THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For the state IT Department, the love for free software seems to be a topic for preaching only. The Department fumbles whenever there is a real challenge to implement Free Software solutions.
Close on the heels of the decision to use Microsoft software for e-filing introduced by the Sales Tax Department, the government has invited tenders for supplying a set of proprietary software.
A tender document available for download on the Kerala IT Mission’s website for purchasing infrastructure needed to set up a Geoportal and Clearing house for the Kerala State Spatial Data Infrastructure has sparked off a new controversy.
The proponents of Free Software have registered their strong protest against the move. The Free Software Users’ Group, Thiruvananthapuram, which claims that the infrastructure could be completely supported by Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), has written a letter to the Chief Minister and IT Secretary protesting against the move.
“The tender document specifically calls for the purchase of proprietary software like Microsoft Windows XP Professional, ERDAS imagine, ERDAS Vector, autoSync, VirtualGis, ERDAS Map2PDF, MosaicPro, LPS Core, LPS Stereo, LPS Automatic terrain Editor, Terrain Extraction, ArcInfo, ArcGIS 3D Analyst, Network analyst, ArcView, Oracle 10i, SQL Server and .net. This is a clear violation of state’s IT Policy which mandates the use of Free Software for government agencies,’’ points out the letter.
“There will soon come a national policy on e-governance projects to mandate the use of open standards. At that time, all the software created by this project will be unusable. Also, Free Software is a powerful tool in the field of space and geography. Free Software experts agree that it is technically possible to support the entire infrastructure in Free Software,’’ said Anivar Aravind, a founder-member of FOSSCOMM, a community network promoting the use of FOSS in India.
Aashiq S, another Free Software supporter based here, said a lot of money is going to be wasted on this. “Another interesting point is that the IT Mission is actually calling companies that are capable of depositing a bond of Rs 50 lakh,’’ he said.
When contacted, IT Secretary Ajaykumar said that there was a need to understand the requirement properly. “We are looking for an infrastructure that could support all kinds of applications. We are planning to procure all kinds of software that could fulfil this,’’ said Ajaykumar.
Admitting that he received a copy of the letter sent by Free Software Users’ Group, he said that it had already been presented to the technical experts and the Department was waiting for their suggestions.