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Dutch government hands over education's keys to Microsoft

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The Dutch government wants to tie the country's schools to a single software vendor for years to come. Dutch students using Free Software or devices without Silverlight-support will find themselves locked out of schools' online systems due to the use of proprietary technology and closed standards. Marja Bijsterveldt, the secretary of education, recently said that she is unwilling to enforce the Dutch government's own Open Standards policy on educational institutions. Instead, the government will accept long-term vendor lock-in of educational institutions.

For Free Software advocate Jan Stedehouder this emphasizes the need for a stronger and more robust Open Standards policy framework. Therefore Stedeholder initiated the Dutch campaign to make the use of Open Standards mandatory in the public sector and to ensure vendor-independent access to all online service of publicly funded organisations.

The organisations and individuals supporting the campaign demand:

"The policy framework approved by the Dutch Parliament in 2007 was an important, internationally acclaimed achievement", says Stedehouder. "But political barriers have meant that this policy hasn't been implemented. As a result, students, future knowledge workers, are still locked in proprietary technology."

Stedehouder highlights that students who complain about being locked out of their school's system are being advised to buy the proprietary Microsoft Windows operating system. "This behaviour is not only unacceptable but also illegal. Our campaign aims at passing new legislation to ensure the mandatory use of Open Standards in education, to make sure that students have access to the free technology they deserve", says Stedeholder.

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) supports the Dutch campaign which is gaining traction and has received endorsements by NLLGG, LPI Netherlands , NLUUG and HCC, and almost 900 individuals. The Dutch parliament shares the disappointment with the way the Open Standards policy framework is implemented in education. Mark Lamers, coordinator for FSFE Netherlands, says: "Now it is time to act for everybody who is in favour of a free competition in the software market, and of course all Free Software advocates: Support this campaign!"

"Though this problem is all too common around the world, the Dutch government's stance is particularly disappointing", says Karsten Gerloff, president of FSFE. "The Netherlands have some of the most progressive policies on Free Software and Open Standards in the world. But the education ministry utterly fails to implement them. I can well understand that Dutch parliamentarians are dissatisfied and want to push for a more robust policy."

More background information and up to date information on this topic are available on "Unlocking education, for growth without limits".

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