May 18, 2006

New program will train FOSS trainers in India

Author: Mayank Sharma

Why is free and open source software (FOSS) languishing in IT schools all over India? Because there are not enough teachers and trainers there who are familiar with FOSS. In a first initiative of its kind, the Computer Society of India (CSI) is organizing a FOSS training program for the faculty of various IT schools.

Initially the program, which is being conducted along with the Center of International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC), Singapore and CDAC Chennai, is focusing on the southern region of the country. But according to CSI's H.R. Mohan, similar seminars are being planned for other regions of India.

CSI recently set up a special interest group under its software division to promote FOSS, while CDAC's National Resource Centre for Free and Open Source Software has been promoting FOSS through its initiatives. Together, they are organizing the five-day FOSS training program scheduled to being May 22 at the RMK Engineering College, Chennai. One of the college's faculty members was trained by a similar CICC program in Colombo, Sri Lanka, last December.

Program speakers will be drawn from academia -- some coming from Singapore and some local ones from CDAC and Anna University -- and the regional Linux user group. Mohan says, "We are targeting both faculty members from colleges offering CSE/IT courses and working professionals migrating to OSS. The program aims at training the trainers; those trained in this program will extend support in programs planned to be organized in nearby areas of their respective institutions."

The organizers are planning both classroom lecture sessions and hands-on lab exercises. "We will provide an introduction to all flavours of Linux, and will focus on Red Hat, Ubuntu, and the Knoppix live CD. We will also cover some open source content management systems, such as Drupal, along with other LAMP technologies. Localization issues, security, usability, and copyright issues will also be addressed," says Mohan.

"The entire program is offered for free thanks to the support from CICC and other organizations. Because India covers a large territory, keeping the cost of travel in mind, and to have better reach, we are planning several regional programs. We have plans to hold similar programs in the north, east, and west after evaluating our experience from this event and identifying potential host institutions in other areas," Mohan says, adding that he is hoping to conduct such programs at state level in due course.

The organizers requested interested participants submit applications over the Web. "We have received close to 100 requests. From these, we propose to have 20-25 participants from outside Chennai, 10 from Chennai and surrounding areas, and five from the local host college. In total the batch will have 40 people," Mohan says.

Any effort, in its infancy, is prone to hiccups. Initially, the organizers had planned a conference on the last day of the workshop, but due to logistical issues it had to be canceled. Mohan says the organizers plan to hold a conference in the city, where more people can attend, with sessions that include case studies of deployment of OSS in organizations, business models for OSS, and product offerings in the OSS area.

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