The open source movement at IIT Bombay

The FOSSEE Project at IIT Bombay is geared to promote the use of open source software in education and by extension, in the corporate world

 “Catch ‘Em Young,” seems the motto of FOSSEE project at IIT Bombay.
FOSSEE stands for Free and Open Source Software for Education. The FOSSEE ( Project at IIT Bombay is geared to promote the use of open source software in education and by extension, in the corporate world.

The activities of FOSSEE revolve around creating educational content around open source software and encouraging the  introduction of courses on open source in syllabi of universities, apart from promoting it through publicity initiative.
Open Source software is available free and its source code is also available. The source code can be updated by any one and becomes accepted part of the software after going through diligent quality checks.

Of course, there are several open source software that we are all familiar with – Firefox, the web browser, Linux, the operating system, MySQL, the database, Apache, the webserver and of course, Python, PHP or Perl amoung the programming languages.

The FOSSEE project at IIT Bombay is involved in developing and promoting Scilab (for numerical calculation), OpenFOAM (for engineering calculations), Python (for programming) and Oscad (for electronic design). Professor Kannan Moudgalya, IIT Bombay is an Investigator of the FOSSEE project.

FOSSEE project is part of the National Mission on Education through ICT with the thrust area being "Adaptation and deployment of open source simulation packages equivalent to proprietary software”, funded by Ministry of Human Resource Development, based at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB).

Professor Kannan Moudgalya, IIT Bombay says, “Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) also offers the nation an opportunity to save on precious foreign exchange.  It is estimated that proprietary software purchases cost our nation of the order of a billion dollars per year, most of which goes to buy basic software like MS Windows and MS Office.  This can easily be saved by switching over to Linux and a FOSS office suite, such as LibreOffice.  In general, FOSS based software development keeps the cost low for the developer and the end user and this is most appropriate for our IT entrepreneurs, whose main investment is the idea and the time spent.  This can reduce the cost of development of software and make Indian companies competitive in global market place.  India has a cost advantage in terms of labour arbitrage.  Proprietary software disturbs this cost advantage by imposing huge overheads. Choosing FOSS can help India leverage its demographic dividend, by reducing avoidable and unnecessary additional costs, without compromising on quality in the least bit.”

Licensing cost of Open Source Software is legally zero. Even after including support, installation and training costs, Open Source Software offers 70-90 percent cost savings over proprietary software, thus reducing costs and increasing profits of companies.
Proprietary software companies often complain about Piracy of their software products. But if one considers the fact that open source software offers up to 90% cost savings, it could be argued that since proprietary software costs up to 900% more, indeed it is the proprietary software companies that are the true pirates stealing from institutions, individuals, companies and corporates alike.

Admittedly there are concerns about open source software amoung corporate. But according to OpenLogic Inc, more than 50 percent of companies are willing to consider open source software. However, companies have apprehensions about the lack of technical support for one and vendor backing for another. Obviously, these concerns are easily addressable, and indeed represent a low cost infrastructure for entrepreneurs.

Kiran Kishore, Manager, Fossee Project, IIT Bombay confirms the business opportunities in Foss(Free and Open Source Software) and says "Because FOSS is free, it does not require any license fees and therefore provides affordable business solutions. Because FOSS is open to all, developers could customize, modify or add to the code as per a company's product specifications and development."

Though there are concerns around the technical robustness of FOSS(Free and Open Source Software) these apprehensions are baseless points Srikant, a technical person at the FOSSEE project at IIT Bombay - “Around three fourth of web servers, almost all supercomputers, Android operating systems, run on GNU/Linux Kernel. Organizations like RedHat, IBM, Intel, Suse, TI, Google, Samsung and many more contribute and sponsor Linux kernel. The robustness is just the bi-product of this collaborative social software.”

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