Open source USB key to $2bn school laptop plan

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Open source USB key to $2bn school laptop plan

The Rudd Government’s promise of a laptop for every child could fail without at least $2 billion in public funding, but an alternative USB ‘computer’ system pioneered in France may be its saviour.

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Speaking to iTnews, Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris said a $2 billion funding injection – double the original commitment – would be needed to put some four million netbooks on the desks of Australian school students.

The Federal government estimates the total cost per laptop to be up to $2,500 over four years.

But that amount could be too high to put one in the hands of every student unless the government doubles its financial commitment or alternate proposals are considered, according to Zymaris.

“With the costs the states are putting forward, there’s no way a billion dollars will buy a laptop for every student,” said Zymaris.

“The current approach will mean one netbook between every five or ten kids.”

Cybersource is proposing a variation of a model adopted by French schools , where students are issued with a 2-4 GB USB key that contains a self-booting Linux operating system ‘and all the core applications they need’.

The USB key can be plugged into any computer – personal or shared – and the student’s data can be accessed either directly from the key or the cloud.

Under the Australian variation, students would receive a USB key and either a personal netbook or a laptop that can be shared between two students, depending on the final amount of government funding to be made available.

Cybersource has created a free online kit that state education departments and schools can use to assess and implement its proposal.

“Everyone is proposing a plan with one laptop and one set of systems and data per person,” said Zymaris.

“We’re saying you can shift away from that model in schools. You can still give students something that’s intrinsically theirs [the USB key] – essentially a ‘computer’ without a netbook terminal – and then provide terminals that are interchangeable.

“In the least we’d like to put the idea on the table for consideration,” explained Zymaris.

Comment on the proposal and open source alternatives in general is being sought from both the NSW Department of Education and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria.

Read on to page two to see how Microsoft will make Windows-based netbooks more cost-effective.
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