In a report published today Becta, the government agency responsible for advising schools on technology, has been accused of blocking schools from meeting their carbon emissions targets and limiting choice in the procurement of ICT solutions. The Becta Procurement Framework, a list of preferred ICT suppliers, is labelled a 'closed shop' that promotes 'business cronyism' and forces schools to buy expensive, power-hungry technologies that do little to prepare students for the workplace.
How are we going to break out of this vicious circle of inefficient software being used on inefficient hardware if there are no open source suppliers allowed to bid?
The report's author, Dr. John Spencer said: “Whilst Becta's official advice is for schools not to update to Vista or Office 2007, they can not present new, greener technology alternatives to schools because their favoured procurement partners offer nothing more than the usual Microsoft owned or affiliated software.
“Rather than simplify the process of technology procurement in schools Becta is holding back desparately needed modernisation in ICT.
“Vista and Office 2007 are expensive to license and often require schools to invest in more power hungry hardware to work. Very few businesses are adopting them because they offer little additional value to users. The same is true of students.
“Becta's advice is the stick with what they have, Windows XP and Office 2000. But how does this prosaic position address the need for schools to lower ICT costs and reduce their carbon footprint?
“Becta's current advice amounts to little more than switching off PCs at night, using less air-conditioning and reducing paper consumption. They choose not to recommend greener, better-value technology solutions.
“Given the existence of proven alternatives to the status quo, Becta's advice is indicative of a moribund quango that is limiting positive change in school's ICT.
The frightening thing is that exactly the same situation obtains in the world of government IT in the UK. It's a systemic failing that is holding back open source uptake in this country, with huge knock on effects in terms of costs and failed implementations.