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conceptual mapping >  information and communication  > The penguin goes to school: Linux to debut in Goa classrooms

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The penguin goes to school: Linux to debut in Goa classrooms

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After struggling for years to get access to non-pirated software to run their computer labs, schools in the western coastal state of Goa have received a bonanza that seems almost too good to be true.

Red Hat India, part of a prominent global corporation dealing in `open source’ or `free’ software, has come up with an innovative plan which was promptly seized upon by volunteers pushing for the speedy computerisation of schools in Goa. Under the plan, schools will get access not just to all the software they need, but also to free training for teachers and volunteers.

What makes this project innovatively different is that it’s based on Linux, or GNU/Linux, an operating system (OS) that seeks to `open’ up the software industry. `Free software’ means it is freely distributable and free from restrictions on seeing, using, copying, modifying and re-distributing the original source code or software based on it. This, in turn, makes the software moderately, or affordably, priced even in countries like India. Also, legally copyable.

Volunteers will receive training in a project that could sustainably meet the software needs of schools. Young Linux enthusiasts and volunteers — including engineering college students — will be trained in installing the software. Later, Red Hat and its training partners will train teachers how to use the decade-old operating system.

According to Red Hat India training manager Shankar Iyer, the firm will provide Linux as a standard operating system for schools in Goa. “In this process, Red Hat and an NGO (Goa Computers in Schools Project) have come together for a social cause,” says Iyer.

The Goa Computers in Schools Project (GCSP) is a coalition of educationists, concerned citizens and expatriate Goans who feel the need to speed up the pace of computer education in this small state. The GCSP will work to implement the project here, while Red Hat India will provide training to teachers and volunteers at its own cost.

Such a project is unique for India, where schools have been struggling with unaffordable software prices. “Red Hat is willing to extend it across the country (without any financial implications for the schools),” says Iyer. According to Red Hat India, the company has drawn up a complete schedule to train volunteers, starting January 2002. The cost of the training is estimated at about Rs 150,000.

Red Hat India has suggested that if the project takes off in Goa, it could be replicated right across India. But, as Goa-based GCSP representative Anit Saxena admits, the job ahead is daunting. “Getting things done in Goa can take time,” he says.

date of on-line publication : 25 September 2007

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