by March 4, 2011 0 comments

Both, cost and language sensitivity of the Indian market has to some extent starved the spread of computers to the larger Indian commercial and home segments thus creating a digital divide. Added to this, there are specific verticals like education where there is a need to achieve mass information literacy and e-governance where the need is to reach out to the masses. In both these cases, there is a common pressing need being felt, that of bringing down the costs associated with proprietary software being used and also to enable localization.

Realizing this, Govt of India is giving a strong push in the direction of developing, supporting and promotion of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), to make IT accessible and affordable to more and more people. Adoption of FOSS makes sense for education and e-governance vertical as there is an array of benefits that Open Source technologies provide over proprietary software:

– Liberal licensing policy that makes it possible to be obtained free of charge along with the source code, which can then be modified by the user as per requirements.

– Enabling localization of operating systems in different Indian languages.

– Reduced costs, vendor independence, reduced piracy/copyright infringements and increasing growth of knowledge-based society.

Initiatives by Department of IT, Govt of India’s

BOSS: Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS) is a GNU/Linux distribution, developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) under DIT that supports 18 Indian languages -Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu. DIT is making available BOSS desktop and server version for free download from the website ( BOSS which has been certified by Linux foundation is being increasingly adopted by Government and educational domains, with NIC and Indian Navy among its notable users.

EduBOSS : C-DAC recently came up with BOSS GNU/Linux distribution’s educational variant EduBOSS which is designed for the education vertical.

It comes with applications like edutainment, paint and photo management app and many educational packages including Maths, Science, etc. It comes along with BharateeyaOO suite which is a customized version of Open Office with all the menus, status bars, error messages, user prompts, etc localized for 19 Indian languages. The suite mainly consists of all the components found in the original, viz. Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet, Impress presentation software, and Draw for drawing.

IT@School Project by Dept of General Education, Govt of Kerala

The education institutions in Kerala were finding the cost of proprietary software licences in bulk quite unaffordable. This led to the State Govt’s initiative called IT@School which utilized Open Source resources instead of proprietary software.

The IT@School Project which was undertaken by Kerala State Education Department in the year 2001, included development of an OS based on Linux version Ubuntu, called IT@School GNU Linux version 3.0. The platform of IT education completely shifted from Windows to non proprietary software Linux.

A study, conducted by IIM Bangalore’s Dr. Rahul De, reports that The IT@School project of Kerala which replaced Windows software with FOSS on 50,000 desktops in schools across the state led to benefits amounted to Rs 49 crore, while one of the major intangible benefit was local language customization. IT@school, which provides ICT-enabled education to 1.6 million students per year in the state, is today considered to be the Single largest simultaneous deployment of FOSS based ICT education in the world.

School Wiki :A recent development under the IT@school programme has been the launch of School wiki ( which is based on MediaWiki which is an Open Source software. The website is in Malayalam and schools can register themselves here and share information about their school and also post learning resources thus encouraging collaborative learning. As the usage of School Wiki increases it is supposed to translate into a large resource repository just like Wikipedia.

CII-Shiksha : Encouraging Open Source technologies amongst education institutions

Shiksha India is an initiative by Confederation of Indian industries and is a non- profit organization. It is working in the direction of empowering the schools with tools and resources compatible with their existing infrastructure to move ahead with technology integration. Some of the projects being run under CII Shiksha promote use Open source technologies in educational institutions.

E-learning through Open Source

Under this, a range of Open Source tools are introduced in the schools to assist and help them get started on the e-learning platform. The tools include solutions such as Learning Management System, Animation tools to enable teachers to create 2D animations for their subjects and even a Management Information System (MIS) Solution that could collectively address needs of administrators, teachers, support staff, students and clerical personnel.

Learning Management System : An LMS enables teachers to create a learning environment and make the learning more effective for the students and enhances the teaching-learning experience manifold. The teachers can create various courses and host it on the server for students to access. CII-Shiksha has been conducting a number of trainings on Moodle, an Open Source LMS for the teachers across schools. The training on Moodle succeeding in introducing the concept of e-learning highlighted the importance of online learning.

ComputerMasti Programme : Teaching computers at school, based on Open Source technologies

Computer Masti (CM) is a product created by IIT Bombay and In open technolgies to effectively teach computers in schools. It is designed as a series of text books, after a deep understanding of curriculum suitable for the primary and secondary school students in the Indian sub-continent as well as schools abroad.

Use of Edubuntu OS and other Open Source apps:

What makes this programme different is the usage of Open Source technologies as the backbone. The programme uses Edubuntu OS, also known as Ubuntu Education Edition, which is an official derivative of the Ubuntu operating system designed for use in educational institutions. It is also bundled with Open Source educational applications like Tux Paint and games like GCompris, ChildsPlay, and Tux Math. Open Source proxy or Web-based proxy management services like Open DNS have also been used.

Benefits being derived by educational institutions :

ComputerMasti has been plugged in across 35 Schools now. The immediate benefits the school experienced were instantaneous advantages of affordability. This is said to have enabled these very schools to reduce their expenditure on proprietary software and licences by 80%.

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