“Localization Camp” held for promoting software availability in Local Languages on GNU/Linux

Press release

A voluntary, free of cost training camp of software professionals, students and faculty was conducted today, March 20th 2010 to promote use and development of “free software” in local languages like Marathi, Hindi, etc.

The “localization camp” was organized by Swathanthra Malayalam Computing (SMC), Uncode (Lokayat’s Free software Initiative) and CoFSUG(CoEP’s free software Users group). All these organizations have been working towards promotion, use and development of “free software” in local languages. The venue was provided by “Red Hat”.

The organizers conducted this camp out of the firm belief that for IT to reach to masses , it must be available for use in vernacular languages. The camp was also aimed at promoting “free software”. Free software is that software which can be copied, studied, modified and redistributed as a right. Please note that the word “free” is used in the sense of “freedom” here and not in the sense of “no cost”. Software like Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw, etc. are NOT free software. GNU/Linux is an operating system which is “free software” and has emerged as the most potent competitor to the monopoly of Microsoft Windows. For example Mozilla Firefox is a free software replacement of Microsoft Internet Explorer, OpenOffice is a free software replacement of Microsoft office. Many GNU/Linux systems are available free of cost, are virus free, more stable and secure than Windows based systems.

As Linux can be copied and distributed, it leads naturally to development by a community through co-operation and sharing. The organizers have been a part of the “Linux community” which develops and propagates use of various Linux based software using the “free software” model, often free of cost. This camp was part of the community effort towards taking IT to people and also propagating the use of GNU/Linux.

Nearly 25 students and professionals participated in this training program. Software professionals who pioneered software development in Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam delivered presentations on various software tools and technologies used in localization of different software. Naveen Kumar from Red Hat introduced the Unicode standard and encoding techniques like “UTF-8” used to write complex Indic scripts. Ankit Patel and Pravin A, also from Red Hat, Abhijit A.M. From CoEP and Rishikesh from Lokayat introduced the attendees to the concept of free software. Karunakar G from Symantec software, and the pioneer of IndLinux project told about the history of localization effort in India.

Pravin A said “ Enforcing learning of English on people just for using computers is too much of an expectation” . Karunakaran G said “ It is a sad irony that in an independent country we still use Roman script keyboards on our computers”. Naveen Kumar criticized the use of non-standard fonts particularly by DTP software users and advocated that everyone should switch to the use of Unicode standard. Abhijit A M, faculty, CoEP advocated the use of free software in educational institutes as students can learn the state of the art software technology only through GNU/Linux. Rishikesh of Lokayat said that “Using free software and local languages is an integral part of a country’s sovereignty and we must strive for it ”.

We request you to publish this news in your newspaper and inform the people about availability of software in Local languages like Marathi on GNU/Linux systems. Please find the photo of the event also attached.

Sincerely,

Praveen Arimbrathodiyil
+91 9561745712
Swathanthra Malayalam Computing

Rishikesh Yeolekar
+91 9423507864
Uncode,Lokayat’s Free software Initiative

Abhijit A.M.
+91 9422308125
CoFSUG(CoEP’s free software Users group)

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19 September: SOFTWARE FREEDOM DAY

Lokayat is organising a celebration on September 19 to celebrate SOFTWARE FREEDOM DAY, which is celebrated worldwide on this third Saturday of every September.

The program is as below:

Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time: 5-8 pm

Venue: Lokayat Hall, Opp. Syndicate Bank, Near Nal Stop, Law College Road, Pune.

Program Details:

1. Talk on Software free day, Free Software and next generation Firefox Internet browser.

2. Film Screening on GNU Linux.

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Microsoft to take over Maharashtra’s education future – Part 2

Subject: Regarding Maharashtra government’s decision to provide training to school teachers in collaboration with Microsoft.

In a shocking news we came to know that the Maharashtra Government has decided to collaborate with Microsoft to train its school teachers. Under this MoU, Microsoft Corporation India Private Limited will setup three IT academies and train government school teachers on ICTs. The Microsoft will be training the teachers for using technology in their teaching. It essentially means that Microsoft will be training teachers how to use its own products. This training will make teachers to prefer Microsoft products next time, even if other alternatives become available due to prior exposure. Such trainings done by only one vendor are against principle of diversity for pedagogical development. We believe that curriculum design is the responsibility of the Government. So if such trainings are given, Microsoft products will be installed preferably on all school computers. In future license purchases of proprietary software by Government for schools’ ICT purpose will incur Government spending of hundreds of crores. One such estimate by Gurumurthy K, director, IT for Change, is 238 crores. Individual spending, if no “piracy” is done then it will be in hundreds of crores. Such spending will benefit only Microsoft. Besides this under this program government funds are being used (teachers TA, DA etc is paid by the Government) to promote the proprietary technology of a private company.

It is also said that the program aims at improving “employability” of 11th and 12th standard students. In recession times where already graduated engineers are finding hard to find the jobs and retain current one, such employability talks are nothing more than joke. If at all such students will be employed then they will be employed at nothing more than computer operator level. Another part of this program is Live@Edu, which gives single user login to Microsoft offerings. Such offering lure but ultimately promotes usage of Microsoft products.

If government is serious about providing ICT education it should adopt technology viz. training program rather company viz. program. This means that students should be taught about basics of document editing tools, and not Microsoft Word. This is because OpenOffice Writer and other such software can do same and probably better than MS Office as well. So it is content and technology that is more important, rather than the vendor. Also all this is happening when today “Free” (in sense of freedom) software are available for almost all usage, teaching and training needs. GNU Linux and GNU utilities are available which are free of cost as well. These “free” software can be freely copied, modified and redistributed. Thus these software promote the FOSS eco-system, which has enormous benefits to society at large.

The Government of Venezuela has by law mandated the use of “Free” software for government and educational purposes. Government of Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka have also adopted and promoted FOSS in their schools. By such initiatives, these governments are saving crores of public money, like the Kerala government saved Rs. 50 crores and made teachers ICT literate. If government does invest for one time only in developing training module for such Free software, then people (tax payer and individual) will save thousands of crores collectively. This will also help develop indigenous technocrats, as the source and design would be available to each and every one involved. Whereas with Microsoft, we are reduced to a mere passive consumer, and never the developer of “state-of-the-art” technology.

So we demand that government should scrap this MoU with Microsoft. The government should provide training and technology to teachers and students so that it makes them independent and capable of using and developing software.

Rishikesh Y
For Lokayat Free Knowledge Initiative
Pune

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Microsoft to take over Maharashtra’s education future – Part 1

By Abhijit M

Is the Mumbai/Pune open source community doing anything about this? I am sure, that with government resources involved, we can ask that not just Windows be taught, to the thousands of teachers Microsoft is training each year…

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/ms-to-build-it-skills-in-maha-schools/367428/

MS to build IT skills in Maha schools
BS Reporter / Mumbai?August 19, 2009, 0:17 IST

The government of Maharashtra today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft India to enhance information and communication technology adoption in schools and build job readiness skills of the future workforce in the state.

Under the agreement, Microsoft will over the next two years train 6,000 teachers, as well as 100,000 pre-service teachers. The MoU is an extension of an existing relationship between Microsoft and the state government, under which Microsoft India has set up information technology academies at Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad and trained over 92,000 teachers.

Additionally, the software giant will also help build last-mile capacity among educators. One educator from each cluster in the state will be required to undergo a 10-day training module in a setup. Microsoft will conduct over 200 sessions at the district level over the next two years for training 6,000 resources in as many clusters.

Regarding Maharashtra government’s decision to provide training to school teachers in collaboration with Microsoft

By Rishikesh Y

In a shocking news we came to know that government of Maharashtra has decided to collaborate with Microsoft to train its school teachers. The Microsoft will be training the teachers for using technology in their teaching. It essentially means that Microsoft will be training teachers how to use its own products. This training will make teachers to prefer Microsoft products next time, even if other alternatives become available due to prior exposure. Once such trend is being set, Microsoft products will be installed preferably on all school computers. This will increase a lot of government spending by hundreds of crores in IT software. One such estimate by Gurumurthy K, director, IT for Change, is 238 crors. Individual spending, if no “piracy” is done then it will be in hundreds of crores. Such spending will benefit only monopolistic Microsoft. Such income and addiction to Microsoft products are the real aim such “philanthropic” training programme. Beside these the Microsoft is not going to spend on lodging, boarding, travelling and other such expenses, which would be borne by government bodies.

The program aims at improving “employability” of 11th and 12th standard students. In recession times where already graduated engineers are finding hard to find the jobs and retain current one, such employability talks are nothing more than joke. If at all such students will be employed then they will nothing more than computer operator level.

Another part of this programme is Live@Edu, which gives single user login to Microsoft offerings. Such offering hooks students and teachers to Microsfot forever. We call such addictive promotion as schwag-giving.

If government is serious about providing IT education it should adopt technology viz training programme rather company viz programme. This means that students should be taught about basics of document editing tools and not Microsoft Word. This is because OpenOffice Writer and other such software can do same and probably better than MS Office as well. So it is content and technology more important than software tools provided by vendors.
Also all this is happening when today “Free” (in sense of freedom) software are available for almost all usage, teaching and training needs. GNU Linux and GNU utilities are available which are free of cost as well. If government does spend little and one time in developing training module for such Free software then people (tax payer and individual) will save thousands of crores collectively. This will develop indigenous technocrats as the source and design would be available to each and every one involved. Whereas with Microsoft we are just consumer and not developer of “state-of-the-art” technology.

So we demand that government should scrap this MoU with Microsoft. The government should provide training and technology to teachers student so that it makes them capable and independent for using and developing software.

Ref :1. Teachers’ training programme news http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1025174.cms

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