Linux Watch: Microsoft Programme For West Bengal

Kolkata: | Updated: Jan 24 2003, 05:30am hrs
Microsoft Corp India Pvt Ltd is planning to launch its first school faculty training academy in West Bengal. This will be Microsofts first major investment (around Rs 1 crore) in the state, according to state government officials. This move follows the states inclination towards rival and free operating system Linux that has been a source of anxiety to Microsoft globally.

Recently, a representative from Microsoft came down from the US to discuss the academy launch with state government officials. The official visited some schools in order to understand the training needs of the teachers from various disciplines who will impart computer education.

West Bengal government officials said the software major had decided to set up similar academies in two other states also, in the first phase.

Over the next five years, the software major aims to set up 10 such IT academy centres and 2000 partner-driven schools all over the country under its $20 million Shiksha programme that was launched by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates during his recent India visit. The program aims to impart computer training to 80,000 school teachers and 3.5 million students.

According to state infotech department secretary DP Patra, the Microsoft academy will train the permanent teachers of state-owned schools. At the end of the program, the teachers will be provided with certification. These trained teachers will take part in the computer teaching of the respective schools, Mr Patra said.

When contacted, Microsoft India managing director Rajiv Kaul declined to name the states where the first academies will come up.

We are working closely with the Central and state governments...we have identified several states with whom we will work for the school project, but it is too early to name the states, Mr Kaul said.

Regarding its relationship with the Bengal government, Mr Kaul said that the Microsoft was committed to further strengthened its existing relationship with the state specially on the education front and was currently evaluating all available options.

West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corp (Webel) will help Microsoft set up the academy. The government will provide the 3000 sqft required for the academy, while Microsoft will pay for the hardware, software, trainers and other infrastructure.

Microsoft has been spurred into action by reports that the state government is leaning towards rival operating system Linux, which is a much cheaper option because of its open-source-code offering.

In Bengal, a committee set up by the government for creating a road map for school education is considering a mix of Linux and Windows environments. This will have a cost effective viable model for the cash strapped government education department, a committee member told FE.

The Kolkata chapter of the Indian Linux user group (ILUG) has welcomed Microsofts decision to set up a training academy here. We believe in knowledge sharing and use and reuse of knowledge. There is nothing proprietary in the world of knowledge. Microsofts decision will help to create more computer awareness among the school students, said Mr Indranil Dasgupta, ILUGs coordinator here.

The ILUG has decided to launch a Linux outreach programme targeting the school teachers and students.

We are launching this programme in association with various government and non government institutions. This is a part of programme to popularise Linux in the state, said Mr Dasgupta.