Abolish BECTA Now

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Is it too much to ask that British taxpayers be allowed to know how much we are paying our Microsoft overlords for the pleasure of having them corrupt young children's minds? Apparently, it is:

Reprisals from Microsoft lawyers has stopped Becta, the UK's technology quango for schools, from publishing the details of the three-year megadeal it agreed with Microsoft in April.

Microsoft already forbids Becta from saying how much money UK schools spend on its software. The US multinational has also forbidden the British people from knowing how much it is charging their schools for its software.

Ouch, that Microsoft is right *hard*. But wait, there's more:

Becta refused to satisfy a Freedom of Information request made by the INQUIRER for details of the latest Microsoft schools megadeal, "after consultation with Microsoft."

Neat: Microsoft's diktat now trumps UK Freedom of Information requests.

I do realise that it's too much to hope that Becta will take open source seriously, but I wonder if it has ever crossed Becta's chosen minds that putting themselves in this position of snivelling dependence on Microsoft isn't actually the optimum way to get the best deal for UK schools – even for those benighted enough to want to bathe their charges in the delicate glow of BSODs. Has it ever occurred to them that if they started negotiating from a position of dignity and strength, rather than abject, supine servitude, they might just possibly do their job a teensy-weensy bit better?

Microsoft is scared witless by the prospect of open source getting a foothold in schools, and would agree to any deal rather than let the UK education system discover the power and value of free software. Becta is actually in an incredibly strong position, and yet somehow manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The idea that "our future negotiating position with Microsoft would be weakened" if it dared to cross Masher Microsoft, as it has claimed to The Inquirer, is simply risible, and shows how desperately out of touch it is with the realities of the marketplace. The sooner this particular quango is abolished, and decisions are made locally, the better.