[Fsfe-ie] Ireland OA policy

Bob Jolliffe bobjolliffe at gmail.com
Tue Jan 20 10:43:56 CET 2009

Hi Teresa

Sorry for the dealy getting back to you.  I am copying the IFSO list
in case there might be anything which affects the planning for the
year.  Unfortunately I can't attend the meeting tonight, but will stay
in touch on the list and try and get to future meetings.

The meeting with the minister in the end was quite disappointing.
Whereas I had been invited to talk about national FOSS policy the
minister seemed in fact reluctant to engage.  We had an hour set aside
of which the first ten minutes was to discuss the school's broadband
project.   In fact they discussed the school's broadband policy for 50
minutes and the minister only reluctantly turned the conversation to
FOSS with 10 minutes remaining.  Prefaced by, he has no real mandate
to advocate FOSS in schools and that we must be mindful of the
interests of a "certain company" down the road.

This is really not what I expected.  I can only believe somebody or
something got to him between the December invitation and the meeting.
The Dell announcement had been the day before and it is quite possible
that they are all in a state of petrification regarding upsetting US
companies.  I don't really know - it was very strange.  Anyway I did
send a follow-up email which might, or might not, produce something
further.  I've copied the text below.  My little bit of desk research
does indicate that there is a far too cozy procurement relationship
which currently between the Ministry of Education and National Centre
for Technology in Education (www.ncte.org) and Microsoft, which quite
likely falls foul of the EU anti-monopoly legislation.  It might be an
issue to take up at some point but probably not yet.

Regards (and hope to catch up with you all soon)

My letter to the Minister's advisor:

Hello Suzanne

It was good to meet with yourself and the minister last Friday.  There
were two strands of conversation which I thought it might be
worthwhile following up on: the first is best practice with FOSS in
education and the other is a brief few points on FOSS and the
Information Society.

(1) Best practice with FOSS in education
Unfortunately there are probably more poor examples of ICT in
education than there are good ones.  FOSS deployment in schools is not
always an exception here.  Its fair to say that many FOSS-in-schools
projects have repeated the same mistakes as proprietary-in-schools
projects.  It is best to understand first about what are the
educational problems you are trying to solve and opportunities you are
trying exploit, before jumping straight into the merits or otherwise
of software paradigms and choices.

We have a good (relatively) recent starting point in Ireland with the
"ICT in Schools Report" having been released by the Inspectorate.
 I have made a few comments based on this report and made some
additional observations around procurement which should be a serious
concern.  Of the many issues raised in the Inspectorate report, three
stand out as being particularIy relevant:

(a) old computers and the replacement/disposal of them.  It is
estimated that the whole ICT in schools initiative will be disposing
of 10 000 computers per year
 Measuring the cost of such replacement and disposal requires
environmental economic skills which I don't have, but suffice to say
that it is significant.  We know that using FOSS we can get increased
lifespan from these computers - even the much older ones can be
re-purposed  (for example linux based kiosk type machines in the

(b) Irish language support.  There was a concern raised in the
Inspectorate report that the integration of ICTs into the teaching of
Irish was a neglected area in most schools.  Again there are
significant opportunities here.  Some of the major FOSS applications
such as the Firefox browser, Openoffice and the popular Gnome and KDE
desktops are all available with Irish user interfaces.  I believe the
same is true of many other FOSS applications such as the Moodle
learning management system.  It is possible to provide a fairly
complete computing environment, at no cost, which reinforces and
recognizes the importance of Irish in the school curriculum.  All of
these projects are currently volunteer driven.  There are also
significant opportunities to involve pupils in FOSS localisation and
translation projects.  I have some personal experience of doing this
with primary pupils and Southern African languages.  There are
tremendous learning outcomes to be had, both in terms of deep language
learning (finding words for technical concepts can be hard) as well as
learning about the applications themselves.  Its also fun and

(c) maintenance and technical support.  Linux based desktops lend
themselves to remote software configuration and updates without the
need for any additional programs or software licences.  There have
been a number of studies which have shown that larger numbers of such
systems can be supported by fewer technicians more effectively than
proprietary alternatives.  One issue which seems not to have surfaced
in the report but which is an increasing concern for organisations
generally is that of Software Asset Management.  It seems clear that,
given the already stretched resources of school ICT co-ordinators to
manage their environments, they will be ill-equipped to address this
additional administrative burden.  Again the advantages of FOSS are
obvious:  in particular there are fewer (if any) licences to manage.

Besides the potential of FOSS itself, it is also worth noting the
range of FOSS practices which have found themselves under the broad
umbrella of Open Learning.  The availability of open digital content
for example, is being heavily exploited by teachers.  It is important
that the educational and cultural value of such content commons are
recognised and that their existence is encouraged and protected -
particualrly in the context of an increasingly powerful content
industry.  The collaborative models with which these repositories of
learning material are maintained borrows significantly from the
culture of FOSS projects.  The practice of users as creators and
co-developers, rather than simple consumers, has also been transposed
in interesting ways into teaching and learning practices.

One of the emerging best practices in considering how to exploit FOSS
in the public sector at large is to address issues around procurement
which may present unnecessary and artificial barriers.  Whereas it
would be wrong to disadvantage or discriminate against proprietary
vendors, it is also critical to ensure that FOSS alternatives are
being given a fair opportunity to compete.  The recently announced PC
Framework [http://www.ncte.ie/media/School_PC_Framework_Nov08.pdf] is
a very particular concern in this regard.  According to this framework
suppliers are required to provide: "Standard Operating System
installed is Microsoft Windows XP Pro".  Schools wishing to take
advantage of this framework are effectively obliged to purchase an
operating system licence from a single vendor.  This is plainly
anti-competitive and possibly in breach of EU regulations.  Direct
procurement agreements have come under considerable scrutiny of late.
The most recent example is from Greece
[http://www.ffii.gr/ms-gov-agreement-en], which happens incidentally
to involve a company based in Ireland.  The translated press release

"According to the DG (Internal Market of the European commission), the
agreement between the Greek government and Microsoft, which was signed
in 1 February 2006 and approved by the Parliament in 29 January 2008,
seems to be a direct commissioning of procurement to Microsoft,
without fulfillment of the related conditions that are provided for by
the European Directive 2004/18 "on the coordination of procedures for
the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and
public service contracts".  Whereas one feels a strong urge to
challenge such practice, it might make more sense first to demonstrate
the existence of real value in alternatives [see my suggestion at the

The PC Framework and other information and "advice" provided by the
NCTE would seem at best to mostly ignore the existence of FOSS
alternatives and at worst systematically favour software from a single
vendor.  This is in contrast to Becta in the UK, for example, which
this year created a Software for Educational Institutions Framework
agreement, which includes a supplier of FOSS based desktop solutions.

(2)  FOSS and the Information Society
The Tunis commitment made at the World Summit on the Information
Society, attended by representatives of 174 states, including Ireland,
makes explicit (and careful) reference to FOSS:
"29. Our conviction is that governments, the private sector, civil
society, the scientific and academic community, and users can utilize
various technologies and licensing models, including those developed
under proprietary schemes and those developed under open-source and
free modalities, in accordance with their interests and with the need
to have reliable services and implement effective programmes for their
people. Taking into account the importance of proprietary software in
the markets of the countries, we reiterate the need to encourage and
foster collaborative development, interoperative platforms and free
and open-source software, in ways that reflect the possibilities of
different software models, notably for education, science and digital
inclusion programmes."

The promotion of FOSS in education has clearly been recognized as an
Information Society issue.  Indeed many of the major FOSS in schools
deployments such as the ambitious project in Brazil and the
RTE-Extremadura project in western Spain, are framed as information
society projects.  If the minister would like to promote the use of
FOSS, it might well be that he has some mandate to do so in the
Information Society context.

A recent study of the impact of FOSS on the EU economy (exec summary
attached) shows that the software commons has considerable and
quantifiable value.  That same commons provides a fertile ground for
new startups and SMEs.  As the economic downturn has deepened, the
predictions of industry watchers seem fairly unanimous: industry
spending on and market penetration of FOSS is likely to increase
through 2009.  The argument that is frequently given, that children
should be educated on real-world (ie Microsoft) software, is
increasingly shaky.  Quite apart from the fact that educators should
be focusing on understanding and cognitive development rather than
state-funded vendor training, it is becoming increasingly the case
that by not providing Irish learners (and teachers) exposure to the
broader range of FOSS and proprietary platforms, we are limiting their
opportunities to innovate and create the future.  This seems to be
very much an information society concern as reflected in the Tunis

Some suggestions for a way forward:
(1) be sure to emphasise the role of FOSS in the Information Strategy
(2) the provision of broadband into schools opens up many
possibilities of offering open source educational services within the
context of this project.  I understand the Moodle learning management
system is already offered as a web based service, but there are others
such as web based school admin systems, school library management
(koha), through to basic file and document management which can add
significant value to the connection.  Shifting such services out of
the school into "the cloud" can significantly address some of the
technical management problems experienced in schools.  FOSS makes this
very feasible.
(3) it might be valuable to host some kind of seminar on the new
possibilities of FOSS in Schools which are brought about by the
Broadband Connectivity project.  Keeping this context provides some
justification for exploring this area.  There is considerable FOSS
expertise and goodwill in the Irish FOSS community (the Irish Free
Software Organisation, Irish Linux User Group, Irish Ubuntu community,
various tertiary institutions and large and small companies) to
partner in such an endeavour.  It would also provide an opportunity to
bring in practitioners from other countries which have substantial
schools deployment to showcase their work and share their experiences.
 It would be important to invite the NCTE to participate as well as
Microsoft - perhaps to demonstrate some of their new interoperability
systems and approaches.

Hope these thoughts are useful.  A bit more than I had in mind so I
will stop here.


2009/1/15 Teresa <tmhackett1 at gmail.com>:
> Hi Bob,
> Sorry for the delay in responding. It's not on the entemp website, so I can
> only suggest to contact the then CALIBRE coordinator and conference
> organiser, Brian Fitzgerald. How did your meeting go?
> Contact:*
> Co-ordinator name: *Brian Fitzgerald *
> Co-ordinator organisation name:* University of Limerick , Ireland *
> Co-ordinator email: *bf at ul .ie <mailto:bf at ul.ie> *
> Co-ordinator fax: *+353 61 202734
> Best wishes
> Teresa
> Bob Jolliffe wrote:
>> Hi Teresa
>> 2009/1/6 Teresa <tmhackett1 at gmail.com>:
>>> Hi Bob,
>>> Here are a couple of other related initiatives:
>>> 1.http://www.openapp.ie:9180/oi/events/open-source-intelligence-briefing
>>> Open Source Intelligence Briefing, included Forfas Open Source Trends
>>> and Business Models guidelines for Irish stakeholders
>>> http://www.openapp.ie:9180/oi/content-folder/open-source-briefing-dublin-march-07
>>> 2. http://bl.ul.ie/calibre/limerick
>>> Programme included Michael Ahern T.D. Minister for Trade and Commerce The
>>> Irish Government Perspective
>> The presentation of Michael Ahern is not available on the site.  Do
>> you know if anyone might have it?
>> Cheers
>> Bob
>>> Good luck
>>> Teresa
>>> Teresa wrote:
>>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>>> Subject: Re: Ireland OA policy
>>>> Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2009 21:40:04 +0000
>>>> From: Bob Jolliffe <bobjolliffe at gmail.com>
>>>> Reply-To: committee at ifso.ie
>>>> To: Teresa Hackett (eIFL) <tmhackett1 at gmail.com>
>>>> CC: committee at ifso.ie
>>>> References: <495D2B21.1000604 at eifl.net>
>>>> Hi Teresa
>>>> Thanks for this.  Its useful for me to try and understand whatever
>>>> "openness" moves have gathered some traction.  The STM comments are
>>>> predictable enough.  Its funny how TRIPS obligations keep getting
>>>> thrown around when rights holders start feeling some pressure.
>>>> I think the idea of organising a seminar is really good.  It would be
>>>> useful to provide some forum for existing FS champions within
>>>> government (I sense there are more than a few) to showcase what they
>>>> have achieved, share experiences and challenges and provide some means
>>>> for them to support one another in their efforts.  The notion of
>>>> networking existing public servants into some sort of FOSS task force
>>>> (with ministerial backing) has been applied successfully elsewhere.
>>>> And I would certainly suggest involving IFSO and other external input
>>>> (eg. Rishab).
>>>> Cheers
>>>> Bob
>>>> 2009/1/1 Teresa Hackett (eIFL) <tmhackett1 at gmail.com>:
>>>>> Dear Bob,
>>>>> It was nice meeting you before christmas at the IFSO meeting. Here is
>>>>> some
>>>>> info on recently adopted OA policies in Ireland. The Science Foundation
>>>>> Ireland policy is under consultation, with strong resistance and FUD
>>>>> from
>>>>> publishers (see STM comments on draft SFI policy below). The Stephen
>>>>> Fry
>>>>> Happy Birthday to GNU video links free software with "good science".
>>>>> Good luck with your meeting Eamon Ryan, please let him know about IFSO.
>>>>> Do
>>>>> let us know how the meeting goes.  If Eamon expresses an interest in
>>>>> wanting
>>>>> to learn more about FS, let us know and we may be able to help with a
>>>>> seminar or with getting a speaker over, etc.
>>>>> I hope you had a nice christmas, best wishes for 2009.
>>>>> Best wishes
>>>>> Teresa
>>>>> -----
>>>>> 1. IRCSET adopts an OA mandate
>>>>> http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/05/ircset-adopts-oa-mandate.html
>>>>> <SNIP> Peter Suber comment:
>>>>> Comment.  This may be the best funder mandate anywhere.  All the
>>>>> strengths
>>>>> of the exemplary September 2007 draft policy have been preserved in
>>>>> this
>>>>> final version.  Here's what I said about it at the time:
>>>>>  I particularly applaud the mandatory language, the firm six month
>>>>> deadline with no loopholes for resisting publishers, the equal standing
>>>>> of
>>>>> central and distributed repositories, and the full implementation of
>>>>> the
>>>>> dual deposit/release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate
>>>>> deposit
>>>>> / optional access).
>>>>> 2. Ireland's Higher Education Authority adopts an OA mandate
>>>>> http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/08/ireland-higher-education-authority.html
>>>>> <SNIP> Peter Suber comment:
>>>>>  * However, there is one difference which significantly weakens the HEA
>>>>> policy.  While IRCSET requires OA within six months of publication,
>>>>> without
>>>>> qualification, HEA requires OA within six months "subject to copyright
>>>>> agreement."  This is precisely the loophole for resisting publishers
>>>>> that
>>>>> I
>>>>> praised IRCSET for omitting.  The HEA policy defers to any publisher
>>>>> policy
>>>>> which prohibits OA archiving or requires a longer embargo period.  It
>>>>> gives
>>>>> publishers a simple opt-out.
>>>>> 3. How Ireland will provide OA to its publicly-funded research
>>>>> http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/09/how-ireland-will-provide-oa-to-its.html
>>>>> <SNIP> Peter Suber comment:
>>>>> This looks like the result of a careful three-step plan:  (1) launch
>>>>> IRs
>>>>> at
>>>>> every Irish university, (2) require OA to new articles resulting from
>>>>> publicly-funded research, understanding that most of them will land
>>>>> first
>>>>> in
>>>>> the author's IR, and (3) launch a national platform to harvest the
>>>>> contents
>>>>> of the IRs and use it to promote the visibility of national research,
>>>>> preserve it, organize it, and crunch it for benchmarking, bibliometric
>>>>> analysis, and quality assessment.
>>>>> 4. Another OA mandate for a public funding agency in Ireland (SFI)
>>>>> http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/05/another-oa-mandate-for-public-funding.html
>>>>> http://www.sfi.ie/content/content.asp?section_id=726&action=search&letter=c&language_id=1
>>>>> Science Foundation Ireland proposes to establish and promote an Open
>>>>> Access
>>>>> policy relating to the placement of research publications for SFI
>>>>> supported
>>>>> published research.
>>>>> STM comments on the SFI draft OA policy
>>>>> http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/06/stm-comments-on-sfi-draft-oa-policy.html
>>>>> --
>>>>> Read about eIFL in wikipedia!
>>>>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
>>>>> Electronic_Information_for_Libraries
>>>>> ---

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