So why do so few UK schools use Open Source?
Open Source in Education Conference 2003
Yes, it's the Open Source in Education Conference 2003, a "National Conference to explore the use of Open Source software in UK Primary and Secondary Education Institutions".
The gig's organised by Anglia Polytechnic, the date is Friday, 4 April, the venue is in Danbury Conference Centre in Danbury, Essex, and the cost is £79+VAT. The full spiel is here.
The most basic aim of the conference is to "raise awareness of open source as an alternative solution".
This is an interesting challenge. UK schools are a cautious bunch when it comes to what they call ICT. The primary school in the village where I live for example declined to accept my donation of educational software CD-ROMs -brand new, still in the wrapper -"because they might have a virus".
Most state secondary schools and the vast majority of primary schools do what their LEA tells them. And most LEAs are thrall to their suppliers, the likes of RM and Viglen, and soon, if Greg Dyke has his way, the BBC.
But school IT budgets are limited, and getting squeezed: so where better to look for cuts than software costs?
The educational sector is a nice little earner for Microsoft: in 2001, Viglen won a contract to supply all of Northern Ireland's schools with MS Software. The deal covers up to 40,000 desktops in 1,380 schools and is worth an estimated £3.8m over five years.
Clearly there is some hefty discounting going on. Even so, Microsoft has received some unwelcome attention for its pricing policies. In July 2002, the company came under fire from Bob Blizzard, a Labour MP, for unfairly 'hoovering' millions of pounds from UK schools. ®