Picture Credit: Brijesh Kumar

So to add another story in my journey with open source and KDE, I went to the conf.kde.in 2020, held at Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology, Delhi.
There was a bit delay since the last conference held at IIT Guwahati in 2017, but the come back was as glorious as expected.

About the talk itself - OSS in Indian context

So I started with the basics of free and open-source to initiate the audience, the major one being "free as in freedom" over "free as in price" and quickly found myself talking about how a nation must use free software for true sovereignty over something that is controlled by one corporation.

I also emphasized the idea that for open source software to have a substantial market share in India we should have some sort of "India mode", which is making drop-in replacements, that is the end-user should not feel a massive change in terms of usability when migrating from a proprietary solution, because people hate change, especially Indians.

India mode can be a set of settings or a set of patches, the implementation itself is a project-by-project basis affair but the idea is the same.

Coupling the India mode with good support and branding, and you get is market share. I pointed out some of the applications that have done so successfully and some of the applications that have failed miserably because of unfamiliar work-flow (a.k.a "not friendly" as people say) despite being made ground up for the Indian market and use-cases.

Myself delivering the talk. Picture Credit: Mayashri Swargiary

In addtion to "India mode", for open source to be successful in the mainstream market we must define USPs (Unique Selling Points). These additional USPs may not always be software functionality, it can even be as simple as well thought licensing or a unique experience that is not available elsewhere. Yes, this did bring me to legal aspects of open source licensing and I did talk about various open-source licenses and their (in)compatibility (why ZFS is not in Linux by default), which was thought-provoking to some of the students present and I did face the post-presentation question - "isn't open-source about absolute freedom?"

Finally, I talked about abstractions. Despite many differences within the Linux and open source community, we have been come up with initiatives towards having some sort of a unified platform, examples being AppStream, the backbone of most Linux "app stores", and PackageKit (although not actively maintained nowadays) and that we need more such initiative from the greater open source community to become a mainstream choice in any market including India.

I urged aspiring contributors to look for a project they think should get a great market share in India, and work on making it consumer-facing in terms of India and collaborate with upstream to make sure it keeps up with the global audience as well. I talked about some KDE Projects that can get a great boost in adoption with some attention and minor changes.

The next few days

The next few days were mostly networking and listening to other talks for me. I got a shine of enthusiasm, upon seeing the great work on localization done by the Malayalam contributors and listening to Adrian de Groot's talk on Calamares localization, and this resulted in me taking up the agenda of finally committing to localization of Calamares and KDE software to my mother language - Assamese, something I thought of many times in the past but never had the motivation until now.

I also started the discussion of having a legal entity for KDE India, that the Indian KDE community should be more organized and that we should also try to influence policy decisions at various Government levels to bring freedom to the citizens of India, especially in school education and there were mixed opinions. Hopefully, something will come up positive in the future, and that KDE e.V will support the Indian community on these agendas.

conf.kde.in 2020 group photo

The Aftermath

As of writing this post, Calamares is at 100% in Assamese translation (while some spelling and grammar errors that are being fixed), and we are now setting up the infrastructure for Assamese localization of KDE Software with the help of Subin Siby of Swathanthra Malayalam Computing.

Conclusion

I'd like to thank the local team at Delhi for organizing this great conference. Being a past host myself, I know it's not easy. I'd also like to thanks Andrian de Groot and Arjen Hiemstra for coming down to India and inspire the students as well as us to push further.

Finally, I'd like to thank KDE e.V for sponsoring this trip for me :)