Is There A Virus In The Program?

Sugata Srinivasaraju

Outlook Magazine

28 February 2005


Linguists, educationists and local language computing experts are all up in arms here over an MoU the state recently entered into with Microsoft for IT education at the primary and secondary school level. Dubbing it the "Microsoftisation of education", they have demanded that the agreement be terminated and a more "multilateral" IT education be ensured instead of allowing one MNC to "monopolise" the minds of children. Playwright and MLC Chandrashekhar Kambar even raised the issue in the Upper House in the recently concluded session.

The MoU is part of Microsoft’s ‘philanthropic’ efforts to accelerate the spread of computer literacy in government schools across India. Through ‘Project Shiksha’, it intends to provide free software to reach out to 3.5 million students and 80,000 teachers in the next five years. But people like eminent Kannada writer K.P. Poornachandra Tejasvi, in a letter to the government, has accused MS of merely forwarding its own business interests. "Responsible governments worldwide are moving towards open source software available free. Why should we remain at the mercy of expensive proprietary software?.... Read clause II.2 in the MoU, it clearly says the government will set up three IT academies in ‘a central location’ of Bangalore, Dharwad and Gulbarga and give it to MS for an annual charge of Re 1 to run for five years. This means the government has to shell out crores of taxpayers’ money to help MS carry out its philanthropy."

Countering the charge, Raveesh Gupta, marketing in-charge of localisation at Microsoft India, told Outlook that over 500 language users, including U.R. Ananthamurthy, were consulted. "In fact, the Jnanpith laureate was the keynote speaker at the launch of the Kannada package. Also, we need to understand that the package is not cast in stone, it is an ongoing process. We are open and what we have done is in no way comprehensive," he says.

İOutlook Publishing (India) Private Limited 2005