Who can ignore Richard Stallman’s cry for freedom, and for free software? At least not the Election Commission of India, one of the pillars of Indian democracy.
With Stallman, the founder of free software movement, in India on a proselytising mission, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to uninstall Microsoft Office applications from its entire workspace and replace them with OpenOffice.
Open Office is can be downloaded free from the Internet (www.OpenOffice.org), and can be shared with others — again without any cost involved — and upgraded by users according to needs since the source code is available, unlike Microsoft software.
Interestingly, EC is the largest government organisation to have opted for free software and stepped into the open-source environment.
Open Office development is a community initiative, supported by Sun Microsystems, and the open source code is available under GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).
From September 1, every Election Commission office will have a PC loaded only with OpenOffice and Mozilla or Opera, the open source Internet browsers. Chief Electoral Officer Debashis Sen said: “We decided to replace the Office suite of Microsoft with OpenOffice at a meeting on August 7 and 8, and cost was one of the reasons (for the change).
” According to officials, the cost of MS Office suite is approximately Rs 15,000 per licensed copy and Microsoft generally gives a 10 per cent discount to institutional sales. For Microsoft, the switch would mean loss of substantial revenue. In West Bengal alone, the EC has 100 computers in 65 sub divisions.
There is hope yet for Microsoft and database major Oracle. For the moment, Sen said, the Commission has decided to stick with the Windows operating system (OS) and Oracle database. “In the long run, we feel we should have a non-proprietary environment wherever possible,” he said.
So Windows may also go away and be replaced with an open source OS system like Linux.