A blog for the enterprise open source community
A learning experienceMatthew Aslett, June 13, 2008 @ 10:34 am ET
Back in October 2007 I wondered whether the reporting of Microsoft to the Office of Fair Trading by Becta, the government agency responsible for technology in the education system in the UK, might prove to be a false dawn. It gives me no great pleasure to report that I was right.
In May it was announced that the complaint had been transfered to the European Commission for inclusion in its ongoing investigation into Microsoft’s business practices. Just four days later it emerged that Becta had signed a new 3 year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Microsoft that would provide discounted access to the company’s academic licensing.
Just for the record, Becta had previously found that that academic licensing characterized by:
“Significant potential for institutions to find themselves ‘locked in’ to Microsoft’s subscription licensing arrangements.”
“Very significant complexity leading to a lack of understanding at institution level that has resulted in widespread use of inappropriate licensing strategies.”
It also found that:
“a school which uses a mix of Microsoft-based and Apple computers can find itself paying Microsoft a licence fee for software which cannot run on its Apple machines”
The situation looked to have improved in early May when it was revealed that Becta had issued an invitation to tender for a project to set up and run an open source schools project.
As Glyn Moody reports, however, despite bids from the great and the good of open source in the UK (supported by the likes of Red Hat and Canonical) the contract was awarded to The AlphaPlus Consultancy, a company described as having “no known experience or track record in FOSS”.
Mark Taylor of Sirius and the Open Source Consortium, both of which missed out, is livid, while the above-quoted Schoolforge-UK could be best described as politely annoyed.
In the same thread Ian Lynch discusses where the open source advocates might have gone wrong. They assumed – wrongly it appears – that a track record in providing open source to schools would be among the selection criteria. Having not been previously involved in Becta tenders they were also unaware of how tenders would be marked.
“Its obvious that the nature of the mark scheme is our downfall. There is a set of general and specific guidance in it. Anyone who has seen this – and it was not available with the tender – would be at a massive advantage,” writes Ian. “So if one bidder has been through this or a similar process with Becta in the past they are at an unfair advantage.”
There is talk on the thread of an appeal, or attempting to work with AlphaPlus to ensure that the project does at least benefit from those with experience of open source school projects, while Mark Taylor is advocating a boycott.
A sad state of affairs, indeed.
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