Why cant FOSS succeed in India?
Mon, Feb 18, 2008
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Recently Julie posted an interesting article called "open source development: women and Asians last
". This attributes the main reason for Women and Asian people's lesser involvement in Open Source development to be its confrontational nature. It does make sense to an extent as far as Thailand is concerned, Thai people generally try to avoid confrontations. Women on the other hand is a species I can never understand.
IMHO, the main issue is software piracy. The uninformed tend to think that Free Software == Cheap Software
. Cheap as in low quality. Proprietary software comes at a big price tag, so it must be good? A couple of months ago I visited a lawyer in Thailand and i booted my notebook(loaded with Fedora 7) to show him something. This person immediately remarked "Is that Vista?
" I told him "NO, Its Linux
.". He found it hard to digest that I was running a far superior GUI than his crappy XP and it was Free. He replied "Isint Linux same like DOS?
". This person in question is quite computer literate, did his Masters in the States, manages his own website which by the way runs on an open source script uses open source PHP and MYSQL software and is probably hosted on a server running open source Linux. These people are so into the marketing BS coming from software vendors that they outright reject Free Software
Let me share a personal story. While I was studying at Darjeeling in India, we used to have 3 months long winter vacations with nothing much to do. I decided to investigate what this Linux hype is all about. Picked up a book on Red Hat which came with a FREE CD of the OS (download was out of the question on crappy and expensive dial-up connections). Tried installing Red Hat, installation(step by step from the book) was smooth (and easier) however, on booting, I just couldn't get the GUI up and running. There was some compatibility issues with the graphics adapter. (No GUI)==(noob cant connect to the net to get help). Asked around, even the techie who set-up our PC, the computer shop, nobody had even heard of Linux. The techie always moved around armed with a CD case full of pirated CDs of Windows, Office and all kinds of bloatwares. He had also memorized the CD keys by now. So... No one to help me out with the Linux issues, except for the internet. I logged on to the net from a friends place, checked on the forums for help, made some trips from forum discussions at a friends place and my home, tried some stuff, but in vein. Finally found one person who could get my PC booted, but unfortunately he lived in Delhi(I was in
Kolkata) and wanted a return train ticket from Delhi to Calcutta as the fee :D . Finally I gave up on Linux and loaded up Windows again. Led to next few years of being a miserable windows user, even proceeded onto visual basic development and later into .NET. Had I found someone to help me out all those years ago, with all the free time in hand I could have become a Linux Ninja and probably contributed something back to the community. I am a Linux user now, but have been one for only the last couple of years, that too now I don't have time to code or learn a lot of new stuff.
Now, had software piracy not been so prevalent in India, a lot of people would have to start using Linux out of necessary, the techie would at least have been able to solve my issue and the Linux community would have probably got one more minion on their side.
I am sure such kinds of stories are not rare in a country like India. Another issue in India is poverty. Most schools and colleges charge a very reasonable fee and thus their computer labs are probably funded by Microsoft who make sure their proprietary software is the only software the kids would have an exposure to. They learn to use this platform, grow up on it, become a yet another MS developer working for some HUGE company for peanuts and get consumed in the Rat Race.
Most of the Open Source development is done by hobbyists. In India a coder would need to work overtime to put food on the table, there is no time left for hobbies, probably at the end of the day the sight of a computer might disgust some. There are also some open source development which comes out of professional interests, as per me Asterisk
would be a classic example. A lot of Asterisk development is going on in India due to the shear demand of cheap and reliable VOIP solutions for the Call Centers and BPOs. But what about other areas?
Even the a big news wire website of India use Microsoft's servers with ASP platform
(they probably paid > $10,000 for the horrible custom CMS) to serve their pages and it was down for 2 days
leaving news websites and newspapers deprived of news articles. Try selling an open source content management system to them!
The bottom line is that the NON-ACCEPTABILITY of Open Source Solutions in the business world is the main reason for less action in Asia.
This has to change first!
Do note that I may have exaggerated a little to make my points, I know for a fact that in the last few years India is coming up on the Open Source radar
Interesting Articles-Seems India has changed since i left