Portugal's ministry of Educations is advising schools in the country not to renew their licences for proprietary operating systems and office applications. The ministry, in its letter addressed to all schools in October, announced it would no longer refund these costs, a spokesperson for the ministry confirmed only yesterday.
"The Ministry of Education and Science suggested that schools do not renew the (proprietary) licenses for this year and next year. It announced it will not transfer to the schools' budgets the corresponding amount", the spokesperson explained. "However, schools are free to renew licenses by using their own funds."
The new policy is targeting 19,300 desktop computers, 31,500 laptops and 1,300 servers that were distributed to the country's schools between 2004 and 2007. All of these came included with proprietary software licences, to be renewed every year.
The ministry adds that, in 2009, schools received 111 thousand computers that have a perpetual license for using the proprietary software vendor's operating system and its other applications. For these PCs the new policy will not change anything.
The ministry thinks the new policy will help save 850.000 euro in the current school year. The schools all together paid 1.1 million euro in license fees to the proprietary software vendor during the school year 2009 to 2010, and 950,000 euro during the school year 2010 to 2011. "Assuming that each year the number of equipments in good working order decreases and the discount level of prices charged by the proprietary vendor is equivalent to the previous period, for this school year the amount would be in the order of 850,000 euro."
The ministry does not know how much money the schools have paid to renew the proprietary software licences before 2009, as these refunds were handled by regional directorates of education.
According to the spokesperson, since 2004 all computers in all schools in Portugal offer the user to choose, when starting the computer, between a proprietary configuration or one based on Linux and other free and open source applications. "The Ministry of Education has made an effort to create conditions for teaching and using ICT in a vendor independent, diverse system environment."
The ministry itself is also using open source applications, mostly for servers and other components of the IT infrastructure. "This type of software is not yet widespread on the desktop, although we several pilots have been conducted."
Publico news item (in Portuguese)