DIGITAL LITERACY CONQUERS DIGITAL DIVIDES: A CASE STUDY OF A DEVELOPING COUNTRY
The University of Toledo (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN10 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Page: 2852 (abstract only)
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:FOSS in India
“Free” and “open source” software movements (FOSS) emerge at the grassroots, encourage community-building of software and are driven by the passion that computer programming should ultimately benefit society. The software technologies affiliated with these movements are created by voluntary programmers and come free of cost or at an affordable price and hence can take sustainable technologies to poor and developing nations. Opposed to the corporate programming model that tends to institutionalize and commercialize the “information” in software applications, these new movements are challenging traditional notions of political economy and changing paradigms of software-distribution models. They are especially making strides in bridging the digital (informational and technological) divides among developing countries and bringing digital literacy among citizens.
FOSS has prime significance for a lot of countries because of the flexibility it offers for creating local versions of software applications, previously mass produced. Studying open source software in the context of India is significant because of the unique demographic the nation presents, as well as from the perspectives of 1. diffusion of innovations and 2. globalization. India presents a unique demographic with local IT industries initiating global flows of information, and hence, serves as a good location to understand current FLOSS activity for these reasons:
1. A developing country with a population of more than 1 billion -- 28 states and 7 Union territories, 18 official languages and 1600 minor languages and dialects, India presents an opportunity for understanding the development of FLOSS technologies in a culturally diverse setting;
2. It would be interesting to consider how FLOSS may present ways to bridge the divide between the West and the East and possibly influence hierarchies/patterns/directions of information flows across post-Fordist centers.
FOSS technology in India is currently in the stages of innovation and early adoption. However, atypically, these technologies are considered most useful for lower middle classes and for the rural population who can’t afford traditionally high-costing technologies. Moreover, language skills -- rather its differences -- become vital to the level of knowledge spillover that drives technology adoption in a linguistically diverse India.
Case Studies: Bringing Digital Literacy & Education
1. Achieving digital literacy is also important for reaching out to the rural areas and their occupations. Project Asha is a collaboration of the governmental National Informatic Center (NIC) and Oracle Corp. that caters to the important agriculture sector in order to equip farmers with technology and educate them on the latest methods on farming for increasing productivity.
2.A few state governments, with help from Red Hat India, has computerized over 2000 schools in Project Headstart, ensuring that the operating system was customized to run on lower end hardware -- “ to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural student population in terms of access to modern technology aids in education.
Keywords: Open Source, Digital Divides, Digital Literacy, Free Software, FOSS, FLOSS.