Open Source in India

Knowledge@Wharton has a fairly interesting piece about open source software trends in India.

Will India Become the New Vanguard of the Open Source Movement?
My main issue with the piece is that while it has a lot of interesting quotes from people who are working on OSS in India, there is clearly a lack of reliable information on what is going on. I’m sure that some of that is due to the distributed nature of OSS.

 Nobody seems to have any estimates of the number of people involved in open source work. Estimates of the members of the community in India vary from 2,000 to 200,000.

“India needs to contribute more aggressively to the process of open source development,”
says Jain. “We have an opportunity to establish leadership in this space.” Hariharan adds, “India has a lot of creativity, and it is just a matter of time before that is reflected through open source software.” In other words, the future of open source in India is still an open question.

The other part that was interesting to me was the stance of India’s former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Another believer is A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former President. At a speech at the International Institute of Information Technology in Pune, he spoke about an encounter he had with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. While Kalam was advocating open source as the best solution for a developing country like India, Gates was unmoved in his belief in the superiority of proprietary software developed by a commercial company, such as Microsoft’s Windows operating system and desktop software. “Our discussions became difficult, since our views were different,” said Kalam. Which view now prevails? “The unfortunate thing is that India still seems to believe in proprietary solutions,” Kalam added.

Indian Former President Kalam’s position is in stark contrast to China’s President Hu Jintao, who met with Bill Gates in 2006.

“Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I’m a friend of Microsoft,” Hu said, according to an Associated Press pool report from their meeting. “Also, I am dealing with the operating system produced by Microsoft every day,” he added, to laughter from those around him.

2 Responses to Open Source in India

  1. Estimates of the members of the community in India vary from 2,000 to 200,000.

    I would say 2000 itself is a very optimistic number. Of course if you include people who are aware of open source, Linux User Group members and people who occasionally file bug reports and join the development mailing lists of some projects, you might exceed the 200,000 number.

    I believe most of the potential open source developers are very ‘gainfully’ employed in traditional IT companies (including me) and are right now only consumers of free software.

  2. I think there is a very dedicated community of open source contributors in India, but 200,000 seems to be off target. The largest open source conference in India, FOSS.IN, did not have a participation level that would indicate 200,000 people strong. I might be wrong.

    The FOSS community seems small, but growing, and there does seem to be a set of people really working to drive it forward. I worked closely with Atul Chitnis, who organized FOSS.IN. He seems to be very connected and would be a good person to chime in on this conversation.