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Cutting through the digital divide

Deepa Kurup

Candlelight vigil against the use of proprietary software

— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.

Novel protest: Software professionals hold a candlelight vigil at Town Hall in Bangalore on Tuesday against the use of proprietary software.

BANGALORE: What does a software professional, an artisan, a scrap dealer, a college student and a teacher — gathered in front of the Town Hall with candles in their hand — have in common?

In a city where protests have become as common as the issues that drive them, this one comes as a breath of fresh air.

A group of individuals, comprising mostly software engineers and others, who oppose the use of proprietary software, got together for a candlelight vigil to raise awareness and give a human face to what has largely been a protest on blogs and websites.

R. Vijay Kumar is a scrap dealer who is not educated and does not use the computer. However, a community Computing Centre called C3, started by software professionals in their slum, uses Free Software GNU Linux. “Our children study there and when we got to know about the spirit behind this, we realised that this is about equal access and quashing those who say that knowledge is for those who can buy it,” he explains. Do they understand the nitty-gritty? Perhaps not. But they know that the protest is trying to cut through the digital divide.

“There is very little awareness even among professionals about licensing and the implication of proprietary Software,” says Reshinesh, a software engineer at CISCO, who calls himself an Open Source evangelist.

National policy

Holding placards which demand Document Freedom and ask for a national policy on this issue, the protesters label the recent document standard called OOXML — which was adopted by the International Standardisation Organisation on April 2 — a “banana standard.”

Besides software professionals who confessed to working in companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro, which endorse proprietary standards by virtue of their vote at the International Organisation for Standardization, said that they believed in Open Source Software.

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