Kochi: Open Software Solutions (OSS), the first software development industrial venture in the cooperative sector that has gone official today, has made a pro-free software definitive statement in the ongoing Linux versus Microsoft debate in Kerala.
Based on the philosophy and politics of the 'copyleft,' as opposed to copyright, the society is already into developing and marketing products in Open Source Software Platforms like the Linux OS and the PostgreSQL RDBMS, providing the much-needed price and reengineering buoyancy to its clients.
Already the flagship product of OSS - Sanghamitra, the online banking software for cooperative banks - is making a silent wave in the sector. This cooperative banking tool is currently being implemented in 14 locations in six districts of Kerala and is growing at the rate of two-to-three installations every month.
The tool, which took more than 27,000 man-hours to develop, is expected to revolutionise the way primary service cooperative banks work as it will help in inter- and intra-bank transfers. The users need not have to pay for licences, version upgrading or adding new users. ''The cooperative sector in the state will be able to save up to Rs 80 crore by using the free software which otherwise goes out of the national wealth,'' says OSS social entrepreneur and chief technology officer K V Anil Kumar.
Social entrepreneurship is also the motivating force for the society, which currently has 36 members mostly with techie background. The seed for this unique geek tree was sown in 1999 when Kumar, along with three other youngsters currently with the OSS (Joby John, Krishnadas M and Joseph Thomas), were actively involved in a study for a total e-governance strategy development for the Ernakulam District Panchayat as part of the Electronics Industrialisation Infrastructure Development (EIID) Society. ''The argument then was that projects like e-governance can be done only by bigger agencies and with the help of companies like Microsoft,'' says Kumar.
The study recommended that free software should be used to cut on the massive licensing fee that the state would have to pay year after year,'' says John, an IT consultant and honorary member of the Appropriate Technology Promotion Society, which promotes and guides OSS.
''We stand for a cause. By providing cost-effective appropriate technology, the state will be able to save crores of rupees that would otherwise go out of the country. It is also a unique experiment of social entrepreneurship where a bunch of like-minded individuals have come together to create opportunities in jobs and learning,'' adds John.
The politics of the venture is to take on the unscrupulous market forces that have got into patenting knowledge and using them for monopolistic gains based on the philosophy of greed. ''It is almost similar to the new capitalism that no more claims the ownership of land, but has usurped the technology of the seed. The murky world of Intellectual Property Rights is helping transnational corporates gain more than 40-per cent profit,'' says John.
OSS with its unique philosophy has attracted a lot of youngsters and has a good gender balance. ''I became attracted in the philosophy while doing a project at EIID as part of my postgraduate studies in Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). I feel free software is the most appropriate technology for the software community,'' says Sindhu Jerson, an MBE from CUSAT and an OSS honorary secretary.
Kerala State Minister for Tourism K V Thomas inaugurated OSS's office at Subhash Chandra Bose Road, Kadavanthara, Kochi, today. Four other products developed by OSS, including a cheque printing software, interactive voice response system (IVRS), jukebox and a chitti software, were also released. OSS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.