Thursday, January 21, 2010

Interesting Article on India's Contribution to Open Source

Sam Varghese of ITWire writes an interesting blog piece about India's contributions to open source. You can find it here. His claim is that given the amount of engineering talent that exists in India, it does not necessarily translate into meaningful contributions to open source software.

He makes a valid point to some extent, but at the same time I believe it is important to look at the entire picture. We get inundated with resumes from India on a daily basis. And, as the years have passed, there is no question that the talent level, as it relates to open source, continues to get better and better.

However, the most important point is that some of the best open source engineers from India tend to make their way over here. They generally will latch onto some consulting firm that will provide them with visa sponsorship, and then they start working on a project for a company in the United States. That is of course if they could not go directly to a technology company, which proved somewhat difficult during the economic growth years due to the consulting firms snatching up a lot of the visa allotment. But, I digress. Unfortunately for these engineers, some of the projects they get put on are not always relevant to their open source skills. Luckily, there are a number of companies that are willing to transfer an existing visa, and thus it gives them entry back into the world of open source if they have had to deviate from it for a short period of time. This has happened time and time again throughout the years.

Perhaps you do not always see the contributions in open source made by engineers from India, but that does not necessarily mean they are not happening. A large portion of the engineers we work with are from Indian decent, and their impact in open source software will be meaningful for years to come.

1 comment:

sam said...

The point I made was that the number of Indians in open source is really nothing in proportion to the number of programmers the country produces.

You can get some idea of the kind of numbers involved if you look here: http://bit.ly/7lWvHT

Towards the end of the article, there is another relevant point which the programmer I interviewed brought up: if working on open source was not his job, he would not be working on it. That is extremely significant as it speaks of an attitude of wanting immediate gain.

In the West, my experience has been that people get into open source because they like doing it; in many cases, they get no money out of it.

Of course, it could lead to material gain down the line.

This could be because of the income support from governments in the West. Or it could be due to more long-term thinking. Whatever the reason, it is an interesting point that needs to be explored further.

Sam Varghese