Press Release: NCAR Day 2

RTI Incomplete Without Open Data Policy for Govt

As the largest data repository, it is very crucial that the government adopts open data standards for storing data and allowing open access to data. This was stressed by speakers at a session titled 'Open Data Policy' in the ongoing National Convention of Academics and Research (NCAR 2010) in Hyderabad.

Knowledge Commons chairman, Prabir Purkayastha, in his presentation advocated open data standards as without the data being in open standards the Right To Information (RTI) Act would be incomplete. He reminded the audience that in the war between ODF standard against Microsoft's proprietary OOXML standard, ODF emerged victorious because it was open and technically superior.

Purkayastha explained the negative impact of proprietary data formats for the consumers. He explained how the cost of a DVD player or a MP3 player is inflated due to the royalties and licence fees that need to be paid as these much used formats are patented. Most mobile phones that support basic multimedia capabilities are also affected by the problems of royalties and licence fees.

Professor Rajan from IIIT Hyderabad pointed out how opening up the data can actually help people. When an early warning system for a natural calamity like Tsunami or a Cyclone has to be developed, the researchers have to know in advance the geographical data and the population data. He also cited the examples of the census and geographical mapping data, which are prohibited from being open even to researchers. This has long since been an impedance to researchers who have all the wherewithal except the data. The speakers in the session stressed on the importance of open data as a base for knowledge development while at the same time allaying fears of security concerns.


FOSS in School Education Policy:

This session focused on the importance of Policy making in School education. The problem of converting people to Free Software could be solved to a great extent if the children in schools begin to use these technologies right from a very young age. A successful implementation of FOSS in School Education was demonstrated by Joseph Thomas (Presient, FSMI) in the form of [email protected] setup during the E.K Nayanar Government in kerala. Prof. Ashok R. Thakur captured the audience attention with a few clippings on how IT based learning could be used to bring about a paradigm shift in Indian education. FOSS technologies offer the advantages of affordability, availability in local languages, wide choice and easy availability of tools coupled with lack of permission/ price barriers, IT education in schools should take a leaf out of the Kerala and West Bengal experiences and promote free software usage in schools.

R: FOSS tool for statistical analysis

Prof. Deepayan Sarkar, ISI, New Delhi , showcased the importance of R as a FOSS tool which has a large and growing community of researchers around the world contributing to more than 2500 packages. Dr. Swaga Nandi drew attention to the need to expand the usage of R in industry.

FOSS for Mobile Applications:

Ms. Prachee Sawant discussed the various mobile platforms and the problems to overcome to make mobile applications for social purposes like Allergy tracker, medical imaging, augmented reality for blind etc.