Sunday, April 03, 2011

Moving on from Red Hat to Google

Last month, I moved from Red Hat to Google. After spending six-and-half years at Red Hat, it was a tough decision to make because I got to work on issues like open standards and open source that have such long-term implications for India. To tell the truth, I had also gotten into a warm comfort zone in my previous job and was wondering what to do next, after we won the open standards fight in India.

In the last year or so, there were several offers, but none of them really excited me because I was looking for a role that has a large social impact. When Google sounded me out, I thought this could be interesting because Internet penetration in India, especially the web in India languages, is one area that can have a large impact. I know that broadband, 3G, 4G etc are on their way, yadda, yadda, yadda, and Internet usage will inevitably grow, but those who have been involved in policy know that there is a great difference between having policies on paper and actually having *political will* behind those policies. For example, every politician and bureaucrat agrees that computing in Indian languages is a good idea, but our so-called software superpower of a country has not made this a reality, even as it relentlessly churns out code for the rest of the world.

Another reason for taking up Google's offer was that I'll be able to continue my involvement in open source and open standards. In some ways, it was also a good time to leave Red Hat because most of the defensive work needed to protect the open source community -- open standards, software patents etc -- have been taken care of. Apart from the FOSS non-profits like FSF and FSMI, the Indian FOSS community now has an layer of non-profits like IT For Change, the Center for Internet and Society, Knowledge Commons and others who look at FOSS from an outside-in perspective and advocate for FOSS as a social good. The setting up of the Software Freedom Law Center's India chapter has also helped give the community some sorely needed legal firepower. I feel that these developments have greatly strengthened the community.

I want to conclude by saying that I see great hope for the future, event though the current policy environment seems so bleak and depressing. is is because, in the last six-and-half years, I have had the privilege of working with many bright, passionate individuals who are working for the larger good. Some of them have left the civil service or the corporate world to work in NGOs, and most of them have the caliber to be successful entrepreneurs or business leaders but have chosen to be involved in the area of public policy. This is an exciting development that will change India's destiny.