Education, Linux and the BRIC

Some interesting news this week from Russia, where a Linux pilot may see all Russian schools switching over to the open source by the end of the year

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Education, Linux and the BRIC (Getty Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 29, 2009

Some interesting news this week from Russia, where a Linux pilot may see all Russian schools switching over to the open source by the end of the year.

The project will see three schools trying out Linux, in order to save cash and to limit the use of pirated software, and if the move is successful, reports claim that all schools in the country will switch to Linux and open source software by the end of the year.

Russia isn’t alone in developing economies in adopting Linux in the public sector – in fact it’s the last of the BRIC countries to give official support for Linux in the education sector. China, Brazil and India have all seen government support for Linux, particularly in education, since the middle of this decade.

Government support for Linux may not have made much of a dent in Microsoft’s share of the desktop space, with most counties still showing a continued preference for Windows. But by taking alternative operating systems into schools, a generation of students is being exposed to open source and is learning that there is an alternative to Windows.

There are lots of commercial reasons still to use Windows or Unix if needs be, but for the education sector, even with added incentives for schools and colleges that are offered by many of the big IT vendors to use their products, or include them in the curriculum, you have to go a long way to beat free software.

But of course, it raises the question, of why haven’t any governments in the Gulf shown the same level of support for open source as other emerging markets? There are quite a few projects at individual schools and colleges, but no initiative, that I know of, to favor open source. Perhaps with a tightening of belts and a growing focus on improving the standard of education in state institutions in the region, we might see a change in the situation. Aside from any consideration of 'vendor' preference, to ignore open source in education is to ignore computing skills for students, and takes up budget that could be spent elsewhere.

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