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NSW DET on netbook hiring spree

The NSW Department of Education and Training will hire hundreds of extra full-time IT staff to support the 220,000 netbooks to be deployed this year, but the fleet's operating system is yet to be announced.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The NSW Department of Education and Training will hire hundreds of extra full-time IT staff to support the 220,000 netbooks to be deployed this year, but the fleet's operating system is yet to be announced.

We're going to bring on at least 471 additional staff

NSW DET CIO Stephen Wilson

"We're going to bring on at least 471 additional staff," DET's chief information officer Stephen Wilson told ZDNet.com.au in a recent interview.

Support for the netbooks will be shared between the vendor that DET selects at the end of March and the department's internal resources.

Wilson said that the department was planning to introduce a "slick" system of automated processes to support the massive netbook deployment.

"We're planning on trying to make the processes around [support] — delivery, provisioning, swapping, warranty service, tracking ownership — as slick as possible. A lot of automation is going to be built into it," he said.

To put the size of the task ahead of DET's IT support team in context, the 220,000 netbook fleet is more than twice that managed by Defence, which currently supports around 100,000 desktops. "I don't think any other jurisdiction as large as ours has done this across the whole jurisdiction in the world. Giving people a personal sense of ownership over a device that they can take with them is a first," Wilson said.

"It's going to be very exciting. If you have a child in public education, no matter where they are in the state of NSW, they're going to be treated the same."

While the hardware deal has been whittled down to five vendors — ASUSTek, Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and ASI solutions — the operating system on the devices is yet to be decided. DET's current operating system is Windows XP.

Wilson said DET had avoided upgrading to Windows Vista after considering it, along with a Linux operating system in 2006 because it "found no compelling reason" to upgrade and change management costs were high.

"The reality is that we are happy with XP and the environment we have got and we didn't see any compelling reason to move forward. It's a huge change management issue for us if we change operating systems, so we don't take it lightly," he said. The story was different for Windows 7, however: Wilson said DET was "considering" Microsoft's incoming platform.

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