Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 9/1/2005I don't want to get unduly emotive about this, but how much of thecountry's education budget to you want to go to Microsoft? Put itanother way, how much of the money we pay to teach our innocentchildren should go into the slime-laden coffers of the corporatepersonification of all evil?

Monday 9/1/2005

I don't want to get unduly emotive about this, but how much of the country's education budget to you want to go to Microsoft? Put it another way, how much of the money we pay to teach our innocent children should go into the slime-laden coffers of the corporate personification of all evil?

There's an investigation going on into this, which has already pointed out that there are potential dangers in allowing a company to have an effective monopoly in education. Microsoft for its part has said that it already gives a 75 percent discount, and what could be fairer than that?

Well, let's see. As far as I can tell, running Microsoft software costs around £40 per student per year. There are three million secondary school children in the UK, which pans out to around £120m per annum. That could easily fund an organisation of five hundred people dedicated to developing and supporting open source software purely for the UK — software which would be entirely unencumbered by issues such as is it legal for kids to take a copy for home use, which document formats can be supported, and so on.

The software itself could have international applications, especially in the developing world, and would extend the useful life of schools' hardware. And as people left secondary school and moved into university, those going into computer science would have a much better understanding of how the stuff actually worked — it being open. That's one of the good things about kids: if you give them the chance, they can dig far deeper into something than you'd ever believe possible. Not always, of course, but if you don't give them the chance then you know they won't.

Of course, this won't happen. It's far too sensible and would annoy far too many powerful people. Educational IT suppliers are too deeply embedded with those who purchase the stuff to make a major transition cheap or easy, even if the political will and vision was there to make a start.

Still, a man can dream.

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