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IT News Thread, BECTA Open source snub in UK schools in Other News; ...
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    BECTA Open source snub in UK schools

    Open source snub in UK schools - The INQUIRER

    Becta awards unknown with advocacy deal


    THE OPEN SOURCE community was bitterly disappointed today after the UK appointed an unknown consultancy to run an historic programme of advocacy in schools.

    International big hitters had piled behind UK open source houses bidding for a Becta contract to set up an open source community in the schools sector. It was seen as a breakthrough - an indication that convicted monopolist Microsoft was losing its grip on the sector.

    But Becta gave the open source community an almighty slap in the face when it turned down their three bids and awarded the business to a consultancy with no links to the open source community, said representatives of the community.

    Becta said in a written statement today: "Bids were invited and, following an evaluation process, the contract has been awarded to The Alphaplus Consultancy (Manchester)."

    It did not say why Alphaplus had been chosen over a line-up of prime open source bidders, but Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium, and whose consultancy Sirius bid for the work, said it was a mistake.

    "They've chosen the worst possible candidate because [Alphaplus] have no open source experience whatsoever," said Taylor.

    "The project is about open source in schools. Unless you have open source people in there, its nonsense," he said.

    John Winkley, a director of Alphaplus, said he wanted to clear his comments with Becta before saying what his firm could bring to the UK's schools open source community.

    But he refuted the allegation that Alphaplus wasn't qualified to do the work: "I think we are and BECTA clearly think we are," he said.

    The open source community has long complained that the odds were stacked against them in the UKs public sector, with favour in contract competitions going to companies with traditional structures and those allied with incumbent technology suppliers on the Microsoft platform.

    Their assertion that procurement quangos like Becta and the Office of Government Commerce fail to understand the benefit of the collaborative, distributed nature of the open source community will become louder after this contract award.

    Despite only offering £270,000 for two years work, the concerted weight of the world's open source industry stood behind the three open source bids for the work, the Schools Open Source Project.

    The Sirius bid was backed by Red Hat, the pioneering open source software cowpowayshen, and pulled in million of Euros of development backed by the European Commission.

    Another sidelined bid by The Learning Machine, an open source schools specialist, was backed by Canonical, the organisation behind Ubuntu, the ground-breaking open source operating system.

    Yet another, was put forward by Open Source Software Watch, a not-for-profit organisation that already co-ordinates open source development in the Higher Education sector. OSS-watch pulled Eduforge, the world's largest repository of open source educational software, into its bid, along with one of the backers of Moodle, an open source software system that made great advances in the education sector around the world.

    Becta noted its growing challenge to Microsoft in the education sector. It has advised schools not to upgrade to the latest versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office desktop software, and has complained about the firm's licensing practices and technology to the Office of Fair Trading and anti-trust police at the European Commission.

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    It couldn't possibly be political or have anything to do with back-handers.

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    Wow. What did Becta use to choose this company?! Random finger on a page? What a mess. Any of the other 3 companies were way more qualified to deal with the task.

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    [cynic hat] Could it be that the other bidders had influential backers who had just as many personal/private agendas that despite the "opensource" label are still worth big bucks [/cynic hat]

    I don't know even 10% of the details but if you want a clean report then you want a consultancy that has an interest in getting the information right and doesn't have any preceding backers or interests to get in the way. Perhaps that's why they got it.

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    Quackers's Avatar
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    How can BECTA expect us to have any respect for them, or take anything they say as without laughing when they do things like this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by contink View Post
    I don't know even 10% of the details but if you want a clean report then you want a consultancy that has an interest in getting the information right and doesn't have any preceding backers or interests to get in the way. Perhaps that's why they got it.
    Or perhaps the reason is that BECTA have used them before. The company did some work for BECTA on e-portfolios.

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    Quote Originally Posted by openhgs View Post
    Or perhaps the reason is that BECTA have used them before. The company did some work for BECTA on e-portfolios.
    Are you suggesting that they are old buddies, and that this wasn't a fair and transparent use of public funds !

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    webman's Avatar
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    Do you think the "evaluation process" would be provided under a FOI request?

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    contink's Avatar
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    Good gried I love the paranoia that somehow becomes endemic in this sort of thing... As soon as you mention Opensource and the person chosen to check it out isn't a champion of the cause all hell breaks loose.

    Surely it's counter intuitive to choose a champion of the cause, specifically causes of companies that have a vested interest, to be at the helm of this? As much as anything else because they may not be able to see the wood for the trees much less any underhand goings on. And perhaps it helps if the company have worked with Becta before and who knows, may have provided a detailed, well thought out, evidence based review?

    Seriously, it'd be nice to actually have some evidence that this decision was a bad thing before it's just ass-u-med to be such..


    ... and yes, yes I know, I make assumptions as much as the next guy but please it'd be nice to get some info other than a quote from someone who lost the bidding process.

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    webman's Avatar
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    This move is akin to a building company employing Subway to help build houses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by contink View Post
    Seriously, it'd be nice to actually have some evidence that this decision was a bad thing before it's just ass-u-med to be such..
    Theres a breakdown of the scoring process for a bid in this thread:
    BECTA - Schoolforge-UK Discussions | Google Groups

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    BECTA make another stupid decision! What's new? Who makes these pathetic decisions at the top? Do they not stop and think to evaluate? Market Research even?

    It reminds me of when Vista was released and BECTA turned around to say "We don't think it is a good idea to upgrade to Vista..." Well, along those lines anyway.

    The point is, software in most schools is so far behind enough already to have an organisation like BECTA come in and make decisions like this and statements like above. Not helping the eventual progression of students into industry (or the real world in most sectors) at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    Theres a breakdown of the scoring process for a bid in this thread:
    BECTA - Schoolforge-UK Discussions | Google Groups
    Well, based on that it seems the paranoia is somehow deserved... Thanks for providing the intel' CN

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    Quote Originally Posted by contink View Post
    Well, based on that it seems the paranoia is somehow deserved...
    I don't see how you make that conclusion, but I guess it is difficult to tell without seeing the winning bid, but suffice to say the loosing bidder does have a track record in producing open learning materials, and in promoting OSS. The contract wasn't to investigate OSS, it was to produce learning resources and promote OSS in schools.

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    The register has some more information:
    Becta schools deal stuns British open-istas | The Register



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