FREE SOFTWARE IN EGOVERNANCE Free software gives users the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Adopting free software in e-governance can be a major decision for a government. Most of the free software’s are either freely (zero-price) downloadable from their developers website or are priced much cheaper than their proprietary software counterparts. Since the source code of free software is available dependency on imported technology and skills. Free software is more reliable and secure. Simplify access to administrative data for the administration &Reduce management costs, Improve the citizen/government relationship. E-government: what we really want ? Solutions that Give control back to the user Allow to choose among a large set of providers Guarantee technological neutrality (open formats and protocols) Preserve the “illusion” of security provide for everlasting solutions / This is technologically, socially, economically feasible today! free software Tenth Five-Year Plan the working group on convergence and e-governance has earmarked an investment of Rs 2,680 crore, out of which Rs 1,830 crore is for convergence and Rs 850 crore for e-governance. There are four Cornerstones for supporting e-governance: hardware, software, training and support. Broadly speaking, software is a self-contained environment for performing some well-defined Tasks. The term “Free software” was coined by Richard Stallman. The Free in "Free software"has nothing to do with price. It is about freedom. Free software gives users the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software: 1. The user can run the software for any purpose. 2. The users have the freedom to study how the software works, and adapt it to his needs . Software developers typically deliver software that is a black box. The users Cannot study or change it. Free software provides access to the source code1for the Software to the users. They can read, fix, adapt and improve, not just operate the software. 3. The users have the freedom to improve the program, and release improvements to the public. Software is free software if users have all of these freedoms. As we see, ``Free software'' is a matter of liberty, not price. 1 In reference to software, ‘source code' is the human-readable and human-modifiable form of the software. The source code is Compiled to produce the ‘object code’ or the binary executable form of software. Free Software Foundation (FSF) was founded in 1985. Many organizations engage in distributing and selling free software, however the Free Software Foundation concentrates on Development of new free software and on making that software into a coherent system that can eliminate the need to use proprietary software. The FSF also protects and Preserves free software from infringement by unscrupulous parties.. Softwares available as Free Software GNU/Linux Operating System –- is a very popular operating system used in running the Internet and in mission critical environments. Linux has also been deployed in commercial environments as well as on personal desktops with an excellent pool of public testimonials. 2. GNU Emacs -- Originally, a powerful character-mode text editor, over time Emacs was enhanced to provide a front-end to compilers, mail readers, etc. 3. GNU C Compiler (GCC) -- GCC is the most widely used compiler in academia & the in the production of free software. In addition to the compiler a standardized set of intermediate libraries are available as a superset to the ANSI C libraries. 4. GNU GhostScript -- Postscript printer/viewer 5. Apache -- Apache is the most popular server software on the Web 6. BIND -- BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Daemon) is the de facto DNS server for the Internet. In many respects, DNS was developed on top of BIND. 7. Sendmail -- Sendmail is the topmost mail transfer agent on the Internet today. Security To guarantee the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems that guard against unauthorized control from outside. The system should also protect undesired transmission of information to third parties. Privacy of citizens would be compromised if information about them with the Government gets into the hands of interested parties. Incase of proprietary software, Government is not in possession of the Source code. It cannot be sure of what the software does and what security problems can arise from the use of the software. Paradoxically, availability of the source code is the main reason why free software can offer greater protection against unauthorized attacks Why Free Software for education? Digitization of cultural resources can facilitate the conduct of education, or for that matter any domains where ICT is being used or recommended, if and only if it is conducted in the lines of free software movement, else it is going to go against social and democratic values. I will elaborate my argument below. The argument can be best understood if we focus on what happens when we digitize any document, whether text or other kinds of media. Digitization uses a computing model to write (encode) the data, and when we try to retrieve the data, the computer reads (decodes) it for us in a human readable form. Normally, we expect that the computing model used for encoding and decoding is part of computer science, and so we rely on it. However, since code is by nature arbitrary, each company can invent (mind you an arbitrary invention is not necessarily an innovation) its own model of digitization and provides a computing service to its customers Free Software Movement (FSM) identifies this as the root cause of betrayal that happens in the digital society in various forms. The computing model used must be published, just as any scientific or technological models are published for use by the society. More important than providing access, by publication, is the freedom to use the computing model by other agencies. In addition to this, FSM also seeks the freedom to modify the model, as well as the freedom to republish the model either without any restrictions or with the restriction that other users cannot transform them into private property. Considering that computer science is a strange mix of deep theory as well as sophisticated technology, it is very vital for any society to use this transparently. Else, we will let some agencies become monopolies. This is a serious danger to digital society because, the data that is digitized belongs to you and me, and not to the company All of us know well that the process of education is an important agency of cultural transmission, whether formal or informal mode of education. In traditional (non-digital) society, this happened by using natural languages, whose encoding and decoding knowledge (syntax and semantics) is stored only in the “way of life”. The language games we play naturally stores this knowledge, and therefore we can use these langauges in the process of education. For formal languages (scientific and mathematical models), where in the syntax and semantics is artificially declared, used heavily in science and technology, the coding and decoding rules are publicly archived, and accessible as cultural resources to all the people. If we understand how digital reading and writing takes place, and if we understand how users are prevented from reading, and also understand how the companies encourage us to write and create more and more cultural resources using the privately appropriated means, what we are doing is nothing but pouring our cultural resources into their kitty, which is a black hole for us, and a property for them. This is how the current digital business is working. We are all made slaves of this new so called knowledge society. [I recommend, by the way, not to use the term, 'knowledge society', for human society has always been a knowledge society. We should on the other hand use the more appropriate term 'digital society', for that is what it is. What we therefore need is a digital commission and not a knowledge commission.] It has been a practice to distinguish the learning resources (often called content) from the technology (the software) and infrastructure. This is a serious mistake, and the current drafts that are circulated by the MHRD commit this mistake. How does copyleft work? To understand how Free Software works, it is necessary to see how copyright can be used for creative works we write, including software. All of us are aware of the copyright law, and how most people use it. For example, a book published by MIT press, titled Philosophy of Computing Information has this on the copyright page: © 2004 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by the UK Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988, without prior permission of the publisher Richard M. Stallman (popularly known as RMS). He began to invent different ways of writing a copyright statement. For example the book titled Free Software Free Society, that contains selected essays of RMS has this copyright statement: ©2002 Free Software Foundation Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this book provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. Thus the greatness of RMS is not that he is one of the greatest programmers, though he is indeed one. History will remember him for the most important invention, nowadays aptly called, copyleft. A copyleft is an intelligent use of copyright for giving and protecting freedom of using a cultural resource, than imposing restrictions. RMS invented GPL (General Public Innocence) for this purpose. It is mostly used for software. GPL is a long carefully crafted document, a must read to understand the spirit of free software movement Free Software is an eminent and indispensible choice for education How many times your proprietary operating system yelled at you: “The program committed an illegal operation, please contact the program vendor” and quits from running the application Several times, the OS hangs, displaying a blue screen. Most of you will reboot the system, some times reinstall . This does not happen with FS. When the program did not work, you could download the source code, look at the program, identify the bug, and possibly fix it. The Two Faces of Mr. Gates. Was Microsoft chief Bill Gates’ dual-purpose, philanthropic-cum-business visit to India basically motivated by the desire to strengthen his company’s monopoly over the large software market in India? This is a view that is held by many advocates of the free software movement, who are disappointed by the willingness of state and central government agencies to rub shoulders with Gates and rely on his software, especially the Windows platform, when implementing their IT initiatives. Given this track record Gates’ philanthropy in India is suspect as well. After providing $100 million to strengthen the fight against Aids, Gates announced that Microsoft will make its largest investment outside the US in India by pumping in $400 million (about Rs 2,000 crore) over the next three years to spread computer literacy, outsource more software and boost its business in the country. Sun-Oracle deal: A loss for free software movement Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz said that in a survey the company did among 2,000 students worldwide, less than 6% knew Oracle, but over 90% knew Sun's rival database product MySQL. He also said there was "unprecedented migration” to free software like MySQL, especially from Oracle database customers.