Mozilla India Laundry List
What are the things I want to see happening in Mozilla (India)
I have previously and provocatively written about how Mozilla India is dead. Well, Mozilla India is so dead that apart from a few comments that the title was clickbait or misleading, there was no opposition or support from anyone.
Kavita Arora, the founder of Bangalore Makespace and Open Source Creativity, and I had a one hour long phone chat tonight. We were talking to each other for the first time today. But we were talking exactly the same things to each other.
We both agreed on the fact that Mozilla India has a long way to go in fulfilling Mozilla’s mission in India. That we need to attract a mature crowd into our community. That there is a lack of leadership. That there is a lot of talent that is trapped and wasted in our community and the wider engineering/technology community of India. That Mozilla is in the perfect space to be the flagbearer of a better future in India because of the pragmatism that the focus on open web brings (in contrast with the puritan approach of free software communities). For example, mozilla is able to question what diversity and inclusion means in free and open source software communities because the manifesto is so beautifully designed to ensure everyone has access to the web and nobody is left behind. One of the biggest pain points of the free software movement(s) is that people (say, poor who cannot afford self-hosting, say, a girl who does not feel welcome to “send in a patch”) are left behind.
We also know that it is not easy. It will take a lot of effort to make Mozilla India great (again?). So before we are meeting this weekened we are both making our laundry list of the things that we want to see happening in/through Mozilla India. Here is how my list goes.
(Much of this can be taken up by Internet Freedom Foundation as well and I am trying to reach through to IFF leadership. Unlike Mozilla, IFF has chosen a leadership driven approach)
Just look at the numbers. India has some 5 million software engineers by any conservative measurement. And what is the output? We definitely commit every day. But all those commits end up in corporate repositories. Every smart programmer is lured away by either a Microsoft or a Google; either a Facebook or an Amazon; either an Infosys or a TCS. What is the point? I have a cousin who barely sees sunlight working inside a tech park writing some banking software. What fulfillment does he feel in his life? It surely cannot be that all these smart people do not have a higher calling or a sense of purpose in life. It probably is just the lack of a vision, lack of mentorship, lack of guidance and support to achieve things that they always would want to do in life. Let us make programming meaningful again.
The next billion people are coming online. Data is the new oil. But, who is speaking on behalf of the consumers? It is an open secret that India’s policy making is built around Reliance’s business interests. Who will run the #savetheinternet campaign? Who will speak out about India turning into surveillance state? This is politics, yes. We cannot avoid politics if our mission is to protect the open web. Let us build a generation who understands that politics is life and that every moment the good keeps silent, the bad forces are growing stronger.
I am a strong advocate of the free software movement. We need to build a generation of coders who don’t just choose MIT license because that’s what github added automatically, but who knows the difference between GPL and LGPL, who knows why open source misses the point, who are even aware of how FOSS entered late in the cloud and how federated communication systems is a comeback, and even with all that in mind, would be sensitive of differences in opportunity and accessibility and give up puritanism in favour of inclusion. Mozilla is such a wonderful platform for this nuanced position. And that brings me to my last point.
We need to build a movement. One whose mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.