New Zealand's schools to get open source for less

The New Zealand government has signed a deal with Novell that will give 2,600 schools across the country access to Linux servers and desktops for a reduced price

The number of schools in New Zealand using open source software is likely to increase following a deal struck between the country's Ministry of Education and software provider Novell.

Last week's deal allows 2,600 state schools in New Zealand to use Novell's software, including its SuSE Linux server and desktop operating systems, for a reduced price.

Douglas Harré, a senior ICT consultant from the Ministry of Education, said this is likely to encourage schools to migrate to open source software. "Novell's support for open source software will allow the increasing number of schools wishing to use such software to feel comfortable in making such a decision," said Harré in a statement.

The deal lets schools buy an annual licence for individual Novell software products for around NZ$99 (£38) per server, according to news site Harré reportedly said this change in pricing is necessary to ensure Novell and Microsoft products are comparably priced.

"What we want to do is level the playing field," he told "Novell's numbers have been trending downward in the face of Microsoft software, and in schools that has been exacerbated by the fact that there's been a Microsoft deal for schools but not a Novell deal."

Over 600 schools in New Zealand already run open source software on servers, but open source desktops are rare, Harre added.

Schools can save a considerable amount of money by switching from proprietary software to open source software, according to a report released in May by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association. The report found that primary schools could cut computer costs by nearly half if they stopped buying, operating and supporting products from proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft.