In the wake of the collapse of the government's software licensing negotiations with Microsoft, the Ministry of Education is still confident of getting a good deal for schools.
Microsoft has a good record of offering substantial discounts to educational establishments worldwide, says Douglas Harre, ICT specialist at the ministry.
The education sector’s Microsoft deal, currently in negotiation, is worth about two-and-a-half times the G2009 government-Microsoft programme, Harre says.
Negotiations toward the G2009 three-year all-of-government deal collapsed last week, but brought reassurances from Microsoft that discounts will still be available to government agencies.
The failure of G2009 does not faze the education sector, Harre says; “the two are completely distinct.” While there is a larger volume of software licences in the educational deal there is a smaller range. “We don’t need the high-end server-based software and the applications to support tasks like conferencing.”
The latest education deal is due to be concluded “in the next month or two”, Harre says.
The education sector is not as wedded to Microsoft as are mainstream government agencies; the ministry has parallel negotiations with a number of other vendors, notably Apple.
On another front, Harre says he is pleased with the $34m allocation in the Budget to help make schools ready for nationwide broadband deployment. This continues a project begun in 2005 which has so far installed or extended LANs in about 460 of the nation’s 2600 schools.
Some schools have no internal broadband network; “others may have cabling, but not in their science block, so the physics teacher can’t run that simulated 3D experiment from the university in Boston,” Harre says.
Deployment started with the rural schools that had no cabling because that exercise is easier than extending an existing network, Harre says. The next phase, financed under the latest Budget, will start on urban schools in centres designated for the $1.5b government-backed broadband deployment.