It’s in India’s national interest to promote open-source software

News: Many volunteers around the world are resolving vulnerabilities in open-source Log4j software.

Open-source software is in India’s national interest, given the unfolding economics and politics of the technology space. The promotion of Open Source software can be a source of competitive advantage for India in high-technology geopolitics.

What is Log4j & Why it is significant?

It is an open-source software found in millions of computer servers, from those owned by giants like Apple and Twitter to ‘smart’ televisions, security cameras, and other appliances in people’s homes. It is maintained by the dedicated communities of volunteers.

Significance:  It is very significant to the multi-trillion-dollar information economy. Because the Information Age rests on such foundations namely, Log4j, Apache, Kubernetes, and Linux.

How India is positioned w.r.t the development of open-source software?

Indian developers are major players in this ecosystem. According to GitHub, a leading platform for open-source software development, more than 7.2 million of its 73 million users in 2021 were from India. India ranks third after China and the US.

The fact that millions of Indian developers are plugged into the global open-source ecosystem is a good sign. It can be a source of competitive advantage for India in high-technology geopolitics.

What approach would suit India’s interest w.r.t the development of open-source software?

India should not aim at technological sovereignty by reinventing everything and insisting on localization. It would be counter-productive.

A far more effective approach is to focus on open-source projects, build for the whole planet, and derive a strategic advantage. This is the only reliable way to reduce dependence on transnational technology companies.

What are the steps taken by India in this regard?

The earliest attempts by governments to promote open source have mostly involved adopting Linux-based operating systems and open document formats. But it failed.

More recent attempts involved building stacks, infrastructure, and platforms that allow varying degrees of source-code visibility and access. These are mostly targeted at delivering digital public services.

How India can facilitate the creation of Open-source software?

Promote an open-source economy: Because governments can’t build better consumer products than corporations or open-source communities. This is one reason why an earlier government attempt failed.

Public policy: Public policy should create incentives for developers and firms to invest more in building open-source software. The goal should be to create globally-competitive developers and firms that become important nodes in the tech ecosystem.

Higher education: Engineering colleges could be encouraged to get their students to participate in open-source projects.

Corporate social responsibility: India, with a big IT industry, should start recognizing the support for open-source projects under corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Source: This post is based on the article “It’s in India’s national interest to promote open-source software” published in Live Mint on 3rd Jan 2022.

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