Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conference on Free Software and Education

This is something that had been in my mind for quite some time - a conference on Free Software and Education. The idea is to get speakers to explain the importance of using Free Software in education, demonstrate pieces of software that can be, and that are being, used in different levels of education, and give a call to all educational institutions in the country (and even abroad) to use only Free Software.

Now it seems this is going to come true. When I suggested this idea, there was positive response from the Boards of FSF India and SPACE. The response from Prof. Mohandas of the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, (NITC) also was positive. So we planned to do this as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of NITC, which starts in October. But then Richard Stallman decided to come to India, and NITC was interested in him coming for the conference. So we had to advance the programme to September beginning. Stallman had to leave India on 12th, so the conference had to be before that. And Prof. Mohandas suggested 11th and 12th, with the inauguration on 10th evening. And RMS agreed. So the conference will happen on those days.

The response from speakers also was good. Prof. Nagarjuna (Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education), Chairperson of FSF India, immediately agreed to speak. And FSF India decided to become one of the organisers. Prof. Kannan Moudgalya and Prabhu Ramachandran of IIT, Mumbai, also were enthusiastic. Prof. K.R. Srivathsan (PVC, IGNOU) eagerly agreed to speak. And my good friend Juan Carlos Gentile decided to make it an international affair. He has found several speakers from abroad, including Marco Ciurcina from Italy and Diego Saravia from Argentina, and they all will speak through video netowrking. He is also arranging for live webcasting. And all of them and many others are willing to endorse the call the conference will make to use Free Software in education.

In short, this conference is becoming a much bigger affair than I ever imagined. My only regret is that the Chief Minister of Kerala, who is a great supporter of Free Software and normally makes it a point to participate in any meeting in which RMS is present, will not be available to inaugurate the conference. It is good that he has agreed to send a video message. I hope there will be good participation from different parts of the country. And that this will give a boost to migration in educational institutions in the country and to substituting proprietary software in university curricula with Free Software.