Venkatesh Hariharan joins FOSS United as a Public Policy consultant

FOSS United’s Public Policy initiative

Posted by Venkatesh Hariharan

India’s Free and Open Source (FOSS) community has not had a sustained public policy engagement with the Indian government due to the fragmented nature of the FOSS community and the lack of interest from FOSS companies. The net result is that while India has some of the most FOSS friendly policies, we lack an overarching FOSS strategy for India, and suffer from poor implementation of existing policies. Kailash Nadh, Rushabh Mehta and I have been discussing this for the last year or so, and I am happy to say that I have come on board as a Public Policy consultant to FOSS United.

India’s FOSS community suffers from a lack of representation in Indian policy discussions around open source, technology procurement, open standards, and other critical topics that impact the FOSS community. In fact, most members of the Indian FOSS community are not even aware of the significance and impact of the policy issues listed above.

This lack of engagement has led to a low-level equilibrium where the community is unaware of policy issues, and FOSS friendly policy makers do not have credible players to engage with from the FOSS community. India’s FOSS community has reached a stage where it needs to organize itself better for its own — and the nation’s — long-term self-interest. The benefits of such active participation in Indian policy making are many:

  • We can work with GOI to grow FOSS in India. Key policy issues like the Software Product Policy, open source strategy for e-government etc are all drafted today with minimal inputs from the Indian FOSS community. By actively providing inputs to GOI, we can help shape policies that benefit the Indian FOSS community. We can also explore how FOSS can contribute to GOI’s strategic initiatives. This will drive huge downstream benefits to the Indian economy, accelerate the growth of the Indian software industry, generate efficiency gains for Indian organizations, and create high-value opportunities for Indian software developers.
  • We can help GOI in effectively implementing existing policies on open source and open standards: India’s OSS Policy says that all things being equal, OSS will be preferred for e-government projects, over proprietary software. If this policy is implemented well, it will lead to more opportunities for Indian OSS companies and software developers. Similarly, better implementation of the policy on open standards ensures that OSS developers are not locked out of projects because of the usage of proprietary, royalty based standards.

To transform this situation, we aim to build bridges between the Indian FOSS community and key stakeholders within GOI to grow the Indian FOSS community. Executed well, this plan will give the FOSS community a seat at the table in GOI’s policy discussions, and accelerate the Indian FOSS community’s growth through well crafted strategies and policy implementation. Keep watching this space for more updates and reach out to me through LinkedIn/Signal if you wish to be involved in FOSS United’s Public Policy initiatives.

GOI prides itself on calling everything it does variably as “open”, “open source”, “public good”, etc regardless of how wrong that is. So, this does seem like a challenging endeavor. All the best.