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Class war and open source

Is the margin compression of open source enough to bring the world's largest democracy completely into the 21st century?
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

One of India's main political parties, the BJP, has decided to make open source a focus of its new election manifesto. (BJP logo from Brandsoftheworld.com.)

Why? Class.

While India has a large, educated middle class, it has a much larger number of poor, and many still live in rural communities. The 21st century has yet to reach these communities, and the BJP claims that by saving money through open source it can bridge the gap.

Many are skeptical.

The plan is to create 12 million jobs by giving away mobile handsets, subsidizing 2 Mbps broadband to remote villages, and encouraging use of Voice Over IP. Also in the document is a call for high-tech identity cards, with a uniform Citizen Identification Number, within three years.

The party also favors cheap laptops, and will require they be manufactured in India down to the chip level. Open source is expected to make all this affordable.

Politically, observers say this is aimed at wiping out regional parties which some call a threat to the system.

The IT Vision document is on the Web site of the party's candidate for Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, who also has a blog and a blogger network. (It should be noted he's also 81.)

Pradyut Bora is given credit for the IT Vision, and for the high-tech approach to campaigning. He has a tech degree. He wants to be an Indian David Plouffe.

Can it work? In addition to the ruling Congress Party, whose campaign song is from Slumdog Millionaire, the BJP also faces a coalition of Communists and regional parties. You can add Microsoft and the nation's largest telephone companies to the enemies list.

One observer notes that a high-tech vision worked in recent Bangladesh elections. For reasons unrelated to technology, the BJP is an underdog. Which means that if it does pull an upset its technology program will be given full credit.

But can it work? Not just politically, but in terms of policy? Is the margin compression of open source enough to bring the world's largest democracy completely into the 21st century?

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