Baby Gnu by Nicolas RougierIT@School of Kerala State  Government (India) is hoping to enter the Guinness Book of Records for holding the largest practical examination in information technology using free software. Around 4.5 lakh students from the high schools, following the State syllabus in Kerala, took the school final exams in what is described as the largest deployment of free software for practical examinations.

The deployment covered 2486 examination centers in the State besides some in Lakshadweep and Gulf countries (where Malayalees take the test). The application software used was free software on GNU/Linux platform. There was even a version for blind students.

However, many of the schools are yet to have Internet connections. The Government has devised a scheme for extending connections to the schools. The rates will be Rs. 1000 for Government schools, Rs. 4000 for aided schools and Rs. 5000 for recognised schools for just for three GB. Additional usage may have to be paid for at 80 paise per MB.

This is fairly high price to pay considering the volume being purchased by the Government for the scheme though in retail packages from BSNL. It could have purchased bandwidth in bulk and distributed it to schools using the State-wide infrastructure under development as part of the Government’s egovernance programmes.

The bandwidth should have come to the State free if the Government would not have bungled agreements with service providers. As per Government policy, those using public roads to lay fibre optic cables were to provide free bandwidth to the State government, for use by its offices and schools, in return for the right of way. The agreements in this regard were signed with several companies seven years ago.

However, the government did not make use of the bandwidth in full for several years. The connections never reached the schools as the agreement was not very specific about that. One has to see whether auditors will catch up with those responsible for heavy losses to the government.