Back from India

Around 06:20 this morning I finally arrived back in Europe after a very interesting last day in Mumbai at the Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education (HBCSE) with Nagarjuna and his great crew.

The Free Software group at the HBCSE plus Venkatesh Hariharan of Red Hat

Besides their fascinating work on the semantic database of the SELF Project they also help introduce some of India’s most talented and intelligent children to Free Software both in theory and practice. So yesterday they had an afternoon with theoretical lectures followed by an introduction to Python, and it only took the first students a little over an hour to write their first lines of Python code.

Some of India’s brightest young talents already programming Python on their first Free Software afternoon

Something else that occupied a part of my brainshare during the entire visit was meeting a young, dedicated Free Software enthusiast by the name of Krishnakant Mane. Krishnakant not only is a very smart person with a talent for languages (he surprised me by suddenly speaking in German), he also happens to be blind.

Through him I learned how powerful Free Software has become for the visually impaired. Krishnakant is a talented software developer working on the backend of the Gnowsys system. But he not only uses and programs computers with GNU/Linux, he also installs them.

Thanks to the Orca project and the work done by the Ubuntu Team to allow for an advanced accessibility interface even during installation, it is possible for a visually impaired person to install GNU/Linux. I’m not aware that a similar possibility exists for any proprietary operating system.

Krishnakant Mane. Free Software developer, teacher and activist. He may be blind, but he can free your computer.

So besides developing Free Software, Krishnakant is also touring India, helping other visually impaired people to use Free Software and showing them how Free Software can help them regain a part of freedom that is normal to most of us. In fact, he helped establish a training center for blind people to spread that knowledge in Trivandrum, Kerala, which I also visited during my time there.

Besides that, he also gives speeches on Free Software and did the introduction for me during my speech at HBCSE (Meena also had a short blog entry about it) with Orca to demonstrate to the audience the level of accessibility available today.

This is an experience that I think would be valuable for many people, in particular in the visually impaired community, and I hope that Krishnakant will find the time to document the amazing work he is doing in this area.

About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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