Open source movement key for Internet growth in India
The Open Source movement is an extremely powerful model for software
development and advancement, and emerging economies like India particularly
have a lot to gain from adopting it, according to John Perry Barlow,
self-styled "Net prophet."
Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) and
an outspoken proponent of free speech in digital media, gave an address at
the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, as part of a two-city tour in
India which also included Bombay.
Complex software is best developed when it is allowed to grow organically -
there is a limit to how much top-down design you can do, Barlow said.
He pointed to Apache's solid dominance in the Web server market as evidence
of the power of the Internet-based open software model. Apache, a freely
available Web server based on the Linux operating system, accounts for over
half of all servers on the World Wide Web.
"I am opposed to Microsoft's way of dominating the industry. But at the
same time, I think the U.S. lawsuit against Microsoft's anti-competitive
practices is a waste of time," said Barlow.
The writing is on the wall - Microsoft as a centralised company cannot hope
to compete with de-centralised and distributed models of development like
the Open Source movement, he said.
Comparing the Indian Internet market to others like the U.S., Barlow said
that countries which did not have deep ties to the industrial economy would
be more unfettered to harness the Information Age. Indians have a
particular strength in being able to deal with uncertainty, ambiguity and
chaos, according to Barlow.
"Cyberspace will always be undefined," he said.
However, India needs to improve its bandwidth to the international Internet
- the current 364 Mbps is "pathetically inadequate" to really plug into the
global economy. Deregulating international connectivity should be the top
priority of the country, and not passing e-commerce regulation as in the
recently passed IT Act 2000, according to Barlow.
Governments in the information age are often not just clueless, but
dynamically anti-clueful, he said.
Barlow also cautioned Indians against blindly emulating Silicon Valley or
U.S. business models. There is a lot of opportunity in bringing the Net to
the villages in India; there already are interesting patterns of access