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Anna University to have national resource centre for free, open source software

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI, APRIL 8. The first national resource centre for free and open source software will be located at Anna University here.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has earmarked Rs. 4.97 crores for this "one-stop clearing house" for all aspects of free/open source software (FOSS), said E. Balagurusamy, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University today.

Calling it a "step forward in bridging the digital divide", Prof. Balagurusamy said the National Resource Centre - Free/Open Source Software would be established and run in conjunction with the Centre for Development and Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Government of India.

The centre would work to make software affordable to the masses and offer applications in Indian languages so that the lack of English knowledge did not stand in the way of deriving benefits from IT, he said.

"Tamil Nadu is the first State to adopt a policy on open source and agree to go for open source," said Prof. Balagurusamy. But in order to use open source effectively, the State needed human resources.

New concept

"It is a new concept and we have to train people both formally and informally to popularise it," he said. Teachers of engineering colleges would be trained to offer electives in FOSS and encourage student projects. For starters, the centre would identify 50 engineering colleges for this purpose.

"The aim is to ensure that large numbers of BEs and MCAs (3,000 per year from Tamil Nadu to start with) are produced every year with exposure, training and skills in the FOSS area."

The centre would also support State and Central agencies introduce FOSS in non-formal and school IT education.

Security tools

Improving currently available FOSS-based technologies would be another important activity of the centre. "The main problem with open source software applications is that security is not built-in," said Prof. Balagurusamy. ``We have to develop tools for security."

The centre would pave way for Indian language content on the web by enabling easy creation and access. Standardisation, integration, testing and certification would be a critical part of technology development.

"We will also develop entrepreneurship skills. There is a huge market in India for software development," said Prof. Balagurusamy. A national seminar on share tools and ideas would be held annually.

C.N. Krishnan, Director of Anna University K.B. Chandrasekhar Centre (AU-KBC), and M.R. Rajagopalan, Programme Coordinator and head of C-DAC, Chennai, would steer the centre's activities.

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