BANGALORE, INDIA – Red Hat Inc. is to help the communist government of Kerala, in southwestern India, to deploy open-source software in its e-governance and literacy efforts.

The Kerala government will make all efforts to develop free software, and will use free and open-source software in e-governance projects, according to a draft state IT policy released in January.

The state of Kerala has also decided to promote free and open-source software in education, but will not make it compulsory, M.A. Baby education minister in the Kerala government said in an interview in August.

Now Red Hat has agreed to train the technical staff of various government organizations to help them develop and maintain open-source applications, the company said Tuesday. Red Hat will also train schoolteachers in Kerala to use Linux desktop software under a “Train-the-Trainer” program.

The Kerala government believes that free and open-source software is an essential component in its drive to democratize information technology and bring its benefits to all sections of society, Kerala’s chief minister, V.S. Achutanandan, said Tuesday.

The Indian federal government, in contrast, has refrained from taking sides in favor of either open-source or proprietary software. Microsoft Corp., for example, is running a program in the country, called Project Shiksha, to train teachers and students in government-run schools in the use of information technology. But some research labs run by the government work on open source projects.

Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation Inc. (FSF) in Boston, was able to gather support from politicians in Kerala and West Bengal, another communist run state, during his visit there last year.

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