Up against odds

But, when his parents could not afford to provide him with lessons to develop computer skills, he needed outside support as well as personal determination to succeed. He received it at Ambedkar Community Computing Centre (AC3), an institution that borrows ideas from Free Software Movement, maintaining that free software is a prerequisite to equal opportunity for those with limited means.

“Software patenting by large companies is a real handicap for the little guy,” said Senthil Sundaram, a volunteer at the centre. “We use the free software GNU-Linux which can be legally copied and disseminated.”

Mani has not given up his love for art. Now that he is computer savvy, he prefers free software GNU Image Manipulation Program (GNU), to pen and paper. So far he has created 45 images digitally and has raised Rs 10,000 by selling them. Something he could not have done if he had to purchase a program like Adobe.

He is now helping other children in his community do the same. “I want to study science,” he said. “I spend the money earned on my school fees because I want to get into college. Since I want to give back to the institution that helped me, I donate the balance to AC3, in case any maintenance or repairs are required. I also know the software well enough to teach computer skills to local children.”

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