According to a UK website The Inquirer Microsoft lawyers have stopped Becta, the UK’s technology quango for schools, from publishing the details of the three-year megadeal it agreed with Microsoft in April. It would appear that 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.”
“The documents are predominantly based on confidential material provided by Microsoft which was provided on the clear understanding that it would remain confidential,” said Becta.
According to the report, a UK analyst who asked not to be named, said it was possible to guestimate that UK schools spent about £55m a year on Microsoft software, based on a rare disclosure of a deal the NHS signed with Microsoft in 2004.
There has been growing concern in the public sector in the UK and Europe about the ways in which Microsoft might try to protect the monopoly it has in desktop software, for example, keeping its prices artificially high, which absorbs public money that could be spent elsewhere, and at the same time suppressing innovative competitors from breaking through. Yet open source software suppliers, which are the only credible competitors to Microsoft, give their software to schools for free.
Becta have launched a programme to get UK schools to adopt open source software, it is one which will allow one supplier, selected by tender, two years to build a community of schools which uses and develops its own open source alternatives to Microsoft software. So it would seem the UK government is at last opening its eyes to the benefits of Foss.