Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lula Saves the History Department?

In this, as in so many things, a Brazilian Socialist shall lead us…

I heard recently that the President of Brazil has decided to junk Microsoft as the software provider for all of the government computers, in favor of Linux and open-source applications. Lula, as he’s known, would apparently rather spend money on food and education programs for the poor than on licensing fees.


What if…we took all the money we’re funneling to Gates and company, and used it instead to, oh, I don’t know, hire faculty? Use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, OpenOffice (www.OpenOffice.org) instead of Microsoft Office, Linux instead of Windows, Picasa instead of Photoshop, etc. It’s sort of like switching prescriptions to generics. It’s not a perfect solution – assume some pushback from beleagured IT departments, to start – but it beats the hell out of adjuncting-out the History department.

For that matter, what if a consortium of universities were to develop an open-source student-management software platform? (That’s the set of programs used in registrar’s and financial aid offices – track tuition payments, financial aid disbursements and eligibility, grades, etc.) Right now, every college I know spends megabucks on proprietary systems that never quite work right. If they aren’t going to work anyway, what are we paying for?

In fact, if memory serves, the entire freakin’ internet was developed by the nonprofit sector, for the nonprofit sector. What if we used it to go back to its roots, and save a HUGE chunk of change that could be devoted, instead, to closing our budget gaps?