Right now the Philadelphia public school system is being tortured by Microsoft. Acting on an anonymous tip, the software monopolist is making the Philadelphia system go through a lengthy and expensive audit of every computer in all 264 schools within the impoverished school system. Apparently, Microsoft heard that a teacher had illegally copied a Microsoft application onto a school computer. So now the school system must inventory every application on every computer in the system and produce proof of valid licenses for everything.
If the Philadelphia schools had chosen open source software, my company and others would have encouraged them to make as many free copies as they needed. The schools would have saved millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of inventory work.
This unfortunate incident is only the latest evidence of an ongoing crisis in computing and technical training in our schools.
Despite all the computer equipment and software that companies have donated to schools over the past 20 years, students are still graduating with inadequate technical skills — technical in this case being synonymous with computing. The job market demands more skills and sophistication, while at the same time school budgets are shrinking. It’s getting harder to provide the technical skills that will be the foundation of the success of our economy in the 21st century.