15 November 2009

Free Software for All Russian Schools in Jeopardy

I've written before about Russia's ambitious plan to install free software throughout its education system. Worrying news suggests that things are not going smoothly:

Президент РФ Дмитрий Медведев поручил разобраться с ситуацией с поставками в российские школы свободного программного обеспечения (СПО). С просьбой об этом к нему обратился глава IT-компании "Армада" Алексей Кузовкин, который считает, что программа поставок Linux в школы находится под угрозой срыва.

[Via Google Translate: President Dmitry Medvedev instructed to deal with the situation with supplies in Russia's school of free software (ACT). The request for this approached by the head of IT-companies "Armada" Alexei Kuzovkin, who believes that the program supplies Linux to schools is in jeopardy.]

Part of the problem is money:

В 2009 году планировалось установить СПО во всех школах страны, а с 1 января 2011 года — отказаться от закупок коммерческого ПО для школ за счет федерального бюджета. Но с начала года финансирование проекта было урезано в три раза, говорится в письме "Армады", а конкурс на внедрение СПО во все школы до сих пор не объявлен. 13 июля Министерство образования и науки приняло решение о разделе работ по проекту 2009 года на три лота. В письме "Армады" говорится, что это "неизбежно приведет к провалу всего проекта в результате размытия ответственности среди исполнителей".

[In 2009, planned to be installed in all ACT schools across the country, and from January 1st 2011 - refuse to purchase commercial software for schools at the expense of the federal budget. But from the beginning of the year funding for the project was pared down to three times, the letter says "Armada", a competition for the introduction of ACT in all the schools have not yet been announced. July 13 The Ministry of Education and Science has decided on the topic of the project in 2009 to three lot. The letter "Armada" states that it "will inevitably lead to failure of the project as a result of spreading responsibility among the performers.]

Another factor seems to be problems with the free software discs that were sent out:

Но опыт рассылки пакетов с СПО в этом году не удался (выполнял IBS), вспоминает один из участников рынка: "Данный пакет был разослан, но с ошибками, которые возникли при записи ПО на диски". Быстрый отказ от платного ПО вряд ли возможен, считает аналитик ИК "Финам" Татьяна Менькова. По ее мнению, прежде всего школьникам нужен будет достаточный объем различного прикладного софта, причем простого и понятного, а с этим у производителей СПО традиционно есть проблемы. Кроме того, скорее всего, придется платить за обновление операционной системы, за апдейт того же прикладного софта. "Достаточно много ресурсов потребуется на переобучение учителей, большинство из которых привыкли к Windows. Конечно, в перспективе нескольких лет это все равно будет в разы дешевле закупки решений от Microsoft, но есть и издержки для экономики. Так, на Linux приходится всего около 1% пользовательских ОС, то есть стране все-таки нужны специалисты, знающие Windows",— указывает Татьяна Менькова.

[But the experience of sending packets from the ACT this year was a failure (served IBS), recalls one of the market participants: "This package was sent, but with errors that occurred when recording to disk. Quick refusal to pay software is hardly possible, says analyst IK "Finam" Tatiana Menkova. In her opinion, first of all students will need an adequate amount of different software applications, with simple and understandable, and with that the producers ACT traditionally have problems. In addition, most likely have to pay for upgrading the operating system update for the same application software. "Quite a number of resources needed for retraining of teachers, most of whom are accustomed to Windows. Of course, in future years it will still be many times cheaper to purchase solutions from Microsoft, but there are costs to the economy. So, on Linux there are only about 1% custom operating system, that is, the country still in need of professionals who are familiar with Windows ", - points Tatiana Menkova.]

Finally, Microsoft has been up to its old tricks of offering special deals for its software: $30 per computer (it's not clear whether that's just for Windows XP, or includes Microsoft Office too):

Контракт на поставку лицензионного программного обеспечения в школы в течение 2007-2009 годов получил системный интегратор "Компьюлинк". Конкурс Рособразования под номером НП-17 подразумевал поставку в 60 тыс. российских школ (650-700 тыс. компьютеров) пакета лицензионного ПО в 2007-2009 годах. В пакет вошли: ОС Windows XP, Microsoft Office, словарь Abbyy Lingvo 12, антивирусное ПО Kaspersky Work Space Security, Adobe Photoshop CS3 и другие. Источник в Рособразовании знает, что Microsoft согласилась лицензировать ОС Windows на всех ПК примерно за $20 млн (около $30 за компьютер).

[The contract for the supply of licensed software in schools during 2007-2009 was the system integrator "Compulink". Competition Rosobrazovanie numbered NP-17 meant the supply of 60 thousand Russian schools (650-700 thousand computers) license software package in 2007-2009. The package includes: operating system Windows XP, Microsoft Office, dictionary Abbyy Lingvo 12, anti-virus software Kaspersky Work Space Security, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and more. A source at the Federal Agency of Education knows that Microsoft has agreed to license the Windows on all PCs for about $ 20 million (about $ 30 per computer).]

So has free software lost its big chance to form the minds of a generation? And has Russia condemned itself to years more dependence on Microsoft's products? Stay tuned for further instalments of this exciting Russian epic...

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


PV said...

This is typical of a monopoly. Because it is the only major player in a market, it can aggressively undercut potential entrants into the market and take the losses if it means that the monopoly can be sustained. It's not really any different from any other monopoly.
The biggest problem will be maintenance costs; Linux would have almost $0 maintenance costs, while Windows maintenance will be a real PITA to users.
By the way, I'm new to your blog. Do you just cover free software or free culture in general?
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: I cover everything related to free and open: free software, open access, open content, open data, open science, the commons, digital rights etc. etc.

giuseppemag said...

Lol, 0$ maintenance costs is pure speculation. The market for Linux assistance and maintenance is much smaller than that for Windows, meaning that *nix sysadmins are harder to find and cost way more than win sysadmins.

Tota said...

giuseppemag argument seems to have sense, but it's not so true...
Installing Linux is most of the times simpler than Windows (true that sometimes you have troubles but that is like Windows). You should try! As an IT manager I know how much time it takes to take a virus out of a Windows machine. On Linux you don't have that. You install and you leave it there alone with the user.

KimTjik said...

Since I've lived there, know the language and culture, and have constant contact with people in the region, I would say that everything money related is always in jeopardy.

What talks in favour of open-source solutions is that Russia historically have been afraid and suspicious of the US (in the West we've been manipulated to believe in the aggressive Bear from East, but in reality Russians were from top to bottom sincerely scared when for example Reagan talked about the evil empire). On the other hand Russia is the perfect partner for Microsoft. Every little dirty trick will find a pocket.

I would say it depends on which force is the stronger: Russian pride influenced by suspicious feelings toward the US or old-styled bride and get bribed school.

Anonymous said...

@Tota, if that's what you claim, I have three words for you:

Ubuntu video drivers.

Anonymous said...

Historically, teacher is one of most respected professions in Russia.
After Microsoft sued one of teachers for unlicensed use of Windows, a lot of people pissed on Micro$oft.
They might not replace it this year but sure eventually they will replace it.
Spending money on Windows upgrades is pointless anyways. Why would they spend money on Windows7 in schools?

FarmerBen said...

Personally I think they should persist with the FOSS and show the western world how it's done.

Alessandro Ebersol said...

System maintenance in Linux is a breeze. I often install systems that only need fixing when hardware issues occur. Other than that, it runs for centuries without any human intervention. TCO studies from M$ are blatant lies...

Bob said...

Come on guys. You have to be kidding. I have been using linux and free software since the late 90's. But Microsoft is a BUSINESS. And business is all about creating incentives for using your own company's products. Every successful business does this. I don't like monopolies but who would not like to have a business that has thrived like Microsoft due to good marketing. When free software starts viewing Microsoft as strictly a David and Goliath challenge to market against, and stops trying to tag them as something from the Dark Side, then maybe more inroads can be made into the potential masses that could really benefit from free software.

Unknown said...


The most popular video cards are ATI/AMD, and Nvidia. Both have binary blobs for all their modern cards to work with linux.

Samael said...

KimTjik, it seems you were lived in another country and read a distorted history, but I don't wanna discuss it, it seems useless.
glyn moody, I see you're interested in events going on in Russia and keeping tracking on it, so I'll provide a closer translation of the text.

Russian president Dmitriy Medvedev instructed to deal with the situation about supplies of the free software (FOSS) to russian schools. He was requested about it by the chief of "Armada" IT-company Alexei Kuzovkin, who beleives that the Linux supplying program to
russian schools is in the near-fail conditions.
In 2009 it was planned the FOSS to be installed in all schools in the country, and from the Jan 1st 2011 to refuse of purchasing commercial software for schools at the expence of federal budget. But since the beginning of the year the project funding was pared down up to 3 times, as it described in the letter from "Armada", and the competition to introduce FOSS
to all schools still has not been announced. In Jul 13th the Department of educatoin and
science decided to separate the jobs of the project of year 2009 to the 3 lots. As it said in the letter from "Armada", this "will ineascapably lead to the failure of the entire project due to responsibility bluring among the perfomers".

But the FOSS packets sending was failed in this year (performed by IBS [IT-company]), as one of market participant recalls. "This project was sent but with errors were occured during writing software to disks". It seems close to impossible to do fast refusal of commercial software, considers Tatiana Menkova, analyst of "Finam" investment company. At her opinion,
there will be needed for students an enough amount of different application software, simple and understandable, and the developers of the FOSS are traditionally having troubles with it. Besides, most likely have to pay for the operating system updates and application software updates too. "Quite number of resourses will require to retraining the teachers,
most of whom are accustomed to Windows. Certainly at the several years perspective it will be anyway many times inexpensive than purchasing Micro$oft solutions, but there are expences for economy. As the Linux occupies only 1% of all customer operating systems, so there's a need for the country in specialist familiar with Windows",-points Tatiana Menkova.

The contract to supply the geniune software to the schools during 2007-2009 years was obtained by "Compulink" system integrator. The Federal Agency of education competition number NP-17 meant the supplement of packet of geniune software to 60000 russian schools (650-700 thousands of PCs) in 2007-2009 years. The packed contained: Windows XP OS, Micro$oft office, Abbyy Lingvo 12 dictionary, Kaspersky WorkSpace Security antivirus, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and other.The insider in Federal Agency of education knows that Micro$oft has agreed to license Windows OS for all PCs for about $20 millions (about $30 for PC).

Glyn Moody said...

@ejraka32: thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

@6p00d834518db669e2, I have NVIDIA linux drivers, i don't have any trouble !! :)