Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stallman visits slum computing center

Ambedkar Community Computer center is situated in a slum area in the New Gurupanplaya in Bannerghata road Bangalore. In the IT city of multinationals, it is only one of the slums in interiors of Banaglore that is not well known outside. Yesterday (13th December 2008), the slum had a unique visitor who is not only famous but also considered to be well known in every part of the world as the founder of the free software foundation. Richard M Stallman's visit turned the attention of IT professionals and media persons to the otherwise not well known slum.

Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3) is a centre set up in the slum area of Gurupan Palya by members of Stree Jagruthi Samithi, volunteers from AID (Association of India's Development) and by some Free Software Volunteers working in IT industry.

The idea of setting up the centre was to equip the poor children in the nearby area with the basic computer skills using quality software which is available free of cost and shareable. The center uses free software tools on GNU/Linux to teach and impart computer knowledge to children. The effort is now showing results and the children have shown enormous improvement. One of the children, Mani, a 9th standard student, has created beautiful pictures using the Free Software tool "GIMP". His pictures got a huge response from the exhibition conducted during the Free Software National Conference held in Cochin, this November. Amazed by Mani's picture art, Stallman agreed to visit AC3 and interact with the children for a few minutes.

During his visit, Richard Stallman inaugurated Mani's painting exhibition and released a book written by children on the basis of their experience in the slum computing center.
Sarasu, who is from the slum area, teaching kids in the slum computing center presented about the center and the work it is doing for the poor. There were also cultural events from the inhabitants of the slum. After the events, Stallman interacted with the audience and addressed their questions.

Here is an extract from his speech:

I am honoured to be here in the community computer center that is in the name of Dr BR Ambedkar. I have read about Ambedkar and I was inspired by the work he has done for the dalit people in India. There are many issues among the poor and marginalized in India that are more important than using free software. But, free software is one of the tool that helps the poor and dalit to resolve some of the issues they are facing. Poor can't afford proprietary softwares and free software helps them to accees computers. While proprietary software companies are like the colonial rulers who exploited the masses, free software is freedom and liberation. Ambedkar Community Computer center is a model for the other parts of the india in such a way that it gives access to computers for the poor without compromising the freedom. The Ambedkar Community Center is doing a great job by empowering the poor with knowledge of free software.

It was a memorable experience for the people in slum area, the people who are part of the Ambedkar Community Computer Center and the children who are the students of the center. They were all inspired by the visit of the Richard M Stallman to spread the free software message and also taking the center to next level.
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