Indian OpenOffice roll-out continues

Sonia Gandhi has launched the latest stage of the Indian government's large-scale open source initiative

Following the popularity of CDs containing Tamil Language versions of open source software, the Indian government is giving away millions of Hindi Language CDs.

Last month, ZDNet UK reported that the Indian government would distribute 3.5m free CDs containing Tamil Language versions of open source applications, including the Firefox browser and the productivity suite. Within a month the project had received requests for 85,000 CDs, thousands of downloads from its Web site, and had attracted the attention of the President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam.

This week the government started distributing CDs in Hindi, according to R.K.V.S. Raman, a researcher at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, an organisation involved in the production of the CD. The initiative has been funded by the Indian government, which hopes to encourage the use of computers. It plans to distribute 3.5 million copies of the Hindi Language CDs.

The Hindi CDs were officially launched by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian Congress party, in a ceremony that was also attended by the Indian IT Minister and local journalists.

The CDs are available for both the Windows and Linux operating systems. This is important as Windows is the most popular desktop operating system in India, said Raman. The project hopes that once people are used to the open source software, they will find it easier to migrate to Linux.

"While packaging the CD we kept in mind that most of the current end users are hooked on to Windows and would need to be acclimatised to same set of tools on both platforms," said Raman in a mailing list posting. "In [the] future when the transition occurs to Linux, people [will] have [the] same set tools thus making [the] transition smooth."

While many of the applications available on the CD were released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), the fonts were not released under this license. Raman explained to ZDNet UK that this was to protect the intellectual property of the companies that had donated the fonts. The CD can be freely copied and redistributed, but the fonts cannot be packaged with other software, according to Raman.

The next stage of the project is to distribute CDs containing applications in Punjabi, a popular Indian language. This launch is due to happen in August and as Punjabi is also spoken in Pakistan, the project hopes to hold launch events in both countries.