Free Software for All Schools in Russia
We've written before about how open source initiatives in schools could make it possible to do things like put a Linux notebook (or netbook) in the hands of every kid. England has made headlines for pushing many open source initiatives recently, but the big news this week is that Russia has mandated that all Russian schools must use free software. Are socialist leanings at work here, does this make sense, and will it work?
Computerworld U.K. offers up a translation from Google Translate of this post in Russian explaining the Russian mandate. The translation is a bit garbled but you get the picture:
"By the end of 2009, all school computers will be installed package of free software (PSPO). This is how transfers «Prime-TASS», today announced Minister of Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation Igor Shchyogolev at the plenary session--Information Society and the modern technologies of information--in the international exhibition InfoCom-2008."
And this translation follows:
"The Minister also noted that by 2010 it is expected that the number of computers in schools will reach a million. According to Schegoleva, after three years of school will be able to make a choice: pay royalties to use software products, buying them at their own expense, or go to the domestic free software."
Undoubtedly, the move in Russia toward free software will push schools toward open source software. The good news is that there are quite a few dedicated educational applications in the open source arena, including administrative types of applications.
As we've said before, there are many entrenched practices, prejudicial notions, and other barriers to this kind of mandate across school systems in the United States. Apple and the other usual suspects in technology for education have nowhere near the mindshare in Russia that they have here, though. Russia's experiment has a strong chance of saving school systems money, a reasonable chance of working, and many parts of the world will be watching this closely.