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There exists a lot of literature written on Free and Liberal Open Source Software(GNU/FSF). This is what I feel about it. I had recently been to a school to give an introduction about computers to some kids in a village near Pondicherry. I had access to a laptop and showed them a quick presentation on the basics of computers. I was aware of the fact that the school syllabus has Microsoft Windows as the primary platform for education. Most kids think paint is cool. What would they say if they saw GIMP? But the government has to realize that providing a computer and upgrading the license of the operating system is a costly business. Most of the schools in India run on a shoe string budget. Let us do the math now.

Number of students for a class (at least) 30
Number of client licenses to be purchased if the computer is shared by 3 users 10
Cost of a computer (approx) Rs. 10,000/-
Cost of a Microsoft Windows client license (approx) Rs. 2,500/-
Cost of a Microsoft Windows Server range operating system Rs. 40,000/-
Total cost for client operating system licenses Rs. 25,000/-
Total cost of the workstations (hardware) Rs. 1,00,000/-
Cost of the server hardware (basic p4 based desktop to act as a database server/Web Server) Rs. 30,000/-
Total cost of setting up 10 terminals with 1 server Rs. 1,95,000/-


I have not included the cost of buying software like Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server, which would each cost about 35,000 and 45,000 approximately. Please let me know if my figures are wrong. And the SQL Server is for 45,000 is only a standard 5-client edition. Also there exists a problem with upgrades. You would have to pay for them too. You would need to get two licenses which would mean a catastrophic cost for a simple school to setup. The common solution that various schools adopt is to pirate the software. This is much more rampant in the schools in the private sector. A crackdown on such schools would put most of the schools out of business. The moment you open a new school/college you open up a software piracy den and promote criminals. Let us look at the figures for Linux.

Number of students for a class (at least) 30
Number of client licenses to be purchased if the computer is shared by 3 users 10
Cost of a computer (approx) Rs. 10,000/-
Cost of a Microsoft Windows client license (approx) Rs. 0/-
Cost of a Microsoft Windows Server range operating system Rs. 0/-
Total cost for client operating system licenses Rs. 0/-
Total cost of the workstations (hardware) Rs. 1,00,000/-
Cost of the server hardware (basic p4 based desktop to act as a database server/Web Server) Rs. 30,000/-
Total cost of setting up 10 terminals with 1 server Rs. 1,30,000/-


As it is clearly seen, it is important for all the schools in India to adopt Free and Liberal Open Source Software. This step would mean the following advantages for the Indian society.

  1. The cost of setting up new computer labs is significantly lowered.
  2. Students will gain the ability to produce software on open source platforms.
  3. Projects targetted at open source platform can serve the Indian Society.
  4. This will free the small businesses from the requirement of purchasing pricey software. They could use open source software built by our future software professionals.
  5. Open Source Software engineers in my belief have a better understanding of the underlying technology and can really benefit from the community.
Necessity is the mother of invention. As more and more people adopt open source software, I am sure that they in turn will create a need for better software. I have been using Linux on and off for the past several years and have seen it progress in leaps and bounds. I would strongly suggest open source operating systems like FreeBSD or Linux as the operating systems. They have a host of open source products to suffice every need in the closed source world. I do agree that there are open source products available in the closed source platform that are on par with their commercial counterparts. For example, SharpDevelop would suffice the need of any normal C# programmer who has not been pampered with Visual Studio .NET 2003 features. But on the other hand you have Eclipse which would seem VS.NET 2003 seem like a baby. MySQL competes with Microsoft SQL Server in the DB Server arena. PHP can serve as a commendable alternative to ASP and ASP.NET. Apache Web Server gives IIS a run for their money in the Web Server segment. Java and Mono provide solid cross platform application frameworks. Even though Java is not strictly open source, its free availability on open source platform makes it a lucrative option. Apart for these compilable languages, Python and Ruby offer a quick application development cycle which is ideal for developing small business tools.

It is now time for the educational institutions in India to decide if they still want to pay a huge sum or indulge in criminal practices to learn/teach software or adopt the clean and relatively hassle free path of Open Source software to produce better software engineers. Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 3:45 PM Open Source | Back to top


Comments on this post: The importance of Free and Liberal Open Source Software (FLOSS) in the Indian context

# re: The importance of Free and Liberal Open Source Software (FLOSS) in the Indian context
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I know this is an old post, but I finally got around to reading it.

Apart from my utter lack of understanding of the use of commas in RS notation, or perspective on the relative cost of Rs 1,30,000 I think your saying it's 33% cheaper to go Open Source over Windows.

How about give the kids the best of both worlds? Make the server Linux ( save Rs 42,500 ) and half the workstations Linux and half Windows ( save Rs 12,500 ) for a savings of 28%. I'm sure a lesson plan could be worked out that teaches multiplatform skills.
Left by Christopher Painter on Jan 03, 2006 11:11 PM

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