Bonum Certa Men Certa

Exploring the BECTA-Microsoft Relationship

BECTA's mischiefs with Microsoft are a serious issue that was covered here before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This morning we did some more research and came up with the following interesting findings.



We thought it would be interesting to see how many former Softies there are inside BECTA as it would make good business sense for Microsoft to push their ex-employees everywhere they can. Kent LEA, for example, are busy adopting everything Microsoft as fast as they can.

“We thought it would be interesting to see how many former Softies there are inside BECTA...”So we decided get a list of BECTA seniors and then do some googling for each. That, we assumed, would be handy in identifying suspicious appointments. Members of the board are listed here and those who attended a recent meeting [PDF] are: Andrew Pinder, John Roberts, Graham Moore, Stephen Gill, Derek Wise Stephen Crowne, Niel McLean, Tony Richardson, Ian Adams, Alan Cowie, Jane Williams, John Landeryou, Mark Wallbank, Roger Parr, Leigh Fish, John Newbigin, and Doug Brown.

On the agenda in that May 2008 meeting:

"Board members explored how Becta should engage with Microsoft, and secure benefits on behalf of the education sector, particularly around flexibility and price; and how the Board should support the Executive in the planned discussions with Microsoft."

It also says: "Action: A small group of the Board (John Roberts, Steve Gill, Graham Moore and Andrew Pinder) to support the Executive in its discussions with Microsoft..."

Finally: "Summing up, the Chairman said the Board was broadly content with progress so far. The forthcoming meeting with Microsoft was an important opportunity to deal with the outstanding issues."

Why is Free software hardly explored? We'll come to this in a moment.

It is worth adding that they do not tell taxpayers how much is being paid to Microsoft. Part of the agreement is that it must remain secret in order to prevent comparisons or backlash. However, for purposes of public procurement it's not only ludicrous but also illegal.

School boyHeading this body is Andrew Pinder, whose Wikipedia biography contains to a link to an article ("Government Gateway is not a 'Microsoft puppet'") where he tries to dissociate himself from Microsoft.

Here is how he describes "Open Source" in one context or another:

"Typically [teachers who run IT] would be people who have a real passion about Open Source — as if open source is any different from any other software — it's just the pricing structure is different, that's all. "

He also compares it to a religion:

"It's a religion, it's a real belief, and again they have a belief about bits of technology that are going to change things. What they don't do, however, is organize things properly."

A known Microsoft puppet [1, 2, 3], the Yankee Group, uses similar analogies. Its founder, Howard Anderson Framingham, wrote in an article last year: “Open source is not a movement; it’s a religion. It is a set of principles and practices that let everyone share non-existent or semi-existent intellectual property. Remember the Communist Manifesto: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It is this generation’s Woodstock.”

There seems to a shared foundation of open source insults and smears.

Going back to Andrew Pinder, Wikipedia states: "In this role, he gave a speech at the CBI in November 2001,[3] and spoke at a Microsoft-sponsored Government Leaders Conference in Seattle in April 2002, where he famously announced that the government's target of putting all services online by 2005 could cost 800,000 public sector employees their jobs.[4]"

Also: "He oversaw the rushed implementation in 2001 of the Government Gateway, a project for putting all the government services on-line, which was built by Microsoft in just 15 weeks and initially locked out all browsers except Microsoft's own Internet Explorer.

"The deal also involved Microsoft using UK government intellectual property to build products for other governments in order to recoup some of the costs of building the technology. The rate of return was to the tune of 22% of their gross sales of the intellectual property, which Pinder hoped would "give us quite a lot of money".[6]"

“This makes BECTA seem a tad hostile towards Freedom, which it describes as "religion" instead.”Another BECTA board member, Ralph Tabberer, is seen in this article where he states: "We are looking forward to a productive working relationship with Microsoft over the next three years and we will work closely together..."

To sum up, as Wikipedia puts it, "The current chairman of Becta holds the view that "open source is [no] different from any other software -- it's just the pricing structure is different, that's all. But [its supporters] have a passion. It's a religion, it's a real belief."[2]"

Overall, it's disappointing. This makes BECTA seem a tad hostile towards Freedom, which it describes as "religion" instead. It prefers training children for one foreign monopolist's pipeline rather than have them acquire actual skills. Education is about skills. If there is any clannish pattern here ("religion" so to speak), it appears to be this type of cronyism that's so prevalent in BECTA's decision-making.

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