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Government (Education) Lockin
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nordle
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 12:52 am    Post subject: Government (Education) Lockin Reply with quote

Info for everyone, but particularly for linuxgirle, just in case you didn't see this:

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/05/06/133233&from=rss

I work in a gov organisation, and can safely say that without POLITICAL WILL, nothing will change. It sounds obvious, but most people forget that politics effects EVERY department within gov. An ICT manager cannot simply change the platform, or dramatically shift it anyway, not very easily at all. "Guidance" is passed down from above, and these recipients (managers) are generally decent people, not without their faults of course, but those that would love to roll with OSS cannot really. There are quotas, guidance, guidlines, funding provided with strings etc

These guidlines wont change either, because of the large contributions of money and FUD that big business personnally deliver to the top. The ONLY likely way of changing this, is if gov devolves more power, and departments band together to try and gain greater economies of scale and resource, more cooperative contracts. The only way that would happen is if they feel its in their interest to do so, ie more cash coming from pro OSS places like HP, IBM, Oracle, Novell, Redhat etc and perhaps more imprtantly, the general public demanding better value for money as a top priority. The change needs to be instigated from MP level, not departmental manger level.

So here's the thing, why not take 20mins of your time and write to your MP explaining your thoughts on why software patents are bad for Europe, you want better value for money, and how OSS can help achieve this by lowering support costs to front line services, and how OSS can help drive innovation in the public sector without the need for vendor lockin.
Ok I haven't actually done this either, but now 050505 is over I think its a good time to start increasing the pressure in certain areas, as a lot of the energies have previously been aimed at large private sector and also the home user. Lets not forget, the gov is the largest employer in this country.
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guy
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 7:16 pm    Post subject: RE: Government (Education) Lockin Reply with quote

The UK government does seem to be making slow moves in the right direction.

Passionate advocacy of best value among what we might call the committed left sits ill with the kind of big-boy deals that have delivered so many public IT fiascos in recent years. Although an American-owned systems company, EDS, has taken much public blame for their involvement, this is not entirely fair. They just played the game they were offered, better that the competition did. It's not their fault that the game was rotten to the core. Politicians and bureaucrats are beginning to wise up and realise that they have a responsibility for the rules of the game they offer.

The idea of "best value" is already working its way through the monstrously slow bureacratic machinery. Here's a recent article decribing a new quango report that promotes OSS in schools:
http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2005/04/25/open_source_school/

And here's something about the government-funded Open Source Academy for promoting OSS in local government.

Writing to your MP is certainly a good idea, but the emphasis should be on conforming to the emerging government requirements for best value, not on preaching revolution.

As a freelance consultant, I can assure you that elsewhere in UK gov, GNU/Linux and free/OSS generally continue to gain ground. At least some organisations view Win2003/XP/Office2003 with mistrust as a viable upgrade path; licensing costs, lock-in, application insecurity, and fears over hidden migration and support costs all play their part. Once bitten, twice shy (or in the case of bureaucrats, 100 times bitten, 101 times shy). Smile

Patience is a virtute.
Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.
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nordle
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 10:53 pm    Post subject: Re: RE: Government (Education) Lockin Reply with quote

guy wrote:
The idea of "best value" is already working its way through the monstrously slow bureacratic machinery.

Writing to your MP is certainly a good idea, but the emphasis should be on conforming to the emerging government requirements for best value, not on preaching revolution.


Absolutely, its about making real improvements through technological progress and cost reductions, preaching revolutions is certainly a turn off.

Best value has been in opperation for several years, unfortunately with regard to ICT it was best value within a reasonably rigid framework. Best value for the most part has now taken a back seat to achieving certain acreditations under CPA (Comprehensive Performance Assesment). But its all of a similar thing.

One of the problems is, that some decision makers, or those who can at least influence decisions, are not aware of OSS and how it can actually improve the current situations. MS for instance are constantly spreading FUD through top levels of gov, with regular contact with the DTI. I just get the impression that its a tad one sided at the moment and some information sent to your MP might at least make them think a little more about an issue which probably hasn't been on their radar.

Currently, as time moves on, more sections become further embedded in proprietry solutions. Take the eGov policy for instance, that all gov bodies be able to offer electronic services by a certain date, this meant that approx 3-4 years ago various processes were initiated to look into solutions based on the guidlines of the funding given, massive grants were dished out to address these targets. Now, 3 years down the line, a lot of sections have committed themselves to XP + Office 2003 + .NET + IIS + Sharepoint + active directory etc These are technologies which are unlikely to be replaced in the next 7 -10 years, and can only contribute to vender lock-in because in that time more internal systems/processes will be added in line with these technologies. Making it far more costly in migrating systems and training.

Im not suggesting that OSS is the saviour of mankind, or that it fits every situation better than a proprietry solution, of course it depends on the situation. But I think it would be a good thing for politicians to have it brought to their attention a little more that OSS exists and can provide a great many real benefits.
As I mentioned previously, there is very little co-operation and joint ventures, there are some but they are very limited. With the size of gov there should be more oppertunities for collabrative projects, with a more coherant strategy which could help to achieve better value for money. Hence a quick note to an MP saying we want better value for money, here are some reasons for OSS, and the reasons why patents could do damage to these real advantages. Dont forget the Labour and the Conservatives support software patents (Lib Dems voted against patents, but its unlikely that they will be in power any time soon, but its still I good idea to contact them as with their slightly increase numbers they might have a little more muscle now).

UK Gov lags behind in Open Source:
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/linuxunix/0,39020390,39185010,00.htm
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M0PHP
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 11:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As long as MS are still slipping the government some money and they remain largely unaware of OSS, then MS will still be here for quite a while Evil or Very Mad
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guy
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2005 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More good news:

The Register reports that Local councils get the hots for Linux. Smile

And the latest TES (Times Educational Supplement - the Big Read for education) has a front-page spread on the quango report I mentioned earlier, and how OSS can save primary and secondary schools half their IT budgets. Very Happy

So anyone having trouble with their own local authority or school governors/head of IT now has plenty of ammunition to set before them. Laughing
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andychannelle
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2005 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi All

Posted this as news on the front page, just in case someone happens by and doesn't get as far as this thread!

AndyC
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nordle
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2005 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guy, this news got the /. treatment too:
http://slashdot.org/articles/05/05/08/1732213.shtml?tid=146&tid=98&tid=201
which followed on from Friday's
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/05/06/133233&from=rss

As someone pointed out, they are concentrating on that fact that they can educate kids and it costs less, they are zeroing in on the cost aspect rather than all the other elements. But then this is the killer aspect that gets people with budgets interested in the first place, its all good.

It will be interesting to see if they do a Newham, I'm thinking maybe not with the real pressures on budgets, if the numbers add up this could be more than just leverage.

But to be honest, as others have said, are computers really that important in Primary education? Linux seems to fit the bill very well, it adds to the landscape of computers & IT, increasing the variety, also saves the school much needed cash. Lets face it, do 4 -10 year olds really need 400 of O/S and Office on their machines, of course not. At that age, surely there are more important aspects of education, computers should really be a small part.
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Nigel
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2005 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nordle wrote:
But to be honest, as others have said, are computers really that important in Primary education?



Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

And Yes again

Notwithstanding the amount of ICT on the National Curriculum, Primary education is about giving children the tools to enable them to learn at secondary school. IE Reading, writing, basic numeracy and, these days, basic computing skills. By which I mean basic word processing, layout skills, familiarity with spreadsheets and some graphics/paint skills. And familiarity with keyboard, mouse and a typical gui.

Kids learn very quickly at primary age. They have no problems picking up Windows in all it's flavours, Mac-OS, Linux or whatever. It's the teachers that have the problems !
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andychannelle
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. My children (4 & 6) have grown used to the fact that when they sit down at a PC in our house it may have Windows, OS-X or one of a handful of Linux flavours on it. What they understand is that the FireFox icon is for websites, OOo is for writing/party invites and GIMP is for painting, and they really don't need much beyond that at the moment.

GCompris has also been great at getting the kids used to the fine mouse control needed for more sophisticated jobs.

AndyC
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linuxgirlie
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, spoken about twice on this forum already...my ears must be burning!!

I think that you do need a 3 pronged attack. One from the top(be it as far up as gov or the headteacher)...one from the bottom(techies, network manager) and one from the middle (the Students!!). I ''give up'' my office at lunch to year 10/11 who have two of the old RM servers that use to run the school...(I'm still in shock that this school was run on 2 servers, we now have 8!!)...and from this 7 now use just Linux at home and 5 dual-boot. I have no end of moaning about when will we be moving over etc etc

As andy said, my partner has two children, aged 8 and 9, at home they have a computer with windows 98, when they come round ours we only have Linux, so they both get a computer each and either write, play games or go on the internet with no problems, they have not one asked why is this different etc etc, and have always just got on with it!!

Jo
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guy
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nordle wrote:
...are computers really that important in Primary education? ... At that age, surely there are more important aspects of education, computers should really be a small part.


They are as important as learning to write and to be polite to grown-ups. There are not many jobs that don't require all three skills. Playing games is an important way to develop them, as all good primary teachers know.

IMHO computers are of value in the nursery too. I designed these ages ago:



It's amazing where you can take the mind of a little one, before thay can even use keyboards or mice.
Any nice educationalists and/or venture capitalists reading this? Wink
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nordle
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Learning to write has got to be more important than learning to use a computer for a child at primary school.

How many people, myself included, now cannot spell, have handwriting that a Doctor would be proud of (its totally illegible), have buggered vision, can do minimal amounts of math in my head before diving for kCalc
Does it matter? If everything is computerized, who cares that in some areas the levels of litteracy and numeracy are falling, I can use spellcheck in office, its got a thesaurus too. Is too much emphasis put in writing and numeracy skills?
Writing and arithmatic are out the window, give it another 10 years when voice recognition is mainstream, and we wont bother to read either, not since the 1800's will there be so many people who can't read and write. Ok I probably exagerate a lot, but most of the poeple I know who are <25 have poor skills, and those <20 are awful.

The problem is that computers help you to learn how to use computers, but thats about it, there should not be a dissproportionate amount of budget spent on computers compared to staff, recruiting/training and retention of quality staff, not covering classes with temps who change every week etc etc If there are small class sizes, quality trained staff, books and other physical resources then sure spend the extra on computing equipment.

Im not saying dont use computers in primary schools, but there should not be excessive bias placed on them either. If one argument is that employers need employees with computer skills, no problem, but how different are computers and software going to be by the time a primary schoool kid actually gets a job, I was using BBC micros and Grannies Garden at Primary school, by the time I got an office job it was P3-1000 and Win2000. Things have changed now of course, but how long will it be before job applicants are filled in online with things like:

What skills would you bring to the position?
I d bst skilz in mi yr mi m8s all dun wers + i av finishd duke nukem 4ever in 2 dayz, l8rs.
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linuxgirlie
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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't start, I once had to help my partner mark ICT mock exams and we had around 5 pupils who wrote there whole exam that way.

Nordle I take offence at your facts I'm 21 on June the 1st and pretty sure I haven't got poor or awful skills (or should that be skillz) Wink
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towy71
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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

linuxgirlie wrote:
around 5 pupils who wrote there whole exam that way.

Nordle I take offence at your facts I'm 21 on June the 1st and pretty sure I haven't got poor or awful skills (or should that be skillz) Wink


I rest my case m'lud

I'm sorry but I read so many websites/blogs etc., and I do worry that people who should know better don't but that is their problem NOT it is all our problem, my children (all over 25) laugh at my text messages because I spell all the words and use punctuation and the occassional emoticon Wink and I have to phone and ask when their txts hv vwls mssng Laughing gr8 innit

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linuxgirlie
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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Wink I'll try to write better when I'm not doing about 30 other things at the same time!!
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