At the beginning of the 2010 Hawaii Legislative session, with the State facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, I wrote a five-part series for our Legislature and for our tech community. The purpose was to demonstrate simple procurement decisions, and abuses, that subsidized technology-driven jobs in locations other than our own economy.
Compromised by Procurement
Building upon the essay, Saving the DOE, let us examine the most pervasive technology cost for the State of Hawaii and the DOE in particular - Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office software licenses. At an average of $25 and $55 per computer, respectively, this $80, combined with the $26 saved by replacing Lotus Notes with Google Apps for Education, your leadership can influence the savings of $106 per computer in the DOE. The revenue kept in Hawaii can be used for the management, training, and support of the computers across our islands.
Last week the Department of Education suffered and egregious security breach leading to the temporary cessation of all outgoing email. The culprit was a compromised Windows operating system that had been exploited while outside of the DOE network. As we speak, our Special Education teachers are required to use an outdated, insecure version of Internet Explorer that perpetually exposes both they and the DOE to further breaches. The infection, and the ensuing ramifications, beg the following questions for you to ask the DOE, the Board of Education, or yourself:
- What is the total expense for the State of Hawaii to license the right to use Microsoft Office, Apple's OSX, and Microsoft's Windows/XP/Vista for its computers? Estimates have this in excess of $25 million taxpayer dollars.
- Is it legal to purchase software or hardware at this rate if a lower expense alternative exists without an official Request for Proposal or formal justification for the expense?
- At the rate of $80 per computer in the University of Hawaii, the Department of Education, the Legislature, and all State of Hawaii offices, what kind of 24/7/365 support, security protection, and training is available for this cost?
- When the Department of Education's computer and peripheral equipment were compromised, was it the vendor licensing the software to the State, or the employees of the DOE, who were tasked with the repair?
- Can the Tech Coordinators or the System Administrators in our State entities provide remote-control, secure Desktop support, repair, and protection to our computer clients?
- Can our children or their parents access their data, their assignments, and their portfolios securely and remotely from home, the transitional homeless shelter, while traveling, or if ill?
- Is it incumbent upon educators to teach a standards based curricula at the lowest effective price with technologies most accessible to our children, or do we expect our Certified Teachers to instruct specific vendor skill sets such as Microsoft Office? If our educators are expected to teach specific vendor skill sets, are they or the State compensated by the vendor for their sales and training?
- Given the latest DOE hack, are the computers, currently being purchased by the schools as part of the CTCI replacement program, integrating encrypted filesystems to maintain FERPA compliance?
- Who is expected to demand that the off-island vendor, who provides the Special Education software requiring an insecure version of Internet Explorer, no longer compromise the privacy of the DOE?
- How many jobs, and what is the economic impact, of replacing the software licensing fees with contractual, 24/7/365 remote and local support provided by local residents and global experts?
These rhetorical questions have numerous answers. The opportunity to become technology leaders not only in education but also in end-user statewide support, is a simple matter. We shift our dollars and resources from the right to use certain pieces of software to your friends, neighbors, and children who are best qualified to provide the support and training you need in the Legislature to become a better public employee. This kind of support is what teachers need in schools to become more productive and effective educators, and it is what State employees need to provide the best possible public service. It can all be done with Free and Open Source Software and Contracted, Committed Support.
2010 R. Scott Belford
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