India positioned to be a hub for free and open-source software: Report

India is well-positioned to become a vibrant hub for free and open-source software (FOSS) innovations, according to a report by CivicDataLab.

FOSS is software that is freely licensed to use, copy, study, change, improve, and redistribute. This includes both free software and open-source software.

Over 85% of the country’s internet runs on FOSS, according to ‘The State of FOSS’ report.

In India, 4G data subscribers recently crossed 598 million, of which 96% access the digital world via open source based mobile operating systems, primarily Android.

With this level of usage, India has increasingly become an emerging market for mobile applications and related software, built to run on FOSS-enabled devices. According to GitHub, the country now ranks third in the world in terms of FOSS usage, and continues to grow.

However, it lags behind the global landscape when it comes to building sustainable home-grown projects and needs a strategic plan to incubate and proliferate domestic FOSS innovations worldwide, the report found.

In 2015, the government unveiled a policy to adopt open-source software as part of its Digital India programme. It has also been co-opted by big business, especially those running on the internet. In India, most large companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro frequently use FOSS. There has also been an increase in homegrown FOSS projects like Calibre, ERPNext and Chatwoot.

Promoting FOSS will help build robust stacks in key sectors like health, education and finance, enable more privacy-centric and secure trust-based computing and bring in more users by delivering digital services in more Indian languages, according to the report.

In India, the efforts are driven by a range of stakeholders, from individual volunteers and consultants, FOSS groups, higher educational and research institutes, micro, small and medium tech enterprises and global tech firms, in addition to government bodies.

They will need to focus on four core areas going forward, namely collaboration, mentorship, literacy and policy making for the movement to grow in India.

The report recommends incentivising FOSS contributions from big tech companies, supporting FOSS-based startups in monetising their offerings and creating more support at the grassroots level.