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Open source movement key for Internet growth in India

The Open Source movement is an extremely powerful model for software

development and advancement, and emerging economies like India particularly

have a lot to gain from adopting it, according to John Perry Barlow,

self-styled "Net prophet."

Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) and

an outspoken proponent of free speech in digital media, gave an address at

the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, as part of a two-city tour in

India which also included Bombay.

Complex software is best developed when it is allowed to grow organically -

there is a limit to how much top-down design you can do, Barlow said.

He pointed to Apache's solid dominance in the Web server market as evidence

of the power of the Internet-based open software model. Apache, a freely

available Web server based on the Linux operating system, accounts for over

half of all servers on the World Wide Web.

"I am opposed to Microsoft's way of dominating the industry. But at the

same time, I think the U.S. lawsuit against Microsoft's anti-competitive

practices is a waste of time," said Barlow.

The writing is on the wall - Microsoft as a centralised company cannot hope

to compete with de-centralised and distributed models of development like

the Open Source movement, he said.

Comparing the Indian Internet market to others like the U.S., Barlow said

that countries which did not have deep ties to the industrial economy would

be more unfettered to harness the Information Age. Indians have a

particular strength in being able to deal with uncertainty, ambiguity and

chaos, according to Barlow.

"Cyberspace will always be undefined," he said.

However, India needs to improve its bandwidth to the international Internet

- the current 364 Mbps is "pathetically inadequate" to really plug into the

global economy. Deregulating international connectivity should be the top

priority of the country, and not passing e-commerce regulation as in the

recently passed IT Act 2000, according to Barlow.

Governments in the information age are often not just clueless, but

dynamically anti-clueful, he said.

Barlow also cautioned Indians against blindly emulating Silicon Valley or

U.S. business models. There is a lot of opportunity in bringing the Net to

the villages in India; there already are interesting patterns of access