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Kerala Legislature moves to open source software; LibreOffice

Kerala Legislative Assembly, Kerala Government, Niyamasabha

Kerala Legislative Assembly, Kerala Government, Niyamasabha

The Kerala Legislative Assembly (Niyamsabha) has shifted to free and open software, following the expiry of support period to Windows XP.

It has also started producing all its documentation, both digital and printed materials, using the free and open source office suite LibreOffice from yesterday (July 17, 2014).

Zyxware Technologies in association with International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing (SMC) provided support for the implementation of this move and this transition took about three months to complete, according to a The Hindu Business Line report.

Zyxware apparently oversaw the technology transition at the Legislature Secretariat while SMC and LibreOffice provided the required Malayalam computing tools. ICFOSS also released a Handbook to support this migration process.

SMC notes that this migration was significant because the complete documentation at Niyamsabha is done in Malayalam, which is a complex text indic script. As indicated by the report, around 80 operators from eight branches of the Kerala Legislature Secretariat write over 500 pages of text on an average day during the assembly session.

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The transition become necessary after the Kerala government recently mandated (pdf) all Kerala government departments, institutions and public sector undertakings (PSUs) to migrate to free & open source operating system by June 30th, 2014.

Why FOSS? The licensing cost of Open Source software is legally nil. With support, installation and training costs factored in, FOSS still offers a lower total cost of ownership. Being free and open source, the software is also significantly easier to customize and causes less dependence on vendors.

FOSS initiatives in Kerala

The Kerala Government was the first state in the country to adopt a pro Open Source policy back in 2001 which eventually led to the foundation of ICFOSS in 2011. The autonomous organization under the Government of Kerala, is currently working on an IT@School Project to foster IT education in schools. It also undertakes activities in content development, satellite based education, executing e-Governance initiatives and infrastructure development.

Earlier in March this year, ICFOSS had stated plans of creating a standard set of Malayalam words that developers can use while creating interfaces for mobile apps, so that it is easier for them to add support for Malayalam language within their apps. A new Indic Keyboard was also released by SMC, as part of the ongoing Government of India-supported Android R&D project of ICFOSS.

The National Informatics Centre of Kerala has also undertaken various initiatives for effective use of open source software in the state. A complete list of NIC Kerala Projects can be found here.

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The Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM) and the Center for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) (both government initiatives), have launched a joint venture called CATFOSS , Centre for Advanced Training in Free and Open Source Software, at Ernakulam to train students on various aspects of development of FOSS based software. The initiative will start with a batch of 50 students (uptake to be increased to 100 from 2nd year on) and last a period of 6 months. It has also been decided that 25 percent of the students participating will be from outside the state.

The Kerala State Electricity Board had also moved to FOSS solutions back in 2006 with its implementation of the billing software Oruma soon followed by Saras, a accounting software. As a result, KSEB has apparently made a year on year (YoY) saving of Rs 7-8 crore since then.

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