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01.15.09

Microsoft’s EDGI in India: Fighting GNU/Linux in Education

Posted in Antitrust, Asia, Bill Gates, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, SUN at 11:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And How Intel helps Microsoft fight GNU/Linux

Counting money

IN THIS SERIES of posts we have already covered relevant antitrust material such as:

Today we take a closer look at Comes vs Microsoft Exhibit PX08593 (September 2002) [PDF] and additionally we look at press coverage which appeared at the time. The journalists were not aware of what had been happening behind the scenes, but our recent posts about EDGI, as well as in the latest correspondence which we include in full in the Appendix, show what was negotiated. It explains why Sun and GNU/Linux were left out. Microsoft abused its monopoly and dumped software, then signed a memorandum of understanding which is essentially a competition-excluding contract.

Here are some important bits from the E-mails that reveal a country-wide EDGI. This was sent to the General Manager of Microsoft India.

Hi, Rajiv. Actually we are proceeding on another path for developing countries called a Country License, which is a concept that has been approved by Allchin, the board, the BLT etc, for more thinking and development with India as the first potential test case.

David Driftmier is there, as usual. This mentions StarOffice and Linux and it goes along the lines of “your country is so privileged to be part of our experiment” (Microsoft and Intel do the same in China and will try this against GNU/Linux in Russian schools).

Later it says:

We are aware of Billg’s plan to visit India and want to give him something smart and innovative to announce as part of a larger global education initiative. (Bill likes the free idea but he’s the only one I know of who does! :-))

We’ll come to this in a moment because it was covered by the press at the time.

Rajeev Kaul, the top man of Microsoft India at the time, writes:

Am in Redmond this week. Wanted to catch up with you, You might be aware of the work Bric team is doing on the proactive EDGI like proposal. Given the impact of Education market in India globally for us and the threats from Linux and piracy, I want to make this a big bet plan in India (post Novell – Sco and Trishul).

Novell – Sco???

One reader ponders, “[I] don’t know what the MS GM for India is referring to when he mentions Novell and SCO to Driftmier’s boss, Sherri Bealkowski.”

“It was about Microsoft India’s general manager, who was allegedly caught in colleague-girlfriend scandal.”Anivar tells us that “Rajeev Kaul was Microsoft India Managing Director at that time” and this is later confirmed in reports that we have assembled. An interesting side story about Microsoft India appeared about 2-3 months ago. It was about Microsoft India’s general manager, who was allegedly caught in colleague-girlfriend scandal.

One reader says that “buried in some of the 100-comment threads on Mini-Microsoft are stories that sound plausible from Microsoft India staff.” These were soon followed by the guy quitting and taking some people with him (including the rumored girlfriend).

This kind of gossip isn’t normally of any interest, but the point is that the commenters alleged financial wrongdoing too. If one searches the comments for “IDC”, there is an unsubstantiated allegation that the general manager for Microsoft India department (IDC) took the wife & kids to Mumbai on Microsoft’s dime to make use of a Microsoft vacation house Stateside, etc.

Coverage of all these things totally misses important tidbits that arrives from antitrust action (apparently invoked by Sun Microsystems, at least initially). For example, from May of the following year in the Indian media:

Kerala and Uttaranchal, they said, would be the first two beneficiary States of project Shiksha — its plan to accelerate computer literacy by inculcating IT skills to over 80,000 teachers and 35 lakh students. Kerala for its obvious high literacy rate and Uttaranchal for the pleasant experience of `Teach the future’ programme conducted jointly with Intel.

The number of States will gradually be brought to ten over a three-year period. The States will be selected on the basis of commitment (bureaucratic and political), basic infrastructure and previous experience. Asked to name the next two States, the Microsoft India Managing Director, Rajiv Kaul, said for the moment the focus would be on Kerala and Uttaranchal and the next lot “will depend on which ones we wrap up first”.

They then cite IDC which, as we’ll show shortly, is providing Microsoft "talking points" to accompany EDGI and other GNU/Linux-hostile initiatives. We’ll get around to covering IDC’s mischiefs and role in EDGI later on. They supply ammunition in exchange for money. A lot of money.

Hyderabad will remain the focus for its development efforts — for products as well as the considerable internal applications development work. The India Development Centre in Hyderabad, set up in 1997 and the catalyst for more such centres by other companies, has added 75 more personnel to its 125 since Mr. Gates’ announcement. “We are on target to grow the IDC to 500 by the end of calendar year 2005″. The Internal IT applications development team will be hiring 150 internal application professionals who will focus on building, managing, testing and supporting leading edge strategic internal business applications.

“See this from 2003,” writes Anivar. “Microsoft announced [it would] invest 100 Crore In Project Shiksha.”

From January of the same year:

IT major Microsoft will invest Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) in India in the next few years, of which a substantial amount would be in Kerala, a top company executive said on Saturday.

“It is from [the] Global Investors meet in Kerala,” according to Anivar, who also gave us some news clips from 2000 and 2001. “These are related to Microsoft’s involvement in the IT@school Project,” he writes. Microsoft succeeded in becoming a partner in this project by 2000 and later it became part of a Microsoft-Intel Collaboration Project (when left-wing parties were in power). It was called Project Shiksha (which means teaching) and it was implemented in Kerala & West Bengal (another CPIM-ruled state).

A state-wide campaign by the Free software Community and the Kerala school Teachers association (KSTA) succeeded in changing it to GNU/Linux.

“The following links substantiate our chronology (with relevant excerpts),” adds Anivar. He pulled the following reports which we present below.

From September 20, 2000:

Mr. Joseph said the Government had entered into an agreement with Microsoft for a project to introduce computer and IT-enabled education covering all the schools in the State. The first phase would cover all the 2,500 high schools. In the subsequent stages, all the 60 lakh students from Class I to Class X would be covered, he said.

The Minister said Microsoft had already trained 1,000 teachers in the first phase. He said the Government had set up a State Institute of Educational Training to undertake creation of computer-based educational tools, study materials and teaching aids.

From October 6, 2001:

The previous education minister, P J Joseph, had launched his pet IT@School programme about a year ago. He had envisaged a major role for the information technology heavyweights Microsoft and Intel in enabling around six million school children to be computer literate by 2010.

From March 12, 2001:

Similarly, we are working very closely with C-DAC and ER&DC, Trivandrum on local language development. In education, we have launched a major project entitled ‘IT@School’, which basically aims to introduce IT-facilitated education in about 1000 schools in the State. A number of agencies including Microsoft, Intel and Schoolnet are involved in this project for teacher training and content development.

The best-researched report is probably this one:

When Richard M. Stallman’s visit to India coincided with Bill Gates’ trip here in early November, there naturally were some fireworks. Although the big story was the money Gates pledged to donate to India, ideals from the Free/Libre and open-source software world have had an impact.

During his trip, Stallman maintained a low profile and took a largely volunteer-supported visit of India, even while the ideas he spends a lifetime to uphold kept getting bounced back and forth across this vast country.

Gates, meanwhile, hogged the headlines with his millions of dollars donation to battle AIDS. Mainstream journalists fell over each other to get a wide range of stories from different parts of the country about the doings and sayings of the world’s richest man.

Behind the scenes, however, a fascinating debate was underway. It came up mainly on the Internet, via mailing-lists, and from those who disagree strongly with the software path charted by Gates.

[...]

In India, the Microsoft Corporation chairman outlined a long list of monetary handouts.

* $20 million to develop India’s Shiksha edtech training programme (which has an ambitious target of training more than 80,000 teachers and 3.5 million students over several years);
* $1 million to MIT’s Media Lab Asia project;
* a $25 million, five-year grant for a children’s vaccine programme against Hepatitis B in the southern Andhra Pradesh state; and
* $100 million to battle AIDS in India.

[...]

That Gates’ approach is clearly linked to the growing GNU/Linux campaigns in India is more than clear. Rajesh Mahapatra, writing for the Associated Press, commented, “Hoping to stave off a rise in the popularity of free, open-source software, Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates has announced a $400-million-US investment in India.” He went on to say, “The three-year initiative–part philanthropy, part business boost–seeks to entrench products of the world’s dominant software company in schools and among India’s multitude of talented programmers.”

During his trip, Gates sought to underplay India’s increased support for GNU/Linux. He argued that Microsoft’s Windows remains far ahead of its competition. But the Associated Press reports otherwise: “Indian software companies are increasingly opting for Linux. Users say they prefer the open-source system because its basic code is non-proprietary, can be freely modified and makes better sense for the developing world than Windows.”

“The LJ story [covers] FSF India’s works and its response to Gates’ visit,” says Anivar. “The same person mentioned in the report, Arun M (secretary of FSF India), is now thrown out from special officer Post of ICFOSS (International Center to Promote FOSS) in Kerala.” We’ve already covered this here.

From this 2003 article it turns out to officially be an MoU.

Microsoft India has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Uttaranchal government for the rollout of Project Shiksha.

Microsoft’s internal notes on memoranda of understanding (along with examples) can be found here.

“There is still more news,” writes Anivar, “Although I could not find an indiainfo.com news announcing Intel’s entry…”

House in India

Intel’s role in these programmes will certainly be explored in the future. These affairs against GNU/Linux ought to be recognised by those who buy Intel gear and are led to believe that Intel is a friend of Linux with its open source drivers.

“The people of Microsoft’s Project Shiksha partnered with another state Called andhra Pradesh in 2004,” says Anivar, who points to this article and quotes:

MICROSOFT Corporation India has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Andhra Pradesh Government for Microsoft’s Project Shiksha to accelerate the IT literacy in the State. Under this a Microsoft IT Academy Centre in the State to provide teacher training is expected to be established.

There is some more information right here:

Launched in India in December 2003 by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, ‘Project Shiksha’ has a target of reaching out to 80,000 teachers by this year-end, a period of five years.

[...]

Under the project, run in partnership with state governments, Microsoft India currently has MoUs with 10 states for 11 academies, offering a spectrum of education resources, including tools, programmes, and practices with an aim to promote the use of IT in education

Anivar says that “the letter talks about Bill’s visit in November 2003.” It covers 10 states and the news is from 2008, so it’s not so easily forgotten.

“After reading through these documents, what’s most bothersome (to me) is that a lot of people will believe that the millions of dollars that Bill Gates donated to charity in India (and other countries) makes everything else (like EDGI) okay,” says another reader. That’s the irony of it all and this is also why Gates’ donations are often a shrewd scam. “I also wonder if all those charity dollars had conditions attached to them,” says the reader.


Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit px08593, as text


From: Vidur Luthra
Sent: Wednesday, September 11,2002 2:59 PM
To: Vinay Kumar
Subject: FW: Meeting to discuss India Education plan
Importance: Low

….. Original Message …..
From: Sherri Bealkowski
Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 1:17 PM
To: Rajiv Kaul; David Driftmier
cc: Karishma Kiri; Vidur Luthra; Anne Pression; Mallica Sarkar
Subject: RE: Meeting to Discuss India Education plan
Importance: Low

Hi, Rajiv. Actually we are proceeding on another path for developing countries called a Country License, which is a concept that has been approved by Allchin, the board, the BLT etc, for more thinking and development with India as the first potential test case. Unfortunately the BRIC Windows team was in India while we were working this as part of a greater Linux project and we just were able to fill in Vidur this week. Our concept is broader than Windows as well. I don’t want to do something cool for Windows and create a bunch of sockets for Staroffice! The work that Vidur and team did with you in India however is extremely valuable as foundation for the country license concept.

We are aware of Billg’s plan to visit India and want to give him something smart and innovative to announce as part of a larger global education initiative. (Bill likes the free idea but he’s the only one I know of who does! :-))

Let’s catch up, and I will include David Driftmier, who owns the project on my team. David, can you get this scheduled please?

Sherri

….. Original Message …..
From: Rajiv Kaul
Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 12:15 PM
To: Sherri Bealkowski
Cc: Karishma Kiri; Vidur Luthra; Anne Pression; Maltica Sarkar
Subject: Meeting to discuss India Education plan

Hi Sherri,
Am in Redmond this week. Wanted to catch up with you, You might be aware of the work Bric team is doing on the proactive EDGI like proposal. Given the impact of Education market in India globally for us and the threats from Linux and piracy, I want to make this a big bet plan in India (post Novell – Sco and Trishul). Have discussed with MichaelR too on this You must also be aware of Bill’s views on what we should do from a market perspective in this space in India. I feel we need a different strategy and plan, where we dont give s/w away free but build a
end to end program which offers value to the segment.
Wanted to sync up on our thinking and get your inputs. We are working on an announcement with Bills trip to


India in mid Nov.
If we can spent 30- 45 mins tomorrow first half, it would be great. Else Fri – let me know what time slots work for you.

Thanks,

Rajlv Kaul
General Manager
Microsoft India

11/18/2003

Plaintiffs Exhibit
8593

Comes Vs Microsoft

MS-CC-Sun 000001624120
CONFIDENTIAL

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin Vacit said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Gravatar

    What is the role of Intel in this? The article doesn’t say, except points to alledged intel collaboration. Even if this were so, and it probably is, why would that indicate any malicious attitude of Intel towards GNU?

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Gravatar

    Hi,

    See the link which refers to Russian schools. In China and some other places, Microsoft and Intel liaise for hardware-software combos that target FOSS migrations.

    Giving gratis Windows is not always sufficient, so hardware is sometimes offered as an incentive. OLPC in Nigeria is a recent example (Intel covered hardware costs, i.e. suffered a loss, according to the BBC) and older ones appear in previous posts about EDGI where Microsoft involves the OEMs.

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