June 29, 2007 8:49 AM PDT

India's Kerala state goes open source

India's Kerala state government is counting on open-source software to boost its IT literacy rate.

According to a statement, the Kerala government has identified free and open-source software as a major strategic component in its efforts to build an inclusive information society.

"Kerala has always been a leader in literacy, and now we want to make Kerala a leader in e-literacy," said Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achutanandan. "We believe that free and open-source software is an essential component in our drive to democratize information technology and bring its benefits to all sections of society."

The Indian state, located on the country's southwest coast, is partnering with Red Hat to train the technical staff of various government organizations and school teachers on desktop Linux and other open-source applications. The Linux vendor will also work with the state government to promote Kerala as a global destination for developing open-source software.

Commenting on Kerala's move toward open source, Nandkumar Pradhan, president and managing director of Red Hat India, said: "The freedom, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of open source helps governments maximize their IT budgets."

Kerala is the latest Indian state to widely support the use of open-source software in schools and government departments.

Tamil Nadu, which embarked on a plan in January to put Linux in government offices, schools and villages, is making progress. Tamil Nadu is located on India's southeast coast.

According to C. Umashankar, managing director of the Electronics Corp. of Tamil Nadu (Elcot), the new operating system has gone down well with its computer users.

"We have switched over to 100 percent Linux in our office, which has more than 200 desktops and laptops. We have also been dispatching desktops with only Suse Linux," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

Although there was initial resistance to change, Umashankar noted, people warmed up to the software after an hour's orientation.

Elcot has opened a Suse Linux training center in its corporate office, and the first batch of 84 officials from the Department of Industries was trained in June. Trainers also conduct on-site training at various government offices.

"The current indications are that government users will fully accept the Linux OS in the days to come," Umashankar said.

More than 3,000 Suse Linux desktops have been dispatched to government offices in Tamil Nadu, and Windows is not offered unless there is an absolute necessity.

"The government offices have to justify the procurement of Windows by indicating the existing client/server software, if any," Umashankar said. "If a desktop system is required only for office application, then we will only supply desktop systems with Suse Linux."

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Singapore.

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open-source software, SuSE Linux, SuSE, India, Linux

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