EUR 38 million PC and software tender will not be cancelled
The autonomous region of Extremadura (Spain) is committed to the use of open source in schools, the new Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) government says in a statement published on Monday. However, the administration will not cancel the EUR 38 million request for PC hardware and proprietary software licences, published by its predecessor.
The procurement includes a request for licences for specific brands and products of proprietary operating systems and office productivity solutions. Spanish and European procurement rules forbid making such requests. The Extremadura school board is also seeking to purchase new hardware, including licences for proprietary operating systems.
According to the Extremadura government statement, a maximum of 9 per cent of the EUR 38 million will be spent on proprietary software licences. Most of the funds, 88 per cent, will be spent on new computer hardware.
The past weeks, the new government has been meeting with the free software advocates that protested the procurement plans. The groups fear that the contract will end the region’s well-known use of free and open source software in schools. Some 60,000 workstations and 33,000 laptops in the region's primary and secondary schools run on open source software.
A spokesperson for the region’s Ministry of Education emphasises that the proprietary software will only be used when no other options are available. In its statement, the Ministry says the proprietary software is required for its vocational training centres.
The assurances fail to allay the fears of those protesting the procurement request. One of these groups, the Extremadura Focus Initiative, met with the ministry last week. The NGO president, José Antonio León, says the ministry does not want to cancel the procurement request, fearing claims from bidders. “We will continue to explain the benefits of free software. There is nothing else we can do.”
The Extremadura school board’s procurement request will be funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). On 1 July, an ERDF spokesperson confirmed that the organisation has contacted the region to check the request’s compliance with procurement rules. The school board over the past few weeks has not responded to questions if the bid would be cancelled if there is a risk that the ERDF will not fund it.