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Kerala logs Microsoft out of schools
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September 02, 2006

The Communist Party of India (Marxists)-led government in Kerala headed by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan is not just against American cola majors -- Coca-Cola and PepsiCo -- alone.

Nearly three weeks after the Achuthanandan government banned the sale and manufacture of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products in Kerala, Microsoft has been logged out of the state-run schools.

Here on, nearly 1.5 million students in the 2,650 government and government-aided high schools in the state will no longer use the Windows platform for computer education. Instead, they have switched over to the free GNU/Linux software.

"We have decided that we will use only free software for computer education in Kerala schools. We have implemented the Linux platform in high schools; it will be implemented in other schools step by step," Kerala Education Minister M A Baby told

He said an estimated 56,000 teachers in high schools are getting trained on the Linux platform.

Asked if it is a deliberate decision to log out Microsoft from the state-run schools, the minister said, the plan is not targetted at any IT company. "Our policy is to migrate computer education to free software platforms. We want to make Kerala the FOSS (Free and Open Software Systems) destination in India. That is all," he added.

But officials said two factors have influenced the Communist government to go in for the Linux platform by abandoning the Microsoft product.

First, Chief Minister Achuthanandan has been a votary of free software. While in Opposition till May this year, Achuthanandan had sternly opposed the then Congress government's decision to join hands with Microsoft to launch the IT@School programme.

Second, free software guru Richard Stallman is virtually the consultant to the Kerala government's IT initiatives. Two weeks, back Stallman visited the state and convinced the government to switch over to free software systems in the educational institutions to begin with.

Stallman, in fact, gave a presentation as to how free software has been an exciting education and computing model in a Spanish province.

Officials say political parties in Kerala have been using the Microsoft versus Linux issue to settle scores. "The Congress government had launched an IT literacy project with the support of Intel and Microsoft. Now the Communist government has abandoned it, and wants to migrate everything to free software platforms," an official at the Kerala IT Mission Secretariat pointed out.

While in Opposition, Achuthanandan had strongly opposed the project saying the agreement between the Kerala government and the Microsoft for training teachers under the IT@School project was fraught with danger.

"Microsoft boss Bill Gates wants to push his operating system using the services of software developers who had adopted it and this was made clear by several experts in the field. The government should, therefore, be very careful when dealing with Microsoft," Achuthanandan had then written to the government headed by Congress chief minister A K Antony.

Political issues apart, the Linux PC dealers are excited about the government decision to promote Linux platforms in schools.

"We are getting lots of enquiries and orders for pre-loaded Linux operating system. The hardware sales have gone up because of this," P K Harikrishnan, president, Kerala Computer Manufacturers' and Dealers' Association said.

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