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AICTE is putting Indian students under US surveillance

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The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) may be an education body, but it needs quite some education itself. It’s recent decision to ‘force’ it’s students to use Microsoft’s proprietary and vendor locked Online Productivity suite raises many serious questions.

It’s anti-educational

Students should use technologies which also encourage them to understand how it works, play with it and master it. AICTE’s decision is more or less like converting Indian students into truck drivers to drive Microsoft’s trucks instead of letting them use open standard and open source technologies which can turn them into truck manufacturer. Students won’t learn anything about how an office suite works by using Microsoft’s proprietary technologies.

Creating addicts

This decision is like addiction. Since AICTE has made Microsoft 365 mandatory, students are ‘banned’ from using any other products in the market. So, AICTE is doing a deeper harm by cuttings access to alternatives and locking them inside Microsoft’s products from the very beginning. When these students leave college they will come out as deliberately created Microsoft customers, who then will have to pay for expensive Microsoft products. These students will then ‘demand’ Microsoft products when they find jobs, set-up their own companies and in their private lives. What AICTE is showing as a free product at the moment is going to create a cash crop for Microsoft in future. So, in other words AICTE is working like a salesperson to create Microsoft customers.

Indian students under US surveillance

AICTE is also putting it’s students data under the eyes of Microsoft where the company will know everything that these students do using its online suite. The US government will also have access to this user-data. Unlike Google Microsoft doesn’t stand for user’s rights. The company very closely works with the US government to support bills like SOPA and CISPA. Since Microsoft is a US company, and by using its cloud service the US government will have direct access to the data of these students and AICTE is making a huge mistake by doing so.

AICTE should have chosen vendor independent technologies

AICTE should have instead chosen free and open source products such as LibreOffice – products which are vendor independent. There are many benefits of using LibreOffice over Microsoft products.

  1. It’s free of cost. Unlike Microsoft’s office it’s not a ‘trial ware’ where these students have to pay once they leave college. [Many governments have proved that using LibreOffice is much more cost effective than MS products in the long run]
  2. Data ownership. With LibreOffice only the students or colleges will have access to this data and not Microsoft or the US government.
  3. Learning. Unlike MS product which a  proprietary and students can’t study it, LibreOffice allows the students to see the code and learn how an office suite works. They can even build on top of it and ‘become’ inventors’ and start creating things instead of just consuming them.
  4. Security. Since 365 is an online suite, Microsoft knows everything that these students do on it.
  5. Interchange of documents between different open source products is easier
  6. Document formats can be supported for longer periods of time.

There is nothing good in this…

AICTE is taking a very big risk handing over the data of its millions of students in the hands of a US corporation and the US government. I would expect a body like AICTE to show more maturity and sovereignty and instead of selling (in the disguise of free product) the data of its students to a US-based company,  adopt technologies which are open, free and much more secure.

I fail to understand what was the incentive is for a body like AICTE that they made the most infamous products mandatory for it’s students.

Decisions like these are among the reasons why despite being world’s largest IT labor force (it’s similar to the way poor labors from Bihar and UP go out and work in other states) India is nowhere seen as an inventor or innovator in the IT field. There is not a single leading company or product from India.

Don’t create cheap labor force, create inventors

AICTE should work towards solving this problem and instead of creating more ‘babus‘ for the western companies, do things to create a generation which thinks, creates and invents.AICTE should not turn Indian students into truck drivers,  they should not feed them opium. Instead give them options and let them become innovators, inventors and truck manufacturers.

I think Indian government should step in and prevent AICTE from locking students into Microsoft Office 365. It should not be mandatory, but optional.

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Thomas Christensen,  Ravi Teja Uzumaki,  Jaxxed Nesmith contributed to this story.

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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