Five reasons that prevent my ‘school’ from adopting Open Source: (from a non-western perspective) May 30, 2007Posted by NAyK in Article Watch, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, Mac, News, Open Source, OpenOffice, Recommendation, Software, Windows, Working with Linux.
Recently the NZ government aggressively pushed the adoption (some say too early adoption) of open source software (NeoOffice) for their Macs (news-report here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10442388) I found this a fascinating discussion but in the end unrelated to my situation because while my heart goes out for the permeation of open source for the sanity of the global IT customer/user, my own school (in a non-western country) is ions away from moving towards open source awareness let alone adoption.
A bit about my ‘school’: My school (without naming names) is a small set-up for advanced learning; with about 50+ computers for faculty and students. All computers run Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP. All computers use Internet Explorer (except a few faculty who have chosen the adoption of Firefox. The Firefox option does not exist for the students). For office software, all student computers have Star Office 7. While the faculty have either Star Office or MS Word 2003 (education version). Some faculty have their own MS Office solutions, through OEM licensing when they bought with their laptops. The same is true for students with Laptops, though students with desktops (usually assembled of local one-room shops) may have some pirated software, but all MS oriented. In the entire campus, there is only one Mac, and that sits in the Publications Office.
There are at least five reasons why for the next five years my ‘school’ will probably still be dependent on Windows-based products and not touch anything from open source.
1. Our institution is not government funded, hence management policies are determined in-house and by the Board. While currently, finances are not preventing positive IT implementation, there are still enough financial constraints to give the impression/feeling that “we can’t take risks” with open source.
2. Since our IT supervisors (we outsource our IT solutions and support) are MS Windows oriented, their recommendations will obviously be Windows-based solutions. In fact, one deterrent for resisting the implementation of Linux in student computer labs is that, according to these IT-guys, the Windows server does not (cannot?) recognise which site a student on a Linux computer is browsing. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but in a school situation where internet monitoring is important, such arguments are clinchers.
3. Our management (raised in the generation of typewriters) is not IT friendly, and any adoption of new technology (even if it is windows-based) is not thought of positively. For example, out of all the faculty, I know only one has a blog. And that too he needs help to manage it. Of course there are exceptions; we have probably two-three IT geeks hidden in the faculty/management. But they are still in the Windows mold and trust Windows enough because it works for them.
4. There is also a false (in my view) impression that grammar check and spell check improves grammar and spelling. That is why, there has been a push for the adoption of Microsoft Office on all our student machines; because it has grammar check. (Currently we use Star Office). There is also the false impression that the software with more tools means greater productivity. In actual fact, neither student nor faculty, in my experiences, uses the computer for more than writing academic documents (which require footnotes, table of contents and indexing). Still, the idea of ‘better’ software is always, ‘potential’ to do more.
5. Finally, there is no understanding of open source philosophy. Open Source philosophy, of free (as in money) and free (as in for cooperation/transparency) is unheard of. Linux is probably just a catch-phrase out of context. And right now, people feel they have bigger and more important things to worry about than the operating system and software running on their computers. I say this because this lack of understanding of the ideology of Open Source exposes how despite being an advanced educational institute that focusses on the discussion/critique and development of ideological thinking among students, they fail to understand the ideology (and politics) that control their decision to continue with Microsoft, or the alternatives the lie, waiting for adoption.
In summary: as you can see, we’re far away from implementation. I almost wish that the government was funding our institution and would then force us to adopt something like what the New Zealand government is doing. But alas, I realise that even if our government was funding us, they will still push for Microsoft, because what is here below (the people) must reflect what is there above (our governments that reflect our people).