Indian State decrees Open Source

It is well-known that Microsoft wants to have a monopoly in the field
of computer technology. Naturally, being a democratic and progressive
government, we want to encourage the spread of free software, M. A.
Baby, the state's education minister, said by telephone.

Microsoft was not being banned, he said, but the government was actively
encouraging Kerala's 12,500 schools to switch to the Linux operating
system, available around the world free of charge.

The news will further unsettle foreign investors in this state. Also
this month, Kerala imposed a sweeping ban on the sale and production of
Coke and Pepsi after an environmental watchdog based in Delhi said their
soft drinks contained unhealthy levels of pesticides. Less comprehensive
bans were introduced in six other states across India.

Mr. Baby said the announcement was not part of an ideological campaign
against Western-made products. We have great respect for the
contribution made by the United States and its European allies in the
fields of art and literature and culture, he said. At the same time we
are not happy with the monopolistic and imperialistic moves, both in
political and economic spheres, made by these nations.

With its population of 32 million, Kerala is one of India's smaller
states, but Microsoft said it represented an important market. The state
has a literacy rate of more than 90 percent, much higher than the
national average of about 65 percent, and is known to be innovative in
its promotion of computer literacy.

About 30,000 computers are already in use in schools across the state,
and the Education Ministry said about 600,000 students opted to take
free software training classes this year.

In a written statement, Microsoft's public sector head in India, Rohit
Kumar, said the company had tried to keep its prices low to make them
accessible to schools, selling one version of Windows for between $25
and $30 per computer.

Under the School Agreement program, Microsoft has successfully created
a very competitive pricing-value model, keeping in mind the financial
constraints that beleaguer most educational institutions, Mr. Kumar

Financial, rather than ideological, reasons may be at the root of the
state's decision to promote free software.

The Education Ministry has an annual budget of 40 million rupees, or
$1.86 million, to promote computer technology among the one million
students, aged between 5 and 15, currently at school, a sum that will be
stretched as Mr. Baby attempts to fulfill his ambition of making all the
state's schoolchildren computer literate.

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