11 October 2007

To Russia, With Love

The story about a large-scale implementation of GNU/Linux systems in Russian schools surfaced recently, but it was all rather vague, so I didn't write about it then. Now the Beeb has done the business and got some facts:

Schoolchildren in Russia are to be taught using the free, open-source Linux software in an effort to cut the cost of teaching information technology.

By 2009, all computers in Russian schools are to be run on Linux - which means they will not have to pay for a licence for software, such as Microsoft's Windows.

Aside from the fact that all those Russky proto-hackers are to be given a training in free software from their tender years, I was also pleased to note one of the main spurs for taking this route:

Alexey Smirnov, Director General of the Company ALTLinux, said that schools formerly tended to run illegal copies of Microsoft operating systems, but after Russia entered the WTO, the laws became much stricter and schools began to be prosecuted for doing so.

Two-edged sword this WTO, eh?

Rather like India, Russia has the potential to become a major open source powerhouse; the present scheme will do much to realise that, although it is likely to take a few years before the results become evident.


asgard (Dan Kruchinin) said...

hello, i'm living in russia and i can say that situation with open-source isn't as good as you think.

yes, there is a little group of enthusiasts that tries to make some changes on the software front: guys form altlinux, from linuxcenter and lone linux fans, but their efforts are frequently useless =(

yes, we also have a little number of schools and universities, that were moved to open-source software, but not in the most significant(in economic point) cities like moscow or saint-petersburg.

the most major problem is a mindset. 99% of russians were accustomed to have *free* windows on their machines, because software piracy was evolved verty much in russia. so every man could go to any software shop and bue cd with windows or win soft for about 3-5$!
and they even don't know that this software cost thousand dollars. moreover, 90% of users in russia use piracy windows now and goverment knows about it, but doesn't make any actions.

our(russian) government don't even understand how can it get money from open source. and if it can't get money from oss, it thinks, that such software is "a priori" bad.

when guys in our goverment "reviewed" ooxml and odf, they prefered ooxml. but they didn't make full review of this standard, they just approved it because(i think) they got money from m$.

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for the insight, even it's rather depressing. So you don't think the AltLinux project is going to roll out very far?

asgard (Dan Kruchinin) said...

So you don't think the AltLinux project is going to roll out very far?

i think that some(not all) goverment and education organisation will be moved to linux or to licensed windows, but this action won't be global. russia had a big problem with piracy and all thought that all is ok, until russia dicided to join to the WTO. and all steps to oss had a public character. our goverment wanted to show to the other world that "we are good guys, we haven't any problems with piracy, so we are just honestly guys.".

altlinux made beta version of distributive for education arganisations. hrere it is(here it is), but in the best case this distributive will be used by schools and universities. but most of simple users will continue to use piracy windows.

unfortunately, in russian universities many education programs have so-called "windows-policy". for example we have a course called "programming in the ms visual studio environment".

Glyn Moody said...

Many thanks for the background. Let's at least hope some of the younger generation get the chance to use open source software and change things from the inside....

Anonymous said...

Pirated windows is hardly an option any more.

The actions of the government are now twofold: first, it pays to legalize Windows (and some other software alongside with it, such as Corel DRAW) throughout the whole country (and they've actually got very special discounts from Microsoft driving the price down to fractions of the retail).

Second, they are sponsoring this pilot project in a hope to consequently drive all schools to Linux in 2009 (this is when the newly-purchased licenses will expire).

It may not be fully possible to prepare a proper migration path for a country like this in just two years, but some positive shift may happen. What it will be depends on the effort and organisational work that has to be done by the Russian FOSS proponents now.

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for that. Any idea how big the discounts are that Microsoft is offering?

Anonymous said...

The cost for the full package of software three years for every computer is 2000 roubles, which approximates to 80$.
This is about 5% of what it would cost if bought at retail.
You can try google-translating the official site of this programme called First Aid 1.0.

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for that link - fascinating. But I can't seem to find any prices there (maybe the fault of my limited Russian): do you have a link to that 2000 rouble figure anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Here's Google translation of the news article:
I was not able to find figures for the shares of each company in the total amount of $81.597 mln (this part is available in English: http://eng.cnews.ru/news/line/indexEn.shtml?2008/01/29/285582). Maybe the details are not fully public.

Glyn Moody said...

Many thanks for those.