Public Sector Software, Participatory Communications and Social Change

Open access


This article explores the role played by public sector software (PSS) in social change in India. Viewing public sector software as a public good, it explores its potential as well as the challenges that it faces in a context in which proprietoral software is an established and dominant force. Using both theory and examples, it argues that state investment in this public good makes infinite sense in the context of e-governance and commitments to access and affordable use of information resources for all its citizens. Based on the principles of Free Open Source Software (FOSS), PSS offers not only possibilities of access but also adaptation and use by a variety of ‘recursive publics’. Using the example of PSS in the Southern Indian state of Kerala, it offers insights into the practical benefits of software deployed for the common good.

Allen, A. (2009) “Open software ‘best for taxpayer’” (8), Supply Management, 14, 5.

Batty, M., Crooks et al (2010) “Data mash-ups and the future of mapping” (1-45), JISC Technology & Stand ards Watch, September. Available at: Accessed on September 29, 2010.

Beck, U. (1997) “Global Risk Politics” (18-33) The Political Quarterly, 68, B.

Beck, U. (1999) “Beyond the nation state” (25-27) The New Statesman, December 6.

Bountouri, L., Papatheodorou, C., Soulikias, V., & Stratis, M. (2009) “Metadata interoperability in public sector information” (204-231), Journal of Information Science, 35, 2.

Chatfield, T. & Crabtree, J. (2010) “Mash the State” (42-46) Prospect Magazine, 167, February.

Chatterjee, P. (2004) The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World. NY: Columbia University Press.

Cottle, S. (1998) “Ulrich Beck, ‘Risk Society’ and the Media: A Catastrophic View?” (5-32), European Journalof Communication, 13, 5.

Ensuring adoption of progressive national e-governance standards policy, IT for Change. Available at: http:// Accessed on September 28, 2010.

Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information. Available at: 2003:345:0090:0096:EN:PDF. Accessed on April 12, 2011.

Draft National Policy on Open Standards for e-Governance (2009). Available at: Accessed on September 28, 2010.

Federspiel, S.B. & Brincker, B. (2010) “Software as Risk: Introduction of Open Standards in the Danish Public” (38-47), The Information Society, 26, 1.

Ghosh, R.A., Glott, R., Schmitz, P-E., & Boujraf, A. (2008) OSOR Guidelines Public procurement and Open Source Software (1-117), IDABC Dissemination of Good practice in Using Open Source Software, Unisys Belgium, UNU-MERIT.

Heeks, R. (1998) “Information Age reform of the Public Sector: the Potential and Problems of IT for India” (1-21), Information Systems for Public Sector Management, Working Paper Series No. 6. October, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester. Available at: Accessed on September 28, 2010.

Holmstrom, J., & Robey, D. (2005) “Inscribing organisational change with information technology” (265-187) in Czarniawska, B. & Hernes, T. (eds.) Actor-Network Theory and Organising. Malmö: Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press.

Indian Labour Market Report (2008) ADECCO Institute, Tata Institute of Sciences. Available at: Accessed on September 29, 2010.

Information Technology Policy of Assam (2009), The Assam Gazette, 4th August. Available at: Accessed on September 28, 2010.

Insight. Available at: Accessed on May 11th, 2011.

Kanungo, V. (2010) Government of India to invest in Rs. 20,000 crores on e-Governance by 2014, e-GovWorld 2010, July 19. Available at: Accessed on September 27, 2010

Kelty, C.M. (2005) “Geeks, Social imaginaries and Recursive Publics” (185-214), Cultural Anthropology, 20, 2.

Kelty, C.M. (2008) Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Krishnan, K. (No date) “Localisation and language technology standards” (1-25), ppt., National Informatics Centre (NIC). Available at: Accessed on September 30, 2010

Matoria, R. K., Upadhyay, P. K., & Moni, M. (2007) “Automation and networking of public libraries in India using the e-Granthalaya software from the National Informatics Centre” (47-58), Electronic Library and Information Systems, 41, 1

Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. RTI pioneers. Available at: Accessed on October 25, 2011

Naipaul, V. S.(1998), India: A Million Mutinies Now, Vintage, NY

Public Sector Software Principles. Available at: Accessed on October 25, 2011

Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment. Available at: Accessed on May 11th, 2011.

Software Principles for the Public Sector with focus on Public Education, February 1-2, 2010, Bangalore, Workshop Report.

South India regional Workshop on ‘Software Principles for the Public Sector, with Focus on Public Education’ Case Studies - Public Software (2010), February.

Thomas, P. N. (2010) Political Economy of Communications in India: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. New Delhi: Sage.

Thomas, P. N. (2011) Negotiating Communication Rights: Case Studies from India. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage.

What is Public Software, Public Software Centre. Available at: Accessed on September 28, 2010.

Nordicom Review

Journal from the Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research (Nordicom)

Journal Information

CiteScore 2018: 0.54

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.223
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.270


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 105 81 13
PDF Downloads 67 62 7