Over the past week I've been working with colleagues in the Open Source community on drafting a letter to the DPM and Minister for Education calling for greater consideration of Free and Open Source Software in the rollout of the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund.
The letter has been published in full on IDG's techworld site, and syndicated widely through tech news feeds.
When I first heard about the pledge during last year's election campaign, to ensure every student in years 9-12 would have access to a computer at school, I thought "This is big". Significant. Important. Whilst I've been disheartened by the argy bargy with the states on how much extra it's going to cost them, it is an opportunity to promote the benefits of open source in education.
Generally, I've found the cost arguments for adopting FOSS fall on deaf ears in education. There are other blocking factors at work. Educators and edu administrators generally want to hear about the impact on learning outcomes and ongoing support.
But at this moment in time, when Total Cost of Ownership is squarely on the table, Cost is the key factor. And as the cost of hardware has dropped, and the cost of an operating system and productivity suite has remained the same - the ratio cost of Software to Hardware has shifted significantly.
The new class of teensy notebooks such as the eeepc have been dubbed "ultra-mobile" PCs. These are brilliant tools for the classroom for basic computing tasks. They are also light on power consumption, take up very little space and easy to move from classroom to classroom.
What's not in the letter - is all the other benefits of open source for education. We've started to put together a briefing document that outlines the key benefits - much has already been written, so this just needs to be clear and concise.
But we need to step up. The Australian Open Source Industry needs to follow up with resources, training and support designed for the ed sector.