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Free Software in education survey in UK

Surveying Prism Reflector (cc-by 2.0)

Surveying Prism Reflector (cc-by 2.0)

The OSS Watch Research Technologies Service published their bi-yearly “National Software Survey 2010”.

I haven’t heard about it before and I didn’t even had the chance to read it thoroughly, but it looks as if it contains a lot of useful information. It would be good to have such a valuable resource in every European country. Does anybody know of similar projects? Another thing I like about it, is that it is licensed under CC-by 2.0 which allows me to quote rather extensively without a guilty conscience :). And the results are quite encouraging:

It sees

“an everincreasing awareness of the possibility of using open source software. There has been another big increase in the number of institutions that include the consideration of open source in their procurement policies, both in Higher Education and Further  Education.”

For the first time they conducted a separate background survey:

“the most striking results of the background survey was the responses to the question of whether they contributed to open source software. A much higher proportion of the respondents indicated that they contribute to open source software compared to the main survey (figure 8).
This is also especially true on the departmental level. When IT directors are unaware of their staff’s contributions, they have no knowledge of or control over these IP assets generated in their institution. This disconnect needs to be addressed in order to ensure copyright is being correctly managed in these contributions. While there are more contributions than directors know about, there are fewer policies that encourage and manage these contributions.”

I think it’s great news that educational institutions contribute to Free software even though they are not even encouraged to do so.

Although the authors of the report spoil that joy with a valid concern:

“This indicates a lack of policy towards managing open source engagement. How do we know the staff member is allowed to contribute to an open source project? Who owns the copyright in these cases? Is the staff member liable when there is a dispute? Lack of a managed contribution policy can expose institutions to legal risk.

On the other hand, respondents are expecting more deployments of open source software on their IT infrastructure (figures 16 and 30). This makes it even more urgent that engagement with open source projects is addressed by the IT management. This needs to be done both in the job description of the IT staff as well as in the day-to-day management of their work.”

Very interesting are the reasons why institutions don’t migrate to Free Software. The often mentioned TOC do not appear among the top 5 of reasons, instead ‘interoperability and migration problems’ are. A subject FSFE has been working on for years.

“Other reasons given are largely issues of education and supplier availability.”

which goes hand in hand with

“The survey shows that there is now a real opportunity for open source suppliers to build offerings suitable for the sector.”

That’s good news, too! Is there anywhere a list of companies that offer support for educational institutions using Free Software? If not, we could start one in the Fellowship wiki.