FSMI representation to AICTE against the deal with Microsoft.

FSMI delegation gave a representation to the AICTE appealing for a  revision of AICTE - Microsoft deal by enforcing the usage of Office 365 in all engineering colleges.  This decision is in contrary to the Government of India's policies and against the interest of the Nation. 

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The concerns are :

1. As a publicly funded body, AICTE cannot reach a private agreement with a particular company and make it mandatory for all its institutions to partner such a program. This would promote vendor lock-in and would be against all government policies.

2. AICTE as a public body, is required to follow certain norms for any agreement to partner or choose any particular services or software. We are anaware of any such open and transparent policy that AICTE has followed in choosing Microsoft as its partner.

3. Indian government has already adopted an open standards policy vide National Information Technology Policy 2012, which explicitly seeks to promote open standards and promote Free, open source and open technologies. The AICTE decision to use Microsoft Office 365 is in violation of this policy.

4. Similarly, the government has also adopted Policy on Open Standards for e-Governance, which has mandated what are the characteristics of open standards. Office 365 does not meet this standard.

5. There are various other offerings. in Free and Open Source Software, which do not have such vendor lock-ins and have open data standards, therefore meeting government's open standards policy. We fail to understand the logic of AICTE choosing such a closed, proprietary platform; particularly as it has itself suggested promoting Open Source Software. (AICTE approval handbook, Appendix 5,page 114)

6. Microsoft Office 365 allows users to upload and edit proprietary and open formats,but only allows the option of downloading the files in Microsoft's proprietary formats— .docx for documents, .pptx for slideshows and .XlSX for spreadsheets.

7. When implemented AICTE-Microsoft deal, would of course give 7.5 million users an option to use a service that allows users to work online on Office 365, but to save their work only in a proprietary format for offline use. It is then presumed that the offline tools to be used are Microsoft's Office suite, which comes with an annual license fee of Rs. 4,200 for the home edition.

8. Also, while Office 365 runs on web browsers operating on non-Windows operating systems such as Ubuntu, offline usage would require the use of the Windows platform. Thus, AICTE is being used by Microsoft as a marketing arm to promote its products to all its students.

9. Even after the student passes out, if she wants to use her material that she created as a student, she will have to buy Microsoft products to access her own documents and data. Storing all personal documents on a Microsoft platform is locking all students on to Microsoft products in perpetuity.

10. As against this, various free and open office platforms do not have such vendor lockins as they use open data standards and multiple products are available for such documents and data. .

11. Knowledge Commons, a constituent of FSMI, had asked as early as 11"‘ January, 2011 through an RTI the details of the agreement being reached with Microsoft. It was denied this information as it was commercial information, as “it could harm the interest of a third party”, (copy attached) presumably Microsoft. It now appears that this private agreement has now been imposed on all the affiliated colleges of AICTE and also on its 7.5 million students.

We appeal to AICTE to revise  its decision.