Openoffice rollout picks up pace in India
Ingrid Marson, ZDNet (UK),
November 18, 2005
The indian government plans to distribute CDs containing Firefox and
OpenOffice in all Indian languages in an ambitious project to promote
Open source groups are helping the Indian government meet its target of
creating open source CDs in all official Indian languages by February
The open source applications included on the CDs, such as the Firefox
browser and the OpenOffice.org
productivity suite, have already been
translated into five Indian languages Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Punjabi
and Urdu. But there are still 17 languages left to be translated in just
The localised open source applications will also be available on PCs
soon, after the Indian government struck a deal with a number of PC
vendors to pre-install the software on computers sold in the country.
The Indian government is trying to encourage the use of computers across
the country by distributing free CDs that contain localised versions of
popular open source applications.
R.K.V.S. Raman, a researcher at the Centre for Development of Advanced
Computing, an organisation involved in the production of the CD, said on
Tuesday that the success of the Tamil and Hindi language CDs has
encouraged open source groups across India to get involved.
"Since the launch of the Tamil and Hindi CDs, a large number of open
source groups have an expressed interest in contributing to CDs," said
Before the government started this initiative, many open source groups
were reluctant to work with the government as they were unsure of its
policy around open source, according to Raman. But the success of this
initiative has roused the local open source community, who are now
voluntarily carrying out large parts of the work, he said.
For example, a Linux user group, known as Punlinux, worked on
translating the open source applications into Punjabi, and the Telugu
translation work was done in collaboration with the Free Software
Foundation India, according to Raman.
The Telugu CD was launched at the end of October by the chief minister
of Andhra Pradesh, a state in south-eastern India where Telugu is the
official language. The Punjabi and Urdu CDs are ready for release and
will be officially launched in December or January by the Prime Minister
of India, Manmohan Singh.
The Hindi and Tamil CDs, which have been available since early summer,
have already been sent out to around 400,000 people. The organisation
initially planned to distribute around 3.5 million copies of each CD,
but it claims that demand for the CD has been less than expected as
people are often sharing the CD or downloading the software instead.
"If one person gets the CD, the whole community or [company] department
gets the CD," said Raman. "There are so many channels that people can it
from the Internet, their friends, from magazines -- that we don't know
how many people have access to it."
Although the Indian government has funded this open source initiative,
overall it has a neutral policy to open source, according to a recent
ZDNet UK article looking at open source in the Indian government.