Breakthrough: Open Source Firm Official Supplier to British Schools

Sep 26, 2008

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), the government body with the mission of "Leading next generation learning," has for the first time included Open Source enterprises on their list of official software and IT service suppliers for the nation's schools.

At the same time, the Becta agency collaborated with the British Office for Government Commerce (OGC) to create a Software for Educational Institutions Framework agreement. The framework will replace the current software licensing scheme with a new one starting in October. Becta selected 12 suppliers for the new framework agreement. Included on this list is Sirius Corporation, a British Open Source solutions provider. Becta will sign formal agreements with the suppliers and British schools are to orient themselves to the new list over the next four years. About £80 million worth of business is expected, "delivering significant savings over what could be achieved via ad-hoc procurement mechanisms."

"The Inquirer" newspaper considers the new Becta suppliers list an "historic UK breakthrough" for Open Source. Mark Taylor, president of Sirius, confirms this assessment. Educational bodies had been reluctant to adopt Open Source solutions while they were absent from the approved list. Now, Taylor says, there is a strong pressure on schools and regional bodies to make their purchasing budgets comply with the new agreement.

Becta had become increasingly skeptical of Microsoft. Beginning of the year, the agency discouraged schools from migrating to Windows Vista. They were also strongly against ISO approval of Microsoft's OOXML document format and recommended the existing Open Document Format (ODF) instead.

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