Schools to benefit from £30m open source project, first in UK

The government has launched the UK’s first national open source project, the National Digital Resource bank.

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The government has launched the UK’s first national open source project, the National Digital Resource bank.

The NDRB, based on technology used in Spanish schools, enables schools to create, search for and share digital content online, thanks to a new open source platform.

It will be managed by the North West Learning Grid – a consortium of 2,000 schools – and technical support will be provided by open source specialist Sirius, which is the provider of open source software to UK schools.

Speaking at the launch, schools minister Jim Knight called it a “landmark project”. Some £30 million will be allocated to the scheme, but operational costs are estimated to be less than £400,000 per year.

Resources on the site will range from tutorials, activities and interactive games covering entire courses to individual photographs, audio clips and worksheets.

Sirius said the open source project serve as an example on how to reduce the risks associated with national IT projects, as well as make them more affordable.

"The National Digital Resource Bank is the first nationwide project that relies on open source software, open standards and open content," said Mark Taylor, CEO, Sirius Corporation.

"The scale and ambition of this project has been made possible by of free and open source software. Being tied into a commercially licensed platform would have restricted the NDRB's ability to scale. It would have been just too expensive."

The NDRB is based upon Agrega, a content repository system used in Spanish schools and funded by Spain’s government. Agrega was released under the European Union Public Licence, EUPL, as part of a licence under GNU GPL v2.

Gary Clawson, chief executive at the North West Learning Grid said the NDRB solved the problem where schools had been “unable to share resources with other schools because of different technical solutions implemented across different Local Authorities”.

Open source in public sector projects has been a hot topic of debate after the government said it was "levelling the playing field" for open source suppliers.

Read the Sirius blog here.

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