Flickr August 26, 2008Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
Educational software … from azimpremjifoundation.org July 28, 2008Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Open Source.
Sukumar Anikar <email@example.com>  and Prasad <firstname.lastname@example.org> managed to get across to me a copy of a DVD … and what a DVD at that! It contained a whole lot of fascinating educational software for school children.
A couple of nights ago, I ended up ‘playing’ some educational games with Aren, 5, and told him that my friends had sent the same across free. “Did you say ‘thank you’?” he asked me in turn. In fact, he kept ‘playing’ on these games, though it was almost midnight, and even though he’s too small to obviously understand many of the concepts being taught here (decimal fractions, and what not … but big enough to be interested in the wild animals of the jungle and to try and comprehend how fruits and a balanced diet gives us the energy we need to do work). The ‘games’ sent across in this DVD work excellently and without flaw (so far) on my Ubuntu laptop. They have been adjusted to work with the GNU/Linux operating system.
It drew my interest enough to dash across another email to Sukumar and Prasad, requesting more programmes.Given the medium of instructions being used (and subjects taught) in Goa, I am particularly interested in software dealing with:
- English language
- Hindi language
- Environmental Science
- General Science
- Social Science
- Co-curricular subjects
Check out the long list of what’s available. http://www.azimpremjifoundation.org/html/E_Learn_Mat_table1.htm
The Azim Premji Foundation is actually keen to work with educational institutions (rather than with individuals, if I understood right) for obvious reasons.
Said the APF in a mail to me: “We always support the state governments by providing them the Digital Learning Resource (DLR) for deployment in Government schools. Generally, the support is by providing the right to replicate our content to the state, without any costs. Our Digital Learning Resource is not provided if the intended use is for commercial purposes. We also share content with NGOs and other institutions who manage schools where there is no barrier on admissions and where no fee is being charged.”
And Mr Anikar added, “Almost all our titles or Digital Learning Resource are trilingual i.e. in English, Hindi and in any one of the regional languages. While we have just 10 titles in Marathi the same is not available for immediate release as they have to be validated by a state government. However, we will share other titles that are in English and Hindi. Further, we are also in the process of making our content compatible with [GNU]Linux platform and hence for the present we will be sharing only such titles which are compatible with both windows and Linux and those that have been tested. The remaining titles would be shared on a future date and on completion of testing. We will be clustering our titles in a couple of DVD’s and send it across to you in the next week…. We also wish to state that there is a process that needs to be followed in implementing the Digital Learning Resource in schools which we will share the same with you once you confirm the receipt of Digital Learning Resource.”
And: “A note of caution — our Digital Learning Resource are not meant to help in computer literacy. The target group is children in the age group of 6-14 years and the Digital Learning Resource primarily presents concepts related to Maths, Science and Language related to the curriculum for classes Standard I to Standard VIII.”
By way of background, from their website: “Azim Premji Foundation has commenced the digital content creation effort in the year 2002. So far, Foundation has created over 100+ master CD titles for the classes 1 to 8 and the same have been translated into various regional languages in India including few tribal languages. The content is created with the pedagogical focus to enable the children to directly use and learn where the teacher will act as facilitator. The attributes of the content are; curriculum oriented, child-centered, self paced, interactive and multimedia based content.”
You probably know that Azim Premji is the Chairman and CEO of one of India’s largest software companies, Wipro. Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azim_Premji] says he was rated the richest man in India between 1999 to 2005 (and is probably among the top five now). This impressed me: “Premji is known for his modesty and frugality in spite of his wealth. He drives a Toyota Corolla and flies economy class, prefers to stay in company guest houses rather than luxury hotels and even served food on paper plates at a lunch honouring his son’s wedding.”
Check it out. Really useful stuff. The educational content on the DVDs, I mean!
 Head – Technology for Education, Azim Premji Foundation, #134, Doddakannelli, Next to Wipro Corporate Office, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore – 560 035 Tel: 91-80-66144900/901/902 (Board) 91-80-66144922 (Direct) Fax: 91-80-66144903 Mobile: 09449820054 www.azimpremjifoundation.org
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LinuxChix-India aims at free software access for women
10 Jul, 2008, 1030 hrs IST, IANS
BANGALORE: With a name like LinuxChix-India, you might think its mission is trivial, but their goal is serious: creating equal access for women to enter the world of technology.
Archana Raghupathy of Chennai started LinuxChix-India in 2005. It is the Indian chapter of the global women techies’ network Linuxchix.org, and “tries to empower Indian women to use, develop and contribute to the world of free and open source software (FOSS).”
Globally, LinuxChix is a community for women who “like Linux and Free Software” and for women and men who want to support women in computing. Its members range from novices to experienced users and include professional and amateur programmers, system administrators and technical writers.
It also works to bring together women around India involved in various FOSS projects, foster participation and share knowledge in a geeky world where males usually dominate.
“Back when I started (being active) online, revealing one’s gender meant the usual picture requests or maybe personal questions after a few mails under the guise of volunteering. But I doubt if it will happen to a woman today,” Vidya Ayer, one of those involved in the LinuxChix-India project, said.
Using the online identity of VidAyer, she currently volunteers for a number of global free software projects.
These include the popular GNU/Linux groups like Ubuntu, Ubuntu-Women, Linuxchix, Debian-Women, KDE-Women and the open directory project DMOZ. Some projects like Debian-Women and KDE-Women acknowledge the low participation rates of women in FOSS initiatives and attempt to encourage more of them to join in.
LinuxChix-India takes up geeky topics like “Introduction to Linux Kernel: Basics”, showing that women can do anything in this often male-dominated field – if given the chance. Its members show their abilities and encourage one another. For instance, Aneesha Govil and Barkha Khatri are into “FOSS evangelism” – spreading the word about it.
Ani Peter works on localising software to Indian languages, Ankita Garg is into Linux kernel hacking, Archana is into scripting, Kadambari Devarajan is into theoretical computer science, Priti Patil works on education, and Runa Bhattarjee is into mentoring, apart from other things.
Ayer explained why women find it tough to enter computing, including free software.
“It’s the lack of infrastructure, while the lack of computer access also plays some role. Most men who don’t own computers would use a friend’s machine; women in India would not have the freedom to stay late at a friend’s place to hack away,” she explained.
Mentoring can help a lot, members of LinuxChix India feel. FOSS volunteers need to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug squashing (correcting errors in software code) and the like.
“At the entry level, volunteering is easy if you know what you want to do. Also most men I’ve met so far appreciate the extra efforts put to cross that GNU/Linux-learning-curve,” Ayer said. “However, today it’s a lot more difficult to be sexist and the existence of FOSS women’s groups makes it tough to get away with negative behaviour,” she added.
About herself, Ayer said: “It’s been a self-taught learning experience, thanks to all the online manuals, tutorials and (mailing) lists. I started off volunteering with dmoz.org and Wikipedia communities, then LinuxChix.”
Kadambari Devarajan, a Chennai student doing her masters in software engineering and who aims to enter a graduate school in the US and focus on theoretical computer science, feels women have it tough and equal access is still some time away.
“There are few women in technology and fewer still in FOSS. Women still have to straddle other responsibilities especially if they are employed. Women (at least in India) still haven’t broken free completely,” she said.
“Knowing a lot of women from rural India, I have had a number of discussions with them. Their parents and later in-laws are the ones who decide for them,” Devarajan added.
She feels other factors come in – a lack of awareness and the lack of suitable rewards.
“The reasons for fewer women in FOSS seems comparable to the reasons for fewer women in research. I personally can quote a number of problems faced.
“The problem is not with the guys using FOSS, it’s with the men outside of it. Bureaucracy and a condescending attitude are a few problems that come to mind,” Devarajan added.
Eye-candy… but of a serious kind: Tips on how to display figures February 26, 2008Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
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Visualizing Information for Advocacy:
An Introduction to Information Design
By John Emerson
Tactical Technology Collective
Printed in India, January 2008
Creative Commons License
Downloadable from http://www.tacticaltech.org/infodesign
Reviewed by Frederick Noronha
You’ve got data. Now what do you do with it? Can you tell an effective story with the information you have? Can you “move your audience”?
This is a manual that “offers an introductino to information design”. And it is indended to provide non-government organisations “with a useful and powerful tool for advocacy and research.”
TacticalTech’s Marek Tuszynski, who announced this booklet, said: “Modern life is saturated with ever increasing amounts of information, advertising and media with little time to
digest what is being said. Against this background, NGOs and advocates too often find the information they want to communicate, either buried in long reports full of professional jargon and statistics, or overlooked in an endless stream of media releases.”
Next, we go to the link between information design and advocacy, analysis, consumer education and strategy. To make it practical, there’s a “how to begin” chapter, and another how-to on “planning your information design”.
Keeping in sync with the tone of the book, the short, visually-rich chapters of the book focus on assessing your data, sorting and sketching, assessing your media, designing your graphics, clarifying your graphics and more.
This publication has been sponsored by Soros’ Open Society Institute Information Program. It leads you thought an explanation of what information design is, how you could use it, and specificially where it fits into advocacy.
But this is a practical book. Using images and comparisons, for example, it explains how spectrum lobbying works.
It points to sites like justvision.org, and the time-line on it, as examples of the good presentation of data (of stories of Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace, in this case). See http://justvision.org/en/timeline
There’s more eye-candy (but of a serious kind!) too. A project of Greenpeace, Exxon Secrets charts funding by the Exxon Foundation to institutions and individual ‘climate change skeptics’ working to undermine solutions to global warming and climate change. The interface makes it easy to visualize and navigate the research. See http://exxonsecrets.org
Some fascinating use of facts, figures and images here. As we’re told: “Information design uses pictures, symbols, colours, and words to communicate ideas, illustrate information or express relationships visually.”
There are practical tips:
“There are many ways to tell a story or to present data. How do you know what kind of presentation to use? The main thing to consider is: how will your information design be used? Is it for planning? Or advocacy? Are you trying to tell a specific story? Or are you trying to create a more neutral map to guide a process of discovery?”
In its 25 pages, there are a whole lot of examples … that really make you think.
Of special interest is a section focussing on how Free Software tools can be used in these tasks. OpenOffice does your office-computing work. NeoOffice works for Mac OS. Ajax13 is a web-based office suite at [http://us.ajax13.com]
InkScape is a vector graphics editor “with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand or CorelDraw”.
PDFCreator will create PDF files from “nearly any Windows application that can print”. Scribus can create layouts for newsletters, stationery, posters, training manuals, technical documentation, business cards and more. The GIMP is an “image manipulation programme”. GIMPShop is a version of this tool modified to be more user-friendly for Photoshop users.
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Plug that leak March 15, 2007Posted by R.S in Pakistan.
The brain drain in Pakistan can be stemmed through incentives, not coercion
The increased need and portability of highly skilled individuals from developing countries to developed ones is perhaps one of the less noticeable consequences of globalisation and economic development. This migration or international transfer of human capital from poor countries to thriving economies is referred to as the ‘brain drain’. Persisting brain drain deprives a country of the expertise and skills of its most talented men and women, who may choose to settle or work abroad. Ironically, these educated, skilled migrants happen to be the very people that a poor nation can least afford to lose. While the remittances and foreign exchange transactions generated by these individuals may be considered a valuable resource for the national economy, the outflow of skilled manpower can stunt local economic progress in the long run. It also entails loss of investment in education and training, especially when trained and skilled people are a scarce resource for a poor country.
Like any typical developing country, Pakistan has been facing the challenge of losing its human resources to the more prosperous and developed countries. The onset of the Information Technology (IT) boom in the West in the late 1990s drew many young Pakistanis to this field. Driven by the lure of H-1B visas, many aspiring young IT professionals enrolled in computer science degrees and certificate programmes. However, post-9/11, many found their American dreams dashed, following the strict visa policies and increased security checks for people moving to the US. The economy slump following global developments in the initial years of the millennium and the layoffs after the dot-com crash in 2001, underscored the fact that IT education was no longer a ticket to the United States.
Undoubtedly these were testing times for the local as well as the global IT industry. The closure of software houses following the cancellation of outsourced IT projects and contracts led many to believe that IT was no longer a viable career option. This in turn served to prevent every Tom, Dick and Harry from hastily jumping on the IT bandwagon. There was reduced enrolment in IT education programmes as well. Hate crimes, clandestine persecutions and an overall environment of fear and awe as part of the post-9/11 syndrome have made some professionals rethink their decisions to purse employment abroad. The changed global economic situation may have served to stem the brain drain of IT professionals from the country for now, but should the imposed limitation on the mobility of these individuals be considered adequate to retain local skilled IT manpower?
Such questions call for an examination of the incentives that serve to attract these professionals abroad. Syed Raza Abbas Naqvi, software test developer at Microsoft, was selected by the software firm as part of its international recruitment programme in 2001. Naqvi cites better earning prospects, the chance to work with a prestigious organisation, flexibility to travel and interact and the overall capacity for professional growth as some of the reasons behind his decision to opt for a US based job. “I think there wasn’t an option in Pakistan that matched with the first two factors at least,” says Naqvi. Other important determinants for international migration of technology experts tend to be the availability of resources and access to developed and sophisticated types of infrastructure for carrying out research; relatively liberal environment to work and survive; anticipated long-term benefits during the phase of retired life; secure and stable surroundings; and bright prospects for family members, especially with respect to health care. On the other hand, political instability, poor law and order conditions, bureaucratic red tape in the work domain and a general social disregard towards academics also serve to force the highly educated to leave the country.
Indemnification of these shortcomings in the local IT job market calls for a drastic makeover that encompasses everything from working conditions and monetary benefits to the general outlook of the society towards technology and a knowledge-based economy. The timing for such measures could not be more appropriate. The emergence of higher-education institutions and private universities in the large and medium urban centres do offer a chance for gainful employment. Additionally, the growth of telecoms, banks and other commercial enterprises, supplemented by their need to migrate to IT based enterprise solutions, can serve as a parallel for those aspiring professionals who choose to stay. A suitable environment for optimum working conditions in various sectors needs to be created through policy options by the government. Whether it is science and technology or businesses and trade, the government must ensure its support to society. Taxation relief, facilitating the export and import of equipment and providing hassle-free administrative assistance are just a few examples. Linkages and networks between educational institutes, employers and highly skilled manpower also need to be further streamlined.
Research undertaken both in developed and developing countries reveals that for an increase in output, the quality of labour is more important than the quantity. No country with an educated and technically trained human resource is poor and no country with a predominantly illiterate, untrained human resource is rich
Written by Reba Shahid
Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill 2007 January 20, 2007Posted by R.S in Cyber Crime, Cyber law, E-governance, hacking, Pakistan.
The Federal Cabinet approved the adoption of The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2007 on 17 January 2007. The proposed law titled as Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2007 offers penalties ranging from six months imprisonment to capital punishment for 17 types of cyber crimes, including cyber terrorism, hacking of websites and criminal access to secure data.
The bill deals with the electronic crimes included, cyber terrorism, criminal access, criminal data access, data damage electronic fraud, electronic forgery, misuse of electronic system or electronic device, unauthorised access to code, misuse of encryption, misuse of code, cyber stalking and suggest stringent punishment for offences involving sensitive electronic crimes.
It proposes seven years punishment on charges of electronic fraud and electronic forgery and would not have the right of bail whereas those tried for data damage, system damage and criminal data access, misuse of electronic system or electronic device would get maximum three-year punishment with the right of bail.
The bill suggests maximum punishment of death or life imprisonment for those booked under cyber crimes or involved in sensitive electronic systems offences.
Following the passage of the mentioned bill, the Minister for Information Technology Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari stated that the e-crime law would require the internet companies maintain their traffic data for at least six months to enable the agencies to investigate cases involving data stored by them. He said the law would enable the government to seek extradition of foreign nationals through Interpol for their involvement in criminal activities punishable under the law.
Newsrack… a great tool January 16, 2007Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
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Newsrack is a great tool. You can use it to keep track of news on issues related to keywords of your interest. Written by a friend, Subramanya “Subbu” Sastry <sastry at cs.wisc.edu>
In Subbu’s words:
I am Subbu and I have been working on the news monitoring tool NewsRack, one of which is accessible at http://floss.sarai.net/newsrack Currently, over 250 users have registered with NewsRack….
At this time, NewsRack is able to track news from 5 different Hindi sources:
- Dainik Jagran
- Navbharat Times
- Dainik Bhaskar
- Hindustan Dainik
and one Kannada source
- Kannada Prabha
This list is expected to grow in the future.
So, at this time, on NewsRack, it is possible to track only Hindi news from the above sources, or it is possible to track English and Hindi (and Kannada) news at the same time for the same topic. As an example, check the coverage for the ongoing Singur land acquisition saga http://floss.sarai.net/newsrack/Browse.do?owner=subbu&issue=Land+Issues&catID=3
It would be good as an example to set up something entirely in Hindi .. so
feel free to email me if any of you has a need for tracking a particular
topic using the above Hindi sources.
Check out the Goa-linked stories on Newsrack.
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Blog of the ‘vicious beast’ January 15, 2007Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
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F[L]OSS … in the neighbourhood January 14, 2007Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
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It was nice to see my essay on Free and Open Source Software in Pakistan (unexpectedly) make it to the cover of the Linux For You magazine. Thanks to the International Open Source Network for giving me the opportunity to compile this in the first place, and making it sharable! I need to work on some of the corrections and additions that I received feedback on. It was very interesting working on this report… and spreading the word about how much is actually happening in a way that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
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BytesForAll… getting a new cyberhome January 13, 2007Posted by fredericknoronha in Uncategorized.
Warren Noronha (no relative!) is telling me right now on Gmail chat about his updates on the BytesForAll site (actually, a major overhaul and shift-over). Take a look, and get a sneak preview:
Of course, it’s not yet formal. Or even offically ribbon-cut
Here’s a quote I quite liked:
“The root of wealth or poverty lies in the ends we have inmind, not in the means to those ends. If the hand is ready then findingthe instrument of action should not be difficult” — Rabindranath Tagore
Bytes for All (B4All) is a networked space for citizens in SouthAsia. It experiments, highlights and
organizes debate on the relevanceof ICT to development activities. South Asia – often considered as anICT powerhouse, is also the home of highest number of poor people inthe World. Poverty is not just about income or GDP, its also abouthuman development, access to better life, education, health,opportunities, empowerment and human rights. In human developmentindex, South Asia doesn’t stand brighter either. We do not create thehype that technology will solve all problem overnight. Rather weemphasize that causes to poverty are related to socio-political issuessuch as, un-equal distribution mode of a society, unfair trade regime,lack of good governance etc. Then what technology can do? We believe,technology can play an important role in facilitating the objectives
ofthis socio-political solutions. Therefore when we talk about ICTsolutions to poverty, we are not devoid of context and reality. Werefer ICT as a process that can help achieving certain objectives moreeffectively, quickly and without the need of any gate keeper. To ourview, IC
T doesn’t replace t
he need of good governance or people’srights to get equal opportunities, rather ICT can complement thisprocess. When you read Bytes for All, please understand this is ourspirit.
My first impresions: neat and tidy. A few pics and…
Thanks to everyone who shared this dream and made it possible. (Primarily Partha … and Warren… and many, many more volunteers. Reba “Ms Spider” Shahid. Archana Nagvenkar. Zunaira Durrani. Shahzad.
Farrah in the NWFP. Jehan Ara. Subhrangshu Choudhary. Ridhi D’Cruz. Nalaka. Abhas @ DeepRoot.co.in, Monjur Mahmud. Lasanthi. Farhad. Prayas @ Crimsonfeet.org, Mahrukh. Sajan Venniyoor. BNNRC. Sangeeta Naik. Faoud Bajwa. Daryl Martyris.
I’m sure I probably missed out some names!
We would be simply pretending and making untrue claims if we didn’t acknowledge that this was taken forward by dozens if not hundreds who helped in every possible way… along the route.)
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