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Educational software … from azimpremjifoundation.org July 28, 2008

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Open Source.


Sukumar Anikar <anikar@azimpremjifoundation.org>  [1] and Prasad <prasad@azimpremjifoundation.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
  • Maths
  • 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!

[1] 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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An article from me (FN), recently published in the Indian media… July 12, 2008

Posted by fredericknoronha in India, Open Source.
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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.


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Challenging The Chip: The Underbelly of ICT January 11, 2007

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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Interesting! Despite all the optimism about ICTs, this cannot be ignored! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenging_The_Chip Challenging The Chip From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Main Category: Non-fiction book stubs

Challenging The Chip is a 2006-published book on “labour rights andenvironmental justice in the global electronics industry”. It ispublished by Temple University Press, Philadelphia. In three parts,the book looks at global electronics, environmental justice and labourrighs, and electronic waste and extended producer responsibility.Infour apendices, the book also deals with the principles ofenvironmental justice, the computer take-back campaign, sampleshareholder resolutions, and the electronics recycler’s pledge of truestewardship.

This 357-page book (ISBN 1059213-330-4) was put together by “scores ofpeople around the world (who) have been involved over the course ofseveral years in the conceptualization, development, editing andproduction (of it)”.


* 1 “Downside not addressed”

* 2 Third World women’s labour, pollute surroundings

* 3 Comments on the book

* 4 Regions covered

* 5 Contributors

* 6 Editors

* 7 External links

[edit] “Downside not addressed”

Says an introduction to its contents: “Of the millions of wordswritten over the past several decades about the electronics industry’sincredible transformation of our world, far too few have beenaddressed (to) the downside of this revolution. Many are surprised tolearn that environmental degredation and occupational health hazardsare as much a part of high-tech manufacturing as miniaturization andother such marvels.”

[edit] Third World women’s labour, pollute surroundings

Editors Ted Smith, David A Sonnenfeld and David Naguib Pellow also comment: “Although most consumers are eager to enjoy their latestcomputers, televisions, cellular phones, iPods, and electronic games,few relate the declining prices of these and other electronictechnologies to the labor of Third World women, who are paid pennies aday. Fewer still realize that the amazingly powerful microprocessorsand superminiaturized, high-capacity memory devices harm the workerswho produce them and pollute the sorrounding communities’ air andwater.

[edit] Comments on the book

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, author of the book Living Downstream: AnEcologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment calls this book”essential reading for anyone who owns a cell phone or a computer” andsays “our digital possessions connect us not only to globalinformation but also to global contamination and injustice”. MITProfessor of Technology and Policy and co-author of Technology,Globalization, and Sustainable Development calls the work “animpressive, comprehensive critique and hopeful, but realistic,blueprint for transforming the global electronics industry into asustainable one encompassing technological advance, environmentalimprovement, and equitable, safe, and secure employment”.

Jan Mazurek of the University of California at Los Angeles’sDepartment of Urban Planning and author of Making Microchips says that”contrary to high tech’s clean image, this pioneering work illustratesthe industry’s environmental and economic downsides from thebirthplace of Silicon Valley to the four corners of the globe to whichthe industry recently has spread”. Mazurek comments that this book is”told from the compelling and passionate perspective of workers andactivists involved in these struggles”.

[edit] Regions covered

Chapters of the book cover “Made in China” electronics workers,Thailand’s electronic sector’s corporate social responsibility,electronic workers in India, workers in and around Central and EasternEurope’s semiconductor plants (Russia, Belarus, Slovakia, CzechRepublic, Poland and Romania), Silicon Valley’s Toxics’ Coalition andworkers’ struggles, Mexico, Taiwan’s Hsinchu Science Park, otherissues from Taiwan, high-tech pollution in Japan, the electronic wastetrade, e-waste in Delhi, producer responsibility laws in Sweden andJapan, among other themes.

[edit] ContributorsIts contributors include David A Sonnenfeld, Boy Lüthje, Joseph LaDou,Anibel Ferus-Comelo, Apo Leong, Sanjiv Pandita, Tira Foran, AndrewWatterson, Andrew Watterson, Shengling Chang, Leslie A. Byster, TedSmith,David N. Pellow, Glenna Matthews, James McCourt, Connie García,Amelia Simpson, Raquel E. Partida Rocha, Hua-Mei Chiu, Wen-Ling Tu,Yu-Ling Ku, Robert Steiert, Leslie A. Byster, Ted Smith, FumikazuYoshida, Jim Puckett, Ravi Agarwal, Kishore Wankhade, Chad Raphael,Ted Smith, Ken Geiser, Joel Tickner, Naoko Tojo, David Wood and RobinSchneider.

[edit] Editors

This book is edited by Ted Smith, David A Sonnenfeld and David NaguibPellow, with Leslie A. Byser, Shenglin Chang, Amanda Hawes, Wen-LingTu, and Andrew Watterson. Its foreword is by Jim Hightower.[edit]

External links* Asian Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Hong Kong* Basel Action Network (BAN), Seattle* Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Amsterdam* Computer TakeBack Campaign (CTBC), California* Enviornmental Health Coalition, California* International Camapign for Responsible Technology, San Jose* International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health* International Metalworkers’ Federation, Geneva* Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production* People Organized in Defence of Eartth and Her Resources (PODER)* Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, SVTC, San Jose* South West Organizing Project, Albuquerque, NM* Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Albuquerque* Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, TAVOI, Taipei* Taiwan Environmental Action Network, Taipei City* Texas Campaign for the Environment* Thai Labour Campaigns, Bangkok* Toxics Link, New Delhi* Worksafe! A California Coalition

bytesforall_readers : Message: Challenging The Chip

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The promise of … the ‘Bangalore Tiger’ December 25, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India, Uncategorized.
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While passing through Bangalore yesterday, I came across Bangalore Tiger: How Indian Tech UPstart Wipro is Rewriting the Rules of Global Competition by Steve Hamm. This is a 2007-dated Indian edition released by Tata McGraw-Hill and priced a rupee or five (can’t recall) below the Rs 300 mark.

Am only at the beginning of the book. But Hamm seems to be trying hard to tell a tech story in an interesting with, with a human face. There are still a lot of details to contend with.

Some reviews and links (including Amazon.com) to the book are here.

On the back cover, the book promises:

“At one time, the West’s multinationals ruled supreme. Now, the shining stars of India’s Silicon Valley are shaking up the global business establishment. Bangalore Tiger exposes the key principles of Wipro’s transnational business model, offering valuable lessons in improving quality, cutting costs, motivating employees, and streamlining processes. From its mastery of global collaboration and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and ‘zero politcs’ policy, author Steve Hamm reveals the never-before-told story of how ‘The Wipro Way’ of doing business is changing the world.”

Wonder if the book will live up to its promise. If I can keep away from the comp sufficiently long to complete it, will let you know…

India firms warn on IT skills gap November 7, 2006

Posted by R.S in India.
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Is it due to to the brain drain, lack of mentors or the falling standards of IT education? Comments are most welcome
Story from BBC NEWS:

Business leaders have warned that India’s information technology (IT) industry is heading towards a severe shortage of highly-skilled manpower. They say India will not be able to achieve its targeted growth rates if the issue is not tackled immediately. Young engineers and college graduates lack necessary skills, a conference in the city of Hyderabad was told. Software industry body Nasscom has warned that India faces a shortfall of half a million skilled workers by 2010.

Work culture

Nasscom President Kiran Karnik told the conference that the availability of skilled engineers would be the biggest challenge for industry in the years to come. He said the IT industry in India needed something like 350,000 engineers per annum, but no more than 150,000 of the most highly-skilled engineers were available each year. This was creating severe shortages of talent, Mr Karnik said, and the industry was definitely concerned.

There was a huge number of graduates and engineers, but people with the technical and communications and team-working skils that were required were often lacking, he told the conference. At present, the IT and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries in India employ 1.3 million people. This year India’s software exports are expected to reach $30bn while the domestic software business is likely to be worth $7-8bn.

Intel (India) president Frank B Jones told the conference that it was becoming more and more difficult to find the required skills among school leavers and graduates in India. He said that firms hiring people with basic level skills from universities found that it took a very long training programme to integrate them into the companies’ work culture. As a way out, companies like Intel had started relying on those skilled Indians who – having worked in the US for several years – now wanted to return home. Frank Jones said that about 10% of Intel’s work force had come back through that programme.

An open letter to B&MGF … of scientific publications, software and $$$ September 21, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.

Dear Rebecca, Thanks for letting me know about this. As you might be aware, I consider myself part of the Free Software movement. As such, I find it unacceptable to work with a fund that made its millions on the premise of the questionable practices of proprietary software.

While INASP (the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) is a great idea and approach, can we afford to forget the need for an International Network for the Availability of Access to Software Products? Would this be acceptable to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which you might argue is separate from Microsoft Corp, but nonetheless made its billions on just the opposite approach?

Or do you consider scientific publications to be sharable, but not software?

In addition, I really don’t believe our planet merely needs a million dollars (or many million dollars) to spur intiiatives forward. Specially when this money was earned at the cost of placing unacceptable blocks on the sharing of software, curbing software freedom, and turning nine out ten computer users into “pirates”.

In my view too, what we need is talent and skill that looks at the problems and the needs of the many rather than at the luxury and greed of the few. While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been claiming to do exactly this, history tells us differently. Is it possible to take the clock back to the pre-Open Letter to Hobbyist days? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists or http://www.blinkenlights.com/classiccmp/gateswhine.html Or, alternatively can your initiative think of joining the campaigns of the Free Software movement, and its emphasis on the freedom to run, study, copy and improve software? If not, why not? Is it merely because it threatens a business model that helps to concentrate wealth in a phenomenal manner?

Am sharing this note with our BytesForAll list. If anyone is interested in taking up your offer, it’s upto them. I wouldn’t. Thank you anyway for taking the trouble to write though; nothing personal here, but I feel such issues and assumptions need to be debated. FN

On 20/09/06, Rebecca Priestley wrote:

Frederick Noronha
Bytes For All

Dear Mr Noronha,

Firstly, let me introduce myself. I work for INASP (the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) and one of my responsibilities is to assist in the coordination of the 2007 Access to Learning Award, an award given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It recognises excellence in providing access to information through computers, at no cost to the user. The recipient will receive an award of up to US $1 million. It must be stressed that this is an award for work already completed or in progress, it is not a grant.

We are currently contacting our large international network with information to encourage applications. I am sure many of your contacts may be eligible. We should be grateful if you could use means at your disposal, e.g. news item in your bulletin or journal, or links from your website to inform your community and contacts.

Please find attached a copy of the ATLA brochure in English and the application form. Full information (including brochures in relevant languages, and application form) is also available on our website at http://www.inasp.info/ldp/awards. I would like to send you a few hard copies of the brochure too so could you please let me know you postal address?

If you think I can help in any other way, please do get in touch with me.

Best wishes,
Rebecca Priestley, Programme & Events Officer, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, (INASP), 58 St Aldates, Oxford OX1 1ST, UK Tel: +44(0)1865 249909 Fax: +44(0)1865 251060 Email: rpriestley@inasp.info Skype: rebeccapriestley Web: http://www.inasp.info
INASP is a registered UK charity: number 1106349

Delhi, IP-Watch, and altperspectives… September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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Here are a couple of stories that emerged from my recent Delhi trip and are at the IP-Watch site. First, is India: Influential Voices Back “IP-unencumbered” Software; Copyright Debate Heats Up and the second is India At The Forefront Of Knowledge Commons Debate. It was fun grappling with these issues, and trying to get to the big picture….

EVMs, voting, India and Europe…. September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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My friend Patrice Riemens, from the Netherlands, draws attention to a campaign against there against the dependence of computers in polling stations. Says the site, explaining the issue: “In The Netherlands almost 100% of the population casts their ballot on computers that are not protected against manipulation. The voting process is completely closed and election results cannot be independently verified.”

Patrice goes on to query: “I guess in India plans are also afoot to introduce them (modernity, blablabla). Any controversy or opposition? Please advice!

Here’s a 2004 article from Slate.com. And this is the Associated Press story written from Bangalore.

Here’s something sent to Goanet in April 2004, and a mystery about untailled votes from my part of India, that is Goa.

It’s strange how a few forwarded messages can actually spur off some interesting debate. As S.N.Rao commented:

Yikes! There does seem to be a reset button in the EVM specification. Apparently this is used to clear the results of the mock-poll before the actual voting begins – a process designed to assure the polling agents of all parties that the machine is indeed functional and with no previous votes registered. My mind boggles at the thought that such a fundamental process flaw was allowed to remain in the live system! Allowing the polling officer to RESET the system, thereby erasing all the votes polled is tantamount to criminal negligence. The equivalent in the old system would be to give the polling officer the key to the box and a means of restoring the seals so that there is NO evidence of the box having been opened, cleaned out and closed!! Not casting aspersions on the integrity of the polling officers, but assuming that one of them were to be compromised, its a simple matter, at the end of polling, to RESET and allow electronic ballot stuffing to the correct total of votes polled – viola – booth capturing in the electronic era. No safeguards in the EVM against that – the EVM is programmed to act on the RESET signal, the process authorises the polling officer to hit the button….is this merely oversight in the process design? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

An interesting post on hacking electronic voting machines.

Something I’m trying to find in cyberspace — but can’t — is a very probably scenario that someone painted about an easy way to program an EVM into fraud… very sophisticated but very simple. It involved, say, getting all your supporters out to vote in the first hour of polling, and programming the machine in such a way that the candidate with the largest number of votes in the first sixty minutes is shown as winning by a landslide! So one wouldn’t even have to worry about where your symbol is placed on the EVM. You’d just need to be privy to one tiny secret: get all your supporters out to vote in the first hour (when there are few persons voting in any case). Not saying this happens; but it could!

PS: The relevant archives pertaining to this debate could be located around here

An internet magazine… SPIDER September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized.
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SPIDERHere’s a small link that I put up to the SPIDER internet magazine from Pakistan. Any volunteers to update and flesh it out? That’s the Wikipedia and anyone can simply go an edit it… for the better.
And BTW, this issue of SPIDER has an interesting article on Open Source (I’d prefer to call it “Free Software”, rather than the dominant-media defined term). Fouad Bajwa has written it…. and it has interesting links and details.
PS: What would it take for India to get its own internet magazine? We’re clearly behind here….

Red Hat, IIT to host summit on IP reform August 16, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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Here’s my story on LinuxWorld.com which says:

What do open source, seed saving, traditional music and medicine, and patent policy have in common? They’re all things on which policymakers in India want better international deals.