National Resource Centre for FOSS
The Background.The Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) movement stands for freedom for the production, distribution, modification and use of software. A free and collaborative environment with open standards is best suited for large scale development and deployment of quality software, unleashing creativity and productivity, leading to lower costs and higher quality of SW/IT products and solutions.
FOSS is now well established, both as a Technology and as a way of creating Technology. Today’s mainstream SW/IT Market has a broad range of Open Source Tools, Technologies, Products and Solutions ; and they are there as much for reasons of lower cost as for technological superiority. Operating Systems, Data Bases, Web Servers, Data Base Servers, Internet&Web Technologies, Programming Languages, Applications of all types — Open Source has them all.
Relevance and value of FOSS , especially to the Indian context, arise from the following, among other things:
- FOSS is low cost and affordable.
- FOSS makes design details & code freely available.
- FOSS is easy to modify & customise.
- FOSS products are getting robust and superior.
- FOSS & Open Standards prevent vendor-lockin
- FOSS helps eliminate use of un-licensed SW..
- FOSS embodies healthier and humane values.
Despite these inherent positives, FOSS still needs certain extent of support and patronage for it to fully realise its potential. It suffers from limited public awareness, absence of standards and inter operability norms, lack of FOSS trained Human Resources (HR), scarcity of of proven business models, inadequate mainstream industry confidence, etc.
It was to help overcome some of these drawbacks of FOSS in our country that the D.I.T., C-DAC Chennai and Anna University Chennai came together in March 2005 to launch the NRCFOSS-AU project.
The NRCFOSS-AU Project
The NRCFOSS-AU Project funded by the Dept. Of Inf. Tech., Govt of India, promotes FOSS in India with the twin goals of (i) helping to bridge the digital divide (ii) strengthening India’s Software and IT industry.
NRCFOSS-AU Phase – I (2005-09) was carried out by C-DAC Chennai and the AU-KBC Research Centre, Anna University Chennai. The main achievements of this phase were two:
- Development and Promotion of an Indian version of Linux Distribution named BOSS (Bharat Operating System Software) based on the Debian distribution (C-DAC Chennai), particularly for governmental and e-governance applications.
- Introduction of FOSS Elective Courses and Lab. Classes into the curricula of UG Engineering Programs (CSE/IT/MCA) in the country, along with Teacher Training, Text Book preparation, Student project support etc.
NRCFOSS-AU Phase-II has commenced from May 2009 as a multiinstitutional project of the D.I.T. involving C-DAC Chennai, Anna University Chennai, I I T Madras, IIT Bombay, and the C-DAC centres at Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi – with C-DAC Chennai being the national coordinator.
In pursuance of the project mission, these institutions carry out the folowing activities towards FOSS promotion in India:
- R & D on specific FOSS technologies & solutions such as operating systems, Compilers etc.
- Education and Certification in FOSS at the university and professional levels.
- FOSS Technology Development, Deployment, Promotion, Metric Development, Adoption assessment, etc.
- Creation of FOSS repositories and data bases for educational,training and research purposes.
NRCFOSS-AU, the Anna University Chennai unit of the NRCFOSS-AU Project, focuses on the Education, Certification and allied aspects of FOSS promotion.
Programs of NRCFOSS-AU
The primary objective of NRCFOSS-AU is to help produce adequate number and quality of FOSS- trained Human Resources for our country. For this purpose, FOSS concepts and technologies will be introduced into the higher education and training processes and programs in the country, both in the formal as well as non-formal sectors.
Major activities of the NRCFOSS-AU Project are the following –
1. Human Resource Development in the formal sector– introduction of FOSS in the Higher Education Curricula.
The following are some of the specific activities of NRCFOSS in this regard:
- a) Introduction of FOSS theory subjects in the Computer Science and I. T. Curricula, initially as Elective courses or as clusters of FOSS Electives. NRCFOSS supports the universities in this task through syllabi preparation, teacher training, book writing, training material preparation, etc.
- b) Migrating Educational and Research Packages and Products to their FOSS equivalents. Almost all departments in educational institutions use a range of software packages for educational and R&D purposes, and many of these do have their equivalents in FOSS. NRCFOSS helps the departments in migrating to these FOSS alternatives through conducting short term courses and training programs in them
- c) Supporting the setting up of FOSS Laboratories for lab classes, student projects, etc. and providing FOSS mentorship to student projects.
- d) Supporting Internship Programs for students and Visiting Scientist Programs for faculty to carry out FOSS work at NRCFOSS-AU.
Click here for a list of universities and colleges who are working with us on this matter.2. Human Resource Development in the non-formal sector – the FOSS Competency Certification Programme
NRCFOSS-AU conducts Examinations and issue Competency Certificates to candidates in a number of FOSS subjects and at different levels of their mastery. This will provide the potential recruiter with a dependable and vendor-neutral assessment of the FOSS expertise level of a candidate in a given topic. It enables working persons who are not a part of any formal educational institution to have his/her specific FOSS expertise evaluated and certified. These certificates signed by NRCFOSS-AU and Anna University Chennai are expected to serve as benchmarks of quality in this domain. While NRCFOSS does not presently conduct training programs for these Certificate Examinations, the same would be conducted on request from Enterprises, Companies, etc. on specific themes and topics.
Details of the Certification Program and how to apply for it are available at: Go…
3. Development of a FOSS-based CSE/IT Engineering Degree Program.
Many of the CSE/IT/MCA graduates coming out of engineering institutions in India today are considered “unemployable” due to the poor quality of education and training being imparted in most colleges in India. It is expected that this situation can be partly rectified by basing their education on the approaches, methods, tools and values evolved by the FOSS Movement – going beyond exposing the students to available FOSS Technologies and Products as is attempted in the University interaction program. This step will however require significant re-working of the regulations, curricula and syllabi of the degree programs, and this is proposed to be attempted in a few universities on a pilot scale to test this hypothesis. While some of the universities in Europe are attempting a similar step at the Post-graduate level, NRCFOSS believes that, in the Indian context, this has to be attempted at the undergraduate level to have a significant impact, especially on the unemployability aspect.
For details Click here…
4. Development of a FOSS Maturity Model for Departments/Institutions/Enterprises
There are many tools and metrics available for assessing the maturity levels of FOSS Products,and industry and users make use of them to judge if a given FOSS product would meet their requirements. Similarly, research tools have been reported recently for quantifying the FOSS-friendliness levels of countries, and using them ranks have been assigned to countries (France being the top rank, and India at the 23rd rank). No such tools however exist today for quantifying the ‘maturity’ levels of a given Department/ Institution/Enterprise as regards its FOSS usage, awareness, policies etc. Such tools and techniques are proposed to be developed in this project.
For details Click here… for a detailed note on this work.
5. Creation of FOSS Repositories and Banks
This activity is common to all the participating institutions in the NRCFOSS Project, and NRCFOSS-AU will also make its contribution with specific reference to the theme of FOSS in Higher Education.