INDIA IS STILL PLANNING to develop its own proprietary operating system (OS) rather than use "bugged" Western systems.
The Indian government is still intent on developing its own operating system so it can own the source code and architecture rather than rely on Western technologies.
Dr V K Saraswat, scientific adviser to India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said that the Indian OS is needed to protect India's economic framework. While we admire India's decision to write its own OS, the decision seems to be driven by paranoia about Western technology.
Saraswat said earlier this month that Western hardware and software are likely to be "bugged". By bugged, he doesn't mean that Windows is chock full of unsecure hackable exploits. Saraswat specifically thinks that our technology is bugged so we can spy on India.
"Unfortunately even today we import most of these items. They are coming from various countries. So there is possibility that these hardware parts are already bugged," said Saraswat.
"So we have started doing design and development of our own hardware. We are trying to build it in our own country," he said.
"Second part is software. Most of us use commercial software available in the country. We have got Windows and some use Linux. These software packages are likely to be bugged."
Aside from overseeing development of the OS, Saraswat's main role is looking after India's missile defence system, so paranoia and security are second nature. At the time Saraswat made the OS announcement, The INQUIRER reported that the Indian government had been leaning on RIM so it could access communications on Blackberry smartphones.
The concerns about Western expansionism and spying are clear. But lumping open source technology with closed source software systems is surprising, given the popularity of open source projects in India.
In 2008 free software founder, Richard Stallman popped over to India to see a new Indian open source operating system called E-Swecha being rolled out in educational faculties. The project was overseen by the Free Software Foundation of India, but Stallman said the government wasn't chipping in.
India also has another, bigger open source OS that it built up from Debian Linux. This year, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing developed Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS), a GNU/Linux distribution with advanced server features.
Unfortunately, India didn't want to use BOSS as a foundation to roll out a nationwide government stamped OS. Instead, it's sticking to designing something from scratch with 50 scientists and IT specialists located in New Delhi and Bangalore spearheading a national effort to create the OS.
As we've said, we have nothing but respect for India's attempt to control its own technological destiny. But, if its products, specifically its OS, are developed out of a culture of paranoia and fear, then everything we have to offer gets tarred with the same brush.
The philosophies behind closed and open source software aren't even in the same postcode. Despite that, it seems that India is unwisely denying itself access to the benefits that open source technologies can provide. µ
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