Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | Jan 03,2018

SFLC.in at Swatantra ’17

Dates: 20 and 21 December 2017
Venue: Mascot Hotel, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
People in attendance: ~400

Panel Discussion

SFLC.in was a part of the closing session titled “Software Freedom – Challenges Ahead”. Panelists included:

  1. Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, SFLC.in
  2. Praveen Arimbrathodiyil, Pirate Party of India
  3. Benjamin Maco Hill, Assistant Professor in Communication, University of Washington
  4. Abhas Abhinav, Founder, DeepRoot Linux
  5. Juan Carlos Gentile, Founder & President , Hipatia.

The panel was moderated by Arun M, Programme Head, ICFOSS.

Prasanth Sugathan mentioned that the free software community forms the basis of the entire Internet freedom movement. He spoke about the need to have an ability to tinker with our devices and the effects of losing such a freedom. He mentioned that recent times have seen a gradual shift from the use of copyleft licences to permissive licences - including the harmful effect that this has on the free software movement, and the adoption of proprietary solutions by the government despite a national policy on preferring open source solutions. He also announced SFLC.in's upcoming Women In Tech project to ensure increased participation of women in technology-related fields.

SFLC.in’s Booth

Approximately 250 people visited our booth at the conference. We talked to the conference attendees about digital rights including rights of FOSS projects, our free legal support for FOSS projects, how FOSS projects can protect themselves, software patents, and our other projects to protect and promote internet freedoms and digital rights including internet shutdowns, net neutrality, freedom of speech and cyber security.

We conducted two quiz competitions in which about 40 students participated. We also conducted two raffles for students in which about 70-80 people participated. Prizes for the raffles and quiz competitions included a set of SFLC.in goodies for the winners.

23 people became digital defenders by joining SFLC.in.

All Posts | Jun 09,2016

Economic Impact of Usage of FOSS in Government – IIMB Report – June 2015

A team of researchers, under a grant from ICFOSS, headed by Prof. Rahul De, Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor at IIM Bangalore, published a report on the "Economic Impact of Usage of FOSS in Government" in June 2015. The report studies the implementation of ICT in Education and Police departments in multiple states in India and concludes that adoption of FOSS in government entities can save thousands of crores of tax-payer money, which could in turn be utilized for better essential services for all.

Apart from economic advantages like saving ₹8300 Cr. by adopting FOSS in just two departments, the study also points to intangible benefits like fostering a maker (DIY) culture, shared understanding and encourages people to experiment and try new things.

Below are the key findings of the study. Full report is available here[PDF] for detailed understanding. Its released under Creative Commons Attribution -ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Key Findings

  • This study examines the impact of FOSS use in government departments in different states in India. The focus is on tangible and intangible impacts of FOSS. The study identifies barriers to adoption of FOSS and policy implications.

  • Desk research revealed FOSS use around the world. This also provided a view on the state of egov in India and the pertinent issues that had to be examined. This was followed by an RTI application effort, where many departments were sent information requests. This approach largely failed to elicit any meaningful information as almost all the RTI applications were rejected on technicalities.

  • A detailed field study was conducted over a period of seven months where team members visited government departments in seven states - Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Jharkhand. The study involved interviews of officials, IT managers, IT vendors and NGOs.

  • Two main departments were covered in the study - Education and Police. These departments were chosen because they had actively considered FOSS use and, in some cases, were using FOSS.

  • Around the world governments have adopted FOSS for tangible and intangible reasons. Tangible reasons for using FOSS are - for import substitution and to conserve foreign exchange; to improve egov capacity and to avoid vendor lock-in. Intangible reasons include - to revive entrepreneurship; to foster democracy and socio-technical alliances; and to transfer ICT skills to unserved populations.

  • Academic literature is ambiguous on policy implications of FOSS. Studies, alternatively, show that under certain conditions FOSS should be advocated, should not be advocated, and may be advocated with reservations.

  • Kerala stands out, amongst the states, for its adoption of FOSS for schools and the tangible and intangible benefits it has realized. Tangible benefits include massive cost savings, and intangible benefits include inculcation of a do-it-yourself culture amongst teachers and students and massive participation in the ICT education process.

  • The other states did not adopt FOSS and incurred tangible and intangible costs. Tangible costs were directly linked to the price paid for proprietary licenses and training and maintenance. The intangible costs include - overwhelming dependence on vendors; disconnet of teachers in the ICT education process, including setting syllabii and exams.

  • The police department at the centre had created the CCTNS system, for states to adopt to create a national crime records database. The system was implemented in two stacks - one on a FOSS platform (Java) and another on a proprietary platform (.Net). Different states chose different stacks, mainly based on their existing systems. Respondents in all the states felt that the choice of the stack was not theirs, and they had simply worked with what was given.
  • There were no strong benefits or costs of using either stack for the CCTNS. The costs were being paid by the centre, hence the issue was not strong. In the state of Jharkhand there were some committed FOSS enthusiasts in the department who built additional products using FOSS.
Prof. Rahul De' isalso a member of SFLC.in's governing body.

All Posts | Jul 21,2015

Session on “Software and the Law : A primer”

SFLC.in in collaboration with the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), is organizing a session on "Software and the law: A Primer" on July 23, 2015 from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm at Malabar Hall, Park Centre, Technopark, Trivandrum.

The session will introduce the participants to the concepts of trademarks, copyrights and patents. The session particularly deals with the issues of licensing of Free and Open Source Software and the problems with patents in software. Participants will be introduced to concepts like defensive patent pools that help to protect them from legal actions b y aggressive patent holding companies.

The sessions will be handled by Prasanth Sugathan and Biju Nair, counsels at SFLC.in.

All Posts | May 28,2015

Roundtable on “FOSS for Public Use : Free and Open Source Software for Digital India” on May 29, 2015

SFLC.in, in collaboration with the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) and the Centre for Internet and Society, India (CIS), is organizing a roundtable on "FOSS for Public Use : Free and Open Source Software for Digital India" on May 29, 2015 from 9.30 am to 2pm at the Deck Suite, 5th Floor, India Habitat Center, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

We appreciate the efforts taken by the Department of Electronics & Information technology in coming out with the Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software for Government of India. The policy by mandating mandatory adoption of Free & Open Source Software in e-Governance systems implemented by various Government organisations will surely give an impetus to the Free Software community and the software development industry in India.

The aim of this first roundtable is to facilitate an exchange between the vibrant Free and Open Source Software community that makes the software which can be freely copied, modified and shared and the policy makers that are responsible for successful implementation of this policy. The discussion would also help all parties to better understand, leverage and maximize the competitive edge in the market with building-blocks based on FOSS and the various models it offers.

All Posts | Apr 22,2015

Net Neutrality: Bottom-up Perspectives

Half-day Consultation 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm, 22 April 2015, Mascot Hotel, Trivandrum

SFLC.IN in association with ICFOSS, ISOC Trivandrum, IEEE Kerala Section, and Swatantra Malayalam Computing, is organizing a half- day consultation bringing together a cross-section of stakeholders, to highlight the issues around Net Neutrality and to stimulate debate and action. In particular, the consultation will address the concerns of the grassroots-level Internet user who depends on the Internet for his personal life, work, as well as recreation today

Net Neutrality promises non-discriminatory treatment of all traffic on the Internet. Under a net-neutral regime, all Internet traffic— irrespective of factors such as user identity, content, platform, site, application, access device, protocol, IP address, language, or mode of communication—would be handled the same way by Internet service providers. Internet Society says that Net Neutrality "...is the founding principle of the Internet and what allows the Internet to be the largest and most diverse platform for expression in recent history."

However, some firms, particularly telecom companies and Internet Service Providers, have long argued that they should be allowed to operate a tiered service model where they are able to generate revenues by prioritizing some kinds of traffic (such as by destination, protocol or content).

Proponents of Net Neutrality have, in turn, maintained that letting telcom companies prioritize traffic would result in a regime that would allow them to parse traffic contents, stifle user choice, create gatekeepers, violate the end-to-end principle, and ultimately fragment the Internet undermining its basic democratic character.

In India, there are no laws currently that enforce Net Neutrality. In December 2014, Airtel announced its plans to charge for VoIP traffic. The Internet.org initiative of Facebook and Reliance that was announced in Feb 2015, and the Airtel "Zero" initiative announced in April 2015, both based on the "zero-rating" concept, violate the principle of Net Neutrality, and consequently have generated much debate and considerable consternation within the Internet user community.