Advocates of free and open source are warning that the Greek government is going to waste millions of euro on proprietary software licences for the country's schools. They are calling on the Ministry of Education to cancel its latest procurement. "Favouring proprietary software while ignoring the potential of open source, constitutes a choking of the educational process."
The ministry published a request for tender in November, seeking suppliers of 26,400 laptops, 1760 servers and 1760 wifi access routers. The value of the contract is set at just over 15 million euro. The purchase will be partly financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The ministry is asking for laptops and servers that can run either a ubiquitous proprietary operating system or Linux. But, say the Greek Linux User Group (Greeklug) and Eel/lak, a Greek open source advocacy organisation founded by 25 universities and research centres, the technical requirements clearly favour proprietary solutions over open source. "The specification is a copy of the proprietary vendor's e-mail and office software."
The two groups have written separate letters to the ministry, protesting the favouring of proprietary software and to present alternative suggestions. "The ministry must avoid locking-in our schools.", says Kostas Mousafiris, vice-president of Greeklug. "We also want the ministry to follow Europe's procurement rules."
Eel/lak is asking the ministry to build on existing free open source projects for schools in Greece. Examples include a Greek school portal as well as educational projects started by the organisation itself.
Both are also appealing to the European Commission, hoping that Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes and Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn will pressure the ministry to correct the tender request. "To give free and open source a fair chance, the technical specification will have to be improved", the groups plead.
Mousafiris: "We do not expect that the ministry will ever reply to our letter. That is why we are also contacting the European Commission. We want at least a due diligence assessment of this tender."
Letter by Greeklug (pdf)
Ministry of Education's request for tender (in Greek)
Public letter by Ellak (pdf, in Greek)
Os Arena news item (in Greek)