Why these 401 Indian GSoCers have got to make it count

In other news, the 10th edition of Google’s prestigious Google Summer of Code program is about to kick off and India will be a represented by 401 students –...

In other news, the 10th edition of Google’s prestigious Google Summer of Code program is about to kick off and India will be a represented by 401 students – a record in the history of GSoC.

With 401 students from India selected to the prestigious GSoC program, it has smoked every other country in contention, including the USA, which is at a more modest 167. So what exactly have these students signed up for?

Well, they’re going to spend the next 3 months or so working with one of the participating organizations of Google on a project that they submitted a proposal for and at the end of their tenure, they return home with a neat paycheck. In fact, this paycheck has been the biggest incentive for computer science students from all around the world – 5,500 USD for 3 months of work.

Now you may wonder why this number is so significant. Well for starters, every project listed as a part of the GSoC is an open source project, so it exposes the participants to the way the open source development works. Hopefully, there would be a lasting impact of the culture of open source in the minds of the people.

However, Sayan Chowdhury, my colleague, and former GSoC-er believes otherwise. He says, “In India, 5,500 USD is a lot of money and most students seem to apply for GSoC for this monetary gain. Furthermore, it’s a good thing to put on your resume as it carries a lot of importance at jobs and post-graduate college admissions. A lot of my fellow GSoCer’s don’t contribute to open source projects after their 3 months.”

Cumulatively, since the inception of GSoC, over 800 Indian students have taken part. But try and think of popular open source projects like say, Fedora or Mozilla and you can’t think of a single name of this stature to have come from India. Or try and name 100 top open source contributors from India?

Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the popular operating system Linux said this about India’s contribution to open source –


This is not to say that there aren’t enough open source contributors from India, but a mix of a lack of social infrastructure and too few people who write software for the joy of writing software, which has resulted in India’s mediocre participation in the world of open source. Even the fat paycheck isn’t enough to bring the Indian developer back to work on the projects that they spent the better part of their summer on.

Also, 401 students in the context of half a million engineers that graduate out of Indian colleges, is a small number. For the most part, there’s a huge amount of ignorance on the Indian Students’ part when it comes to open source.

This puts the onus on those 401 kids. Your predecessors really haven’t done the best of jobs in promoting the open source culture in India and it is up to you to bring back the passion that will be infused into you in your tenure with the GSoC. Blog about it, speak about it – Make it a point to get at least 10 more developers take up open source contribution. And most importantly, continue to the work on the projects that you take up.

It is beyond awesome to see so many inductees into this year’s GSoC from India.

Let’s make it count.

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