Using free and open-source software, a volunteer-led group from Villupuram is educating students from across the country on internet awareness and making knowledge on computers accessible to all, irrespective of one’s social background.
Karkee Udhayan, one of the volunteers associated with the group since its inception in 2013, says one of their prime objectives is to make knowledge accessible to everyone. “Many cannot learn about computers and programming languages because they cannot afford it. We believe that knowledge must be available to be commonly accessed by all. Volunteers join our group when they’re 18 to learn more about different software and their uses, and get informed about the need for internet privacy, etc. We explain how open-source software platforms like Linux, Mozilla Firefox, Android and VLC media player can be better alternatives to proprietary software (not for free like Windows), in terms of accessibility and internet privacy. The volunteers then go ahead to become mentors who train others. We host weekly gatherings in parks and schools to discuss the social aspects of software,” Karkee says.
A few months ago, the group had also announced free training on Python programming language. “Python is one of the most sought after programming languages in the country. In any city, one would have to spend a lot of money to learn it. Our six-month programme received applications from across the country, of which we chose 40 students from underprivileged backgrounds — those who are children of single parents, farmers and agricultural labourers, etc., and have been offering them free training, which will come to an end this month,” adds Karkee.
Twenty-two-year-old Vijayalakshmi, who works with a software firm in Chennai, began as a volunteer at the GLUG and is now its current representative. “Since I began learning more about software as a volunteer, it helped me in getting a job at a tech firm. The group has been greatly helpful in making students aware of upcoming technologies. In Villupuram, there aren’t many gatherings for students learn about technology. GLUG has been filling that gap,” she says.
“In this era of information technology revolution, almost everyone has access to the world wide web through smartphones. But there is a need for digital literacy, and being aware of how our data is being used by different online platforms. That is what we are trying to spread,” Karkee remarks.