[fosscomm] FOSSCOM position on Draft Policy

Guru गुरु guru at itforchange.net
Sat Jul 11 03:10:16 PDT 2009

Dear friends,

As per point 1 in mail below, I am providing below (based on the WIKI 
statement and edits), the 'final' text of FOSSCOMM position on the issue 
for your comments.

Please give your brief and succinct comments on the same for any 
amendments. I have added an initial para on FOSSCOMM as an essential 
introduction to FOSSCOMM.

The statement will also need a simple covering letter - that FOSSCOMM is 
submitting its position on the Open Standards policy and will request 
for space to discuss these, including a position on the Apex Committee. 
For this specific issue, the covering letter will provide names of 
<*Andrew and Kishore - once we have a consensus on the list on these 
names*> as contact persons for DIT. I will share this letter today.

I will keep this open for 24 hours and propose to send off to DIT 
tomorrow by 4 pm.



FOSSCOMM is a civil society alliance of organizations and individuals 
working to promote use of free and open source software (FOSS) in India. 
As a part of its mandate, it seeks to engage with software related 
policies of the governments as well as support programs that adopt FOSS. 
Members of FOSSCOMM include various kinds of social activists – from 
technologists interested in social areas to those primarily with a 
background in areas like knowledge, education and social development.

FOSSCOMM believes that the Draft Standards Policy e-Governance 
Standards, ver 2.0 that was tabled at the Second meeting of the Apex 
Body on Standards for eGovernance held on 17th June 2009 has been very 
well framed and will encourage innovation while ensuring a 
technologically and financially sustainable e-governance rollout.

We believe that the policy is extremely well drafted and it will help 
save valuable tax payer's money from being wasted and in creating 
sustainable e-governance assets. Such money can then be used to build 
social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. However, we have 
some concern with two sections of the policy.

Specifically, we believe that adopting Multiple Standards in any way 
will greatly damage the critical e-governance infrastructure of the 
country and would also increase its vulnerability.

FOSSCOMM fully supports the requirement for a Single standard for a 
single technology area and the requirement for Royalty free standards. 
This will also ensure sustained interoperability as technically it 
becomes exponentially more complex to maintain interoperability when 
there are multiple standards.

In addition, we believe that the concept of multiple standards is an 
oxymoron as by definition, a standard is a single standard otherwise we 
need not have standards. A logical query to the concept of multiple 
standards would be how many multiple standards should there be. Should 
there be infinite multiple standards ? In which case, we need not have a 
policy on standards at all.

True competition can be brought in by having multiple vendors, multiple 
solutions and multiple systems that all operate on the same standard, 
thus providing true choice to the Government. Single royalty free 
standards have been the key driver for the widespread growth and 
acceptance of the Internet. Attempts by firms that had monopoly over the 
PC's to create proprietary standards for the Internet have earlier been 
strongly rejected by the user community and that has ensured continued 
growth of the Internet in a participative and non-discriminatory manner.

We also believe that adopting standards that are not Royalty free will 
compromise the Technological Sovereignty of the nation.

Insofar as Royalty free standard is concerned, the policy clearly 
indicates that in case a Royalty free standard is not available, as a 
next choice, "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" (RAND) and "Fair 
Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" (F/RAND) should be considered. 
However, it is definitely not in the nation's interest to have a royalty 
regime achieved by introducing encumbered standards, however Reasonable 
or Unreasonable, Fair or Unfair the terms of the encumberance(s) be.

Innovative standards can be experimented by Bureau of Indian Standards 
and they would only be referred to the e-Governance Standards Policy 
document from the point of their consideration as national standards.

FOSSCOMM would however like the document to be further strengthened by 
removing the section that permits multiple standards under circumstances 
where the second proposed standard is completely compatible with the 
existing standard and has some new features [Section 6.4]. This is on 
the grounds that if the second standard is completely compatible with 
the first standard and has some extra features, then it is actually a 
superset of the previous standard and should therefore completely 
replace the previous standard provided it meets the remaining criteria 
laid out in the policy document. Mathematically, if two standards are 
fully compatible both ways, then they are the same standard. Under no 
circumstances should eGovernance in India have more than one standard at 
any point in time. This would be detrimental to the applications 
developed under e-Governance.

In addition, if the first standard is a truly open standard that has 
been developed participatively, then automatically it should grow to 
incorporate all the reasonable requirements of the community and will 
therefore automatically incorporate any new feature that is required. We 
are not aware of any case till date where an Open Standard had to be 
replaced by another Open Standard for exactly the same technical area.

Overall, we feel that the draft policy is visionary in nature and has 
appropriately given the highest preference to having a Single Royalty 
Free standard for each technical area. This would go a long way in 
having a sustainable e-governance solution.


Guru गुरु wrote:
> Dear friends,
> I went through all the mails.
> 1. I agree with Pravin's editing help and substantive inputs from all, 
> to put the FOSSCOMM statement out to Govt etc over next few days 
> (traveling today but will be back tom morning)
> 2. I am fine with Nagarjuna's suggestion that Raj and/or Andrew should 
> represent FOSSCOMM in the apex committee etc.
> regards,
> Guru
> prabir wrote:
>> Dear All,
>> I must say the flurry of emails and responses on the issue of open 
>> standards is impressive. It does show that there is a real interest in 
>> working together, whatever the views people may have about the form. I 
>> am flagging three issues below:
>> 1) Consensus on the position on Open standards policy. I really think 
>> this is where everybody seems to have agreed and can distill out a 
>> common position from with what Jaijit has put up in the wiki. I 
>> suggest that Guru takes the initiative to derive a common position. 
>> This can then be circulated for organisations to sign on, pending a 
>> consensus on organisational forms. Guru can then send it to the three 
>> parties -- MIT, NASSCOM, MAIT.
>> 2) There is a partial consesensus that we can be a loose network (not 
>> legal and without any defined structure) at present. However, this 
>> should work only on issues that we have a consensus on within  the 
>> network. In this case, if we agree via wiki above on open standards, 
>> then that is one issue on which the network has a consensus and we can 
>> -- if people agree -- call this a FOSSCOMM position. This does not 
>> mean that the network or any body on behalf of the network can speak 
>> on any other matter or represent herself/himself as speaking on behalf 
>> 3) The even thornier matter of representation. Let us be clear that 
>> nobody or organisation can represent FOSSCOMM as a whole. There is no 
>> agreement on this. Only if there is a specific agreement on the issue 
>> within the body as in 2 above (Consensus) can we -- again through 
>> consensus -- agree that somebody or organisation reresents us if this 
>> is required. This should be done on an issue to issue and occasion to 
>> occasion basis. At present, as we have a consensus on open standards, 
>> and it is required to talk to the Government on our behalf. we can 
>> have somebody represent us (of course subject to limits stated here).
>> On the names for representing us on this issue of open standards. I 
>> have an observation to make first on Jaijit's proposal suggesting that 
>> I represent FOSSCOMM on this issue.  Must confess that I do not think 
>> I know enough on this and am quite happy to propose the alternative as 
>> Prof. Andrew Lynn from JNU on this. However, the argument of my being 
>> with CPIM and therefore not "eligible", as Arun puts it, is completely 
>> extranneous -- political affliation should neither be a  criterion for 
>> nor against in FOSSCOMM. The only test in FOSSCOMM should be what is 
>> the stand of the organisation or the individual on specific FOSSCOMM 
>> issues. Politics, caste, religion, language, ethnicity, etc., are not 
>> the basis of FOSSCOMM -- these are all exclusionary or divisive 
>> principles. By the way, I do not know Andrew's political affliation, 
>> if any!
>> By the way Sunil, the World Social Forum is a much better example then 
>> Al Quaeda for organisational form!
>> Best,
>> Prabir
>> 2009/7/8 Anivar Aravind <anivar.aravind at gmail.com 
>> <mailto:anivar.aravind at gmail.com>>
>>     On Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 4:58 PM, Jaijit Bhattacharya
>>     <jaijit at dms.iitd.ac.in <mailto:jaijit at dms.iitd.ac.in>> wrote:
>>         Hi All,
>>         As discussed, I have uploaded the first rough draft of FOSSCOM's
>>         position
>>         on the Draft Policy on Standards for e-Governance, Ver 2.0.
>>         The draft position is at 
>> http://fosscomm.in/OpenStandards#preview.
>>         PLEASE DO PUT IN YOUR CHANGES/ COMMENTS by 10.00 AM July July 9th
>>     Since we have time till 15th July to respond, Open it for 2-3 days
>>     for FOSSCOMM member organisations endorsements.
>>         Prabir: Could you please help us take this forward as I will be
>>         traveling
>>         tomorrow.
>>         Thanks
>>         Jaijit
>>         _______________________________________________
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>>     --     "The resources of the world are for us all to share. Let us 
>> affirm
>>     our faith in that common cause" - Dr. Ilina Sen
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Gurumurthy Kasinathan
IT for Change
Bridging Development Realities and Technological Possibilities
Tel:98454 37730
*IT for Change is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with United 
Nations’ Economic and Social Council*

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