Proprietary software and youthful enthusiasm for digital tools combined with poverty, give rise to piracy and the solution is open source, says Mark Osborne, deputy principal of Albany Senior High School.
Planning the suite of software the school would need to give students a well-rounded experience of the potential of digital tools in their study and chosen career, would cost $8000 per PC, Osborne told guests at the dinner to present the Open Source Awards in Wellington recently. Albany Senior High School won the prize for open source use in education.
“Sure we could reduce that a bit by buying site licences,” he said. “But what that doesn’t do is let our learners install that software on every computer they have access to at home. Learning happens wherever the student is and the site licence doesn’t let them continue their learning. That’s particularly damaging for our Maori and Pacific Island students, who are over-represented in every poverty statistic.”
There are three choices for these students: “you could continue to underachieve; you could find $8000 and give it to a rich American or – and this is what happens most of the time – you could illegally copy the software.”
Schools turn a blind eye to that, Osborne says. “We also turn a blind eye to the fact that it was our choice of software that led them to make the choice they did – to commit an illegal act.”
Adopting open source does not only reduce or eliminate cost and allow the software to be installed on any computer; it also makes the school “part of a sustainable ecosystem of developers” who can be relied on to cater to new needs on the same open-source principle, Osborne said.
“We are paying good creative Kiwis to stay in New Zealand, rather than giving money to Cupertino or Redmond to attract those Kiwis offshore and possibly never have them return. We’re supporting our local ecosystem,” he says.