I had recently referred to an article on a cost comparison of portals for education, specifically open source versus proprietary, but could not find the entire report. Yesterday, Jacques Cool told me about this article in Le Devoir (in French only), which summarizes the report. I will point out the highlights in English, but if you understand French then please read the entire article.
The cost comparison was of the free, open source MILLE system and a proprietary system, based on a Microsoft platform, called Edu-Groupe from GRICS. The evaluation was conducted by a reputable university scholar, Michael Wybo, and focused on the specific needs of the Québec public school system. The report evaluated similar costs for similar types of installations. Each system was put on its own server, as well as separate servers for e-mail, databases and user authentification. Consultant and staff costs were deemed to be the same for each installation, and the starting point was from a Microsoft IT infrastructure. This last point meant that the move to the Linux-based MILLE system required a system transition as well.
Prof Wybo concluded that the use of MILLE over Edu-Groupe GRICS resulted in savings of between 59% and 75% over a five year period. According to Wybo, these are the total savings when ALL costs are examined. Michel Dumais, in Le Devoir, goes on to tell us of Microsoft’s strategy to address this issue. Microsoft is presenting at the annual conference for the Quebec association of school superintendents in May, and will be giving its own version of “Microsoft and the MILLE project”. Dumais notes that the people in charge of the MILLE project are not getting equal billing or time to present their version to these public servants.
It seems that even when the case is exceptionally clear, vested corporate interests will win out over best practices, saving tax dollars and just building a better mousetrap. Dumais concludes:
D’un côté, nous avons une solution en libre, financée à même les fonds publics, et qui répond entièrement aux besoins du monde de l’éducation. De l’autre, nous avons des solutions propriètaires, celles de la GRICS, financées elles aussi avec des fonds publics, mais qui reviennent beaucoup plus cher à l’état québécois.
Et on repose la question : À terme, comment la socièté GRICS peut-elle justifier le développement de ses offres de service en logiciel propriètaire, financées à même les fonds publics, devant les conclusions du rapport Wybo ?
On one side we have an open source solution financed with public funds, that responds to all of our educational needs. On the other side, we have proprietary solutions, those of GRICS, also financed by public funds, but these will be much more expensive to Québec.
And we resubmit the question: in the end, how can GRICS justify the development of its proprietary system, financed with public funds, in light of the conclusions of the Wybo Report?