‘Kerala blazing a trail in Open Source Software’

Open Source software proponent Chris Cormack

In an exclusive chat with The Hindu, Open Source Software proponent Chris Cormack says though it doesn’t necessarily protect users, the software makes them feel confident that it does what it says it will do

As one who strongly believes in and remains dedicated to Open Source Software, Chris Cormack likes to define it as a snowball gaining momentum as it comes down from the mountain top. He was the lead developer in the original team that developed Koha (open-source integrated library system used in libraries across the world) 17 years ago. From data breach to countering challenges posed by proprietary software, Mr. Cormack spoke about a wide range of topics in a chat with The Hindu on Wednesday. The development head of Koha Group at Catalyst IT in New Zealand was at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) to attend the ongoing Library Technology Conclave 2019.

Data breach and misuse

The advantage that Open Source Software allows you to do is to see what is happening to your data. It does not necessarily protect you from misuse but allows you to also spot it. I can’t look at the code of WhatsApp and I can’t see what it’s doing.

I could not know whether every photo that I send is not sent to somewhere else also.

But with Open Source Software at least I could see and decide whether it’s doing a good or bad thing or else I can pay someone to see that for me. It does not necessarily protect you but allows you to have a bit of confidence that the software is doing what it all says it will do.

Countering data misuse

Mostly it’s one thing what the terms and conditions they say and what they are actually doing.

Facebook was not doing what they said in the terms and conditions when we look at the Cambridge Analytica data controversy. We have seen how a person whom nobody had thought will win getting elected [referring to Trump’s win in the US] because they could manufacture opinion.

We need more graduates across the board who have not only good engineering skills but holding strong ethical standpoint and views to read these threats [data breach and misuse].

Koha library software

It’s really big now, probably the single most installed library system in the world. Around 15,000 institutions are running Koha. Every single public library in Turkey runs it. It’s really interesting that Koha came out of New Zealand, an English-speaking country. But the major uptake is now in the non-English speaking world as it is translatable from the start.

Kerala and Open Source Software movement

India, especially Kerala, is doing amazing things in this area. Some of the other countries using it have not come any near to what’s happening here. The proponents of the Open Source Software are really doing a good job. You have a massive talent pool here accepted internationally.