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16 June 2008, 14:14

Row over Becta open source contract award

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Becta, the Government's lead agency for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education, seems to have upset the open source community by awarding a two year, £270,000 contract for overseeing a schools open-source promotion project, to the AlphaPlus Consultancy, an organisation with little experience in open source.

Mark Taylor, CEO of enterprise support company Sirius and president of the Open Source Consortium, expressed his disgust in the strongest possible terms in an open letter to Becta dated Friday 13 June. Taylor declared "Becta's open-source posturing is exposed as a sham, empty spin covering 'business as usual' political sleaze," and "Becta awarded their Open Source Schools project to establishment insiders and cronies, with no open-source credentials or capabilities."

John Winkley, AlphaPlus's operations director, replied that his company intends to respond in writing and that AlphaPlus does have experience in working with open source, but does not claim to be a specialist. He also confirmed that the AlphaPlus Consultancy has handled previous Becta projects. According to Taylor, since the contract award, AlphaPlus have been in contact with other firms who had submitted tenders and were rejected, asking if they would like to contribute to the project.

Observers are wondering if perhaps there is a trace of sour grapes in Taylor's letter, and express some doubt as to whether he can be said to be an impartial representative of the open source community in general. The Open Source Consortium is a non-profit, trade organisation with over eighty members in England, Wales and Scotland.

(Terry Relph-Knight)


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