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Richard Rothwell [opinions]

UK Agency snubs free software community

fsmsh.com/2895 [free-software-uk-community-education]

Early in May Becta, the UK government agency charged with helping schools in their use of ICT, released a tender to support 'open source' adoption in UK schools. Several organisations decided to tender, and of the four short-listed, three covered a very large part of the communities and companies that have been involved in the field to date. On Thursday Becta announced that it had awarded the contract the the fourth bidder.

There is more detail on the Register.

On Friday at least two of the failed bidders were approached by the winner looking to recruit some expertise in 'open source'. As you can imagine there is complete outrage in the community.

Now, if the bidders had been inexperienced groupings then the award of the contract might have been understandable, but one of the failed bidders contracts to JISC - which provides leadership in the use of ICT to UK universities; a second was backed by Red-Hat, and the third was backed by Canonical and Schoolforge UK - a grass roots organisation that has been working in this area for around 5 years.

I was part of one of the failed submissions and I would have been disappointed had it gone to one of the other two well established bids, but for it to go to a group who clearly have not got the capabilities to deliver it makes me furious. The question now seems to be is there anyway that this Quango will ever understand or be able to work with the free software community? They have made overtures in the past, only to disappear behind bureaucratic walls. I believe the saying is "fool me once, fool on you; fool me twice, fool on me".

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