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<nettime> Microsoft etc in Kerala
Heiko Recktenwald on Wed, 30 Aug 2006 11:47:32 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Microsoft etc in Kerala

Indian State to Bypass Microsoft ?Monopoly?



By AMELIA GENTLEMAN, International Herald Tribune
Published: August 29, 2006

NEW DELHI, Aug.29 ? In a new attack on multinational corporations, the 
Communist government in India?s southern state of Kerala is campaigning 
to eliminate Microsoft from use in public institutions, just weeks after 
it imposed a ban on Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

As part of a drive against ?monopolistic? organizations, schools and 
public offices across the state are being encouraged to install free 
software systems instead of purchasing Microsoft?s Windows programs.

?It is well-known that Microsoft wants to have a monopoly in the field 
of computer technology. Naturally, being a democratic and progressive 
government, we want to encourage the spread of free software,? M. A. 
Baby, the state?s education minister, said by telephone.

Microsoft was not being banned, he said, but the government was actively 
encouraging Kerala?s 12,500 schools to switch to the Linux operating 
system, available around the world free of charge.

The news will further unsettle foreign investors in this state. Also 
this month, Kerala imposed a sweeping ban on the sale and production of 
Coke and Pepsi after an environmental watchdog based in Delhi said their 
soft drinks contained unhealthy levels of pesticides. Less comprehensive 
bans were introduced in six other states across India.

Mr. Baby said the announcement was not part of an ideological campaign 
against Western-made products. ?We have great respect for the 
contribution made by the United States and its European allies in the 
fields of art and literature and culture,?? he said. ?At the same time 
we are not happy with the monopolistic and imperialistic moves, both in 
political and economic spheres, made by these nations.?

With its population of 32 million, Kerala is one of India?s smaller 
states, but Microsoft said it represented an important market. The state 
has a literacy rate of more than 90 percent, much higher than the 
national average of about 65 percent, and is known to be innovative in 
its promotion of computer literacy.

About 30,000 computers are already in use in schools across the state, 
and the Education Ministry said about 600,000 students opted to take 
free software training classes this year.

In a written statement, Microsoft?s public sector head in India, Rohit 
Kumar, said the company had tried to keep its prices low to make them 
accessible to schools, selling one version of Windows for between $25 
and $30 per computer.

?Under the School Agreement program, Microsoft has successfully created 
a very competitive pricing-value model, keeping in mind the financial 
constraints that beleaguer most educational institutions,? Mr. Kumar said.

Financial, rather than ideological, reasons may be at the root of the 
state?s decision to promote free software.

The Education Ministry has an annual budget of 40 million rupees, or 
$1.86 million, to promote computer technology among the one million 
students, aged between 5 and 15, currently at school ? a sum that will 
be stretched as Mr. Baby attempts to fulfill his ambition of making all 
the state?s ?schoolchildren computer literate.?

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