Software centre at varsity - Awareness, training on free programmes

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  • Published 12.05.08

Jadavpur University has joined hands with the Calcutta-based Institute for Open Technology and Application (IOTA) to set up the state’s first free and open source software research centre. It is expected to be ready in a month.

Free software refers to programmes that make their source codes available to users, allowing them to run, copy, modify and distribute the applications. Such software is not as widely used as proprietary software, whose source codes can only be accessed by their creators.

The free and open source software movement, however, is gaining momentum in the state. In 2006, the state chief electoral officer directed all district magistrates to switch from Microsoft Office, a proprietary software package, to Open Office, an open-source software bundle, for poll-related work.

“Free and open source software have been gaining ground but many people are not aware of them. One of the primary aims of the centre will be to spread awareness on free and open source programmes, which do not have licensing or intellectual property rights issues,” said Partha Pratim Biswas, a senior teacher and a member of the university executive council.

The IOTA has pledged Rs 60 lakh to the centre for the first two years and will provide support to build a library, classrooms and laboratories. Jadavpur University is going to provide space and other resources to the centre.

Apart from spreading awareness, the centre will provide training and develop software. It will help in the adoption of free and open-source software by the government, quasi-government and the small and medium enterprises. “The centre will train the trainers, who will then teach more people to use open-source software,” added Biswas.

The university plans to phase out proprietary software use. Some departments have started using open-source software along with proprietary ones to ensure a smooth transition.

Free and open-source software is the future, as they are cost-effective, according to Biswas. “One has to spend quite a lot to use proprietary software. Expenses on programmes can be minimised by switching to free and open- source software,” he said.

The free software movement, started by Richard Stallman in 1983, has made headway in the West. Linux is a popular open-source operating system.