SWAYAM, the national Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) project established by Ministry of Human Rights Development (MHRD), is a laudatory effort set to serve as a source for courses related to all fields from high school to post graduation. This one stop destination is meant to bridge the educational and digital divide by ensuring learning resources are made accessible in consonance with principles of equity and affordability in the varying socio-economic sectors of the country. Last year it was announced that the development of SWAYAM platform has been decided to be pursued through proprietary platform, disregarding free and open source software (FOSS) options that have proved successful and are being used in MOOC platforms such as edX at the global scale.
SFLC.in conducted in-depth research regarding the discussions that took place by the committees within the MHRD that led to the decision of choosing proprietary software, despite India having implemented the Policy on adoption of Open Source Software for the Government of India in 2015 that makes it a mandatory requirement for all e-governance projects undertaken by various Government organizations to adopt open source software as a preferred option in comparison to closed source software, and wherever making the decision to choose closed source software, to provide reasons in writing. To generate awareness about this issue, a Joint Letter, signed by various academics, non profit organizations, and individuals, was drafted by us and sent to the MHRD. A copy of this Joint Letter can be accessed here.
In addition, we also filed applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 for a complete set of minutes of certain meetings that were unavailable on MHRD’s online portal. The applications filed by us asked for the minutes of the meeting held by the technical committee that decided to use proprietary software and awarded the contract to Microsoft. In the reply received by us, we were provided with the minutes of the 9th meeting of the SWAYAM Project Cell (SPC) where Microsoft was finalized as the Systems Integrator for SWAYAM.
It has details of the discussions regarding the projected costs and further states that the technical and management committees constituted by The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for the purpose of deciding the method of development of SWAYAM had come to the conclusion that in-house developers from National Informatics Centre Services Inc. (NICSI) should be recruited for developing the platform, and “keeping in view the complexity of the project and the requirement of timely and reliable servicing facility, SWAYAM should be developed on a proprietary IT platform rather than open source.”
Furthermore, it states that available systems of Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP were evaluated, and Microsoft was chosen for the following reasons:
“Microsoft platform has the whole bouquet of systems required for designing the MOOCs application, viz SQL, Windows servers, Share point, Dot Net and System Centre.
The Software licenses (Educational versions) are available at highly subsidized rates under Education Discount Policy through their Authorized Education Partners (AEPs) as LSPs.
Microsoft platform is available on DGS&D Rate Contract, so we can buy the same off the shelf.” [Point 9.3 of the minutes of the meeting]
Watch this space for updates on further RTIs we have filed on this topic.
For the entire text of the RTI reply and the minutes of the above mentioned meeting, refer here.