Delhi, OSS and savvy presidents

I am back from Delhi, and I am pleased to say that the trip was good.

Left on the afternoon of the 26th, and landed late evening in Delhi. Kishore picked me up from the airport, and took me home, where we proceeded to yack straight through from around 10pm to 5:30am ;-)

Next day, went over to the India Habitat Centre where the UNDP event was being held, met various people, then settled in to listen to some of the first days sessions (which were on media and communication).

Dataquest editor Prasanto Kumar Roy (PKR) took Kishore, his sister Mala (editor, Computers@Home/Living Digital) and me to The American Diner – a rather authentic replica of one of those American diner cars you find all over the states, where we proceeded to stuff ourselves with Peanut Butter Malts, burgers and a platter full of breakfast stuff. Yum!

That night, I stayed at the IHC, since I was supposed to speak early next day, and I needed to get some rest.

Nice try – PKR and I yacked late into the night. For those who don’t know that part – PKR was the editor of PCQuest in 1992 who roped me in to write a column for the magazine. The first of these appeared in the January 1993 issue of PCQuest, and was what became COMversations – source to all my name and fame in later years ;-)

Next day, I was up and about early enough to complete my slides for the talk, and was at the seminar dot on time, only to find that the schedule had been changed and that Kishore and I were speaking back-to-back after lunch. Ah, cool, that gave us a chance to get other people’s views and make mid-air changes to our talks.

When the time came around to speak, I found that someone had fiddled the projector into an almost unusable state (I had tested things just before lunch), resulting in loss of time before I could start.

Finally got going, and laid into the audience with my points. As usual, I could see that the FSF crowd present wasn’t happy with the fact that I always focus on practical issues instead of doing philosophy-based advocacy. Can’t be helped – I am more concerned with practical and technical issues.

I focussed on the practical aspects of using OpenSource products in eGovernance, urging people to conserve resources to spend on people, not expensive (and often unsuitable) proprietory solutions. I was happy to hear moderator Dr.S.Ramakrishnan later voice his approval, saying that the Government was looking exactly at these issues.

Kishore came on next, and in his usual non-nonsense style drove home some of the issues facing the Indian education system, and how OpenSource solutions could help fix many of these issues. He clearly had the audience in the palm of his hand, which always helps make an effective presentation. ;-)

After our talks was a panel discussion involving the audience. Kishore and I took a number of questions, and one question in particular (that came from PKR, who showed up for the afternoon session) about the real state of OpenSource support resulted in my going off on a rant about the fact that the community basically supported itself, but did not have any real formal external support mechanisms in place, and how this was largely the result of the community being development oriented (and there is nothing wrong with that).

More on all this in a forthcoming article.

All in all, the event went off very well, and I am really glad that I had accepted the invitation.

Went back to Kishore’s place for the night (since he stays close to the airport). Enroute, Kishore managed to drive over a rock that seemed to damage his clutch, resulting in my going to the airport in the morning by a cab that came half an hour too late, almost making me miss my flight home! Had to beg and plead with the Jet Airways staff to let me travel even though I was *really* late. Thankfully, they saw it made sense to take me rather than risk my breaking out in tears, so I got on the plane and returned to Bangalore.

While I was away, the Linux Bangalore/2003 site got formally launched, which means that the event is now officially on everyone’s agenda. Go check it out, more info should appear soon.

And of course there was the speech made by India’s president A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, which you should read without any further delay. You will understand the context when you read the section titled “Think Different”. ;-)

Our president rocks!