Several school teachers from Mumbai gathered at Don Bosco Institute of Technology, Kurla to learn about the wonders of free software. The event was organised jointly by Digital Freedom Foundation and Free Software Movement of Maharashtra in association with ILUG. It was the occasion of Software Freedom Day that was being celebrated by the free software community in and around Mumbai.
This Day is celebrated every year on 16th September to mark the beginning of the Free Software Movement all over the world, aimed at liberating digital technology (software ) users from the restrictive and exploitive proprietary software companies. The theme this year was “Free Software and Future of Education”.
The event was inaugurated by Mr. krishnakant Mane, founder and secretary of Digital Freedom Foundation, with the lighting of a digital lamp followed by the opening talk. He discussed at great length how free software defines digital freedom of users and why we must absolutely use it for every thing in general and education in particular. His motivational yet practical talk (punctuated with Urdu shayari) went in great details on how proprietary companies control their users. He elaborated on how restrictive licenses are used to exploit every one by not allowing users any right on their own copy of software and how these proprietary organised digital mafia forces costly upgrades or snoops personal data.
The talk went on to show how every one is unaware that they all use free software in one form or other. Core concept of the digital freedom one gets with free software was also explained with examples. He believed that permission to share copies of a free program, the friendly community helping users and the availability of program source for study makes free software most essential in education. His talk ended with a strong appeal to all teachers to collaborate together and take full advantage of free and open source software.
Following this, a series of short seminars were held in the afternoon between 3 to 6 PM. Several speakers addressed the audiance with strong reasons to use free software. Most of these talks were backed with practical demo of several free programs useful in various school subjects. These include Tux Paint, Tux Math, Kalzium, Marble, and Geogebra.
One of the Speakers, Prof. Kranti Ghag had given a very inspiring and interesting talk highlighting a few of the above mentioned software with Raghu Kamat following up with a set of more software demos. In fact Kranti had an interesting analogy about hidden mallware. “Imagine a house maid working as required, but also going outside and telling others about your household problems? would you prefer such a servant? would This is exactly how a lot of closed proprietary programs work.”
Prajkta, the Project Manager for GNUKhata, a free accounting software stressed that first programming language ought to be minimal in syntax for expressing precise logic. According to her Python perfectly fits that requirement. Prasad from FSMM and Krishnakant were giving little explanation’s when ever audiance asked any question. Even Prof. Tayyab Ali from DBIT and Nilesh Patil from FSMM chipped in with valuable advices and methodologies to adapt free software in education.
Towards the end of the event Krishnakant, a visually disabled programmer himself, demonstrated Orca, the free screen reading software. His precise slogan of “Jay Javan, Jay Kisan, Jay Mukt Gyan ” got a thunderous applause and touched every one. All the talks had one thing in common – to make teachers aware of how important it is to have freedom in digital age and how comfortable it is to use these free programs.
The last talk was one of the biggest highlights of the session. Dr. Nagarjuna from Homi Bhabha Center for Science and Education gave a profound lecture on how important it is to have a strong voice about digital privacy. He talked in great dept about the mall-practices permitted by governments hand-in-hand with proprietary companies. He also illustrated the fake claims of Indian government about Internet being available in all schools.The fact was brought to every one’s notice that a single dongle is given with just 2G or 3G connection for entire school. He also demonstrated his offline collection of all the free programs, free OS, Wikipedia, TED Talks, Khan Academy tutorials and much more. He called it the “Internet in a Box ” and it’s independence from having a high-speed Internet (which actually the government is obliged to give ).
Teachers were mesmerized to see what all is available on 0 license cost, localized interfaces and so much easy to use. A few schools immediately started to approach DFF, FSMM and ILUG for help to migrate to Free Software labs. We hope that this Software Freedom Day will be a beginning of the end to monopolistic, restrictive and hazard us proprietary software in education.