use, in its offices, labs and schools sustained by its funding. They are not forcing private schools to move to linux.


DOes MS support Win95? I dont think so. U think MS provides support to schools free? In both cases a sysadmin is required. Linux admins for basic networks like schools are not hard to find... it's quite easy. Linux's new package management has made easier than windows to install packages. Try Kubuntu - the KDE version of Ubuntu or SuSe 10.0... the GUI is more polished than windows (very Mac OSX like) and has a great package manager that downloads any package you need from the internet repository. Click...
Annerose said…
These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.
Appu said…
I am a bit unclear about the specifics of the bill. One of the statement issued by the Education Minster reads as "There is no ban on MS. But Government actual encourage people using FOSS". If that be the case, I am not sure how ones freedom is curtailed. People/Schools still have the option to go and use proprietary products.

I do not buy your argument that learning to use Computers via Linux will hamper a person from using a Windows based operating system. A related point I would like to raise is about what aspect of computing that should be taught at schools. The OS/Operational aspects must be kept out as far as possible. Computers are merely tools. The goal should be teach people to use tools , with a heavier emphasis on non-os and non-programming aspects of computing like document creation, spreed-sheet creation etc. I fail to see learning to generating and formatting a document in open-office will have problem using Microsoft Word in his/her future. Linux is a command prompt based OS is a pure myth (though most people who use linux loves command prompt). I installed Ubuntu in my dad's laptop. He is a person whose computation experience revolve around using the word processors and email clients. I found he could easily adapt MS Word->Open Office and Outlook Express->Evolution with no real difficulty whatsoever. The only change I made is I removed all icons and menu items of launching terminal windows. He has been working purely in GUI model for over half an year. The question I would like to put forward is give me some application for which there is no credible alternative in open source domain.
Anonymous said…
Hello,
As a father of an 8th standard student at Trivandrum, Kerala, I have downloaded and installed linux@school Software which is based on Ubuntu Linux. Having installed Linux before, i did not find any difficulty installing.Only those who are new to installing linux should only be cautious about partitioning and he new format. Systems need to have atleast 256 MB RAM. My daughter is not having any difficulty in operating linux..The thinking that without Microsft there is no computers is absolutely rubbish. Remember that majority of web servers runs on linux rather than Microsoft servers. And Linux is more stable and less prone to viruses.

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