Free software in Kerala
The state of Kerala, in India has had an active Free software community since early 1980s. The initial users were those who started using TeX in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Subsequently Free software users groups were formed in some of the different cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and around engineering colleges in the state. The Free software community in Kerala was instrumental in creating a policy environment at the state government level that was biased towards Free software. The government of Kerala policy on Free software gives first preference to Free and Open Source software for its IT requirements. The state claims to be the only state in the world where IT education is imparted over a Free software operating system.
Government Policy on Free software
The IT Policy for the state of Kerala had acknowledged the relevance of Free software as early as 2001
The 2001 IT policy states that,
The Government wishes to encourage the judicious use of open source/free software that complements/supplements proprietary software, to reduce the total cost of ownership of IT applications/solutions without compromising on the immediate and medium term value provided by the application. The Government welcomes research into the use of open/free software in the context of education, governance, and for general use at home, to make IT truly a part of the daily lives of the people of the State. The Government also encourages projects such as the Simputer that is low cost, based on open software, and attuned to the needs of the common man.
The Government realizes that Free Software presents a unique opportunity in building a truly egalitarian knowledge society. The Government will take all efforts to develop Free Software and Free Knowledge and shall encourage and mandate the appropriate use of Free Software in all ICT initiatives.
Free software communities / mailing lists
There are two prominent free software mailing lists and communities around these mailing lists in Kerala. One is around the Free Software Users Group, Thiruvananthapuram and the other is the Indian Libre User Group, Kochi. The primary activities of the users groups were around offering support to Free software users and in running technology and awareness sessions for the public and in institutions and running install fests. There are also active Free software clubs in several Engineering colleges in the state like College of Engineering, Trivandrum, St. Josephs College of Engineering and Technology, Pala, MES College of engineering Kuttippuram, National Institute of Technology, Kozhikode, L.B.S College of Engineering, Vidya Academy of Science and Technology, Thrissur
Free software initiatives in the state
Over the years several government entities in the state of Kerala switched / started significantly using Free software solutions in their operations. Some of the notable projects are listed below.
In 2006, the state government decided to impart ICT education in public schools across the state using a customized Debian distribution called the IT@School GNU/Linux. The IT@School project by Department of General Education, Government of Kerala is one of the largest deployments of GNU/Linux systems anywhere in the world. The technical support and training for the project was provided by SPACE.
ORUMA billing software by Kerala State Electricity Board
In 2008, the Kerala State Electricity Board moved to a Free software platform called ORUMA to run their billing operations. The system was built with the help of an internal team at KSEB. Initial consultations and trainings were provided by SPACE.
Kerala Khadi & Village Industries Board Free software migration
Public Works Department
Kerala Legislative Assembly Free software migration
Organizations and not-for-profit agencies working in the Free software space
ICFOSS - International Center for Free and Open Source Software
ICFOSS is an autonomous agency set up by the Government of Kerala in 2011 with the mandate of popularizing Free and Open Source Software for universal use; consolidating the early FOSS work done in Kerala; and networking with different nations, communities and governments to collaboratively promote FOSS.
SPACE - Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment
SPACE is a not-for-profit society which has been working closely with the Government and several of the government departments and agencies in driving Free software adoption in them. SPACE has been involved in policy formulation, consultation, training and technical support for projects like IT@School, ORUMA, Khadi Board migration etc. The agency has also been running a center called INSIGHT which is actively pursuing taking Free software to the differently abled.
SMC - Swathantra Malayalam Computing
SMC is a Free software collective which works in the space of Indic language computing. SMC is the upstream maintainers for Malayalam fonts and tools for popular GNU/Linux based operating systems such as Fedora and Debian. They also maintain localizations for Free Software Desktops (GNOME/KDE) and applications such as Firefox and Libre Office.
Free software Conferences
Free Software Free Society Conference
Kerala hosts a regular international conference on Free Software which runs once every 2 – 4 years. This conference is done with the involvement of the Government of Kerala and the Free software community. International Center for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) has been responsible for organizing the last two editions of the conference.
- Freedom First 2001
- Free Software Free Society 2005
- FSFS 2008
- FOSSK4 2011
- Swatantra 2014
- Swatantra 2017 
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