The project set to kick off next year will see the government purchase some 1.35 million laptops for class one pupils as well as construction of computer labs for those in upper primary (class 4-8).
However, players through the industry lobby group Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) while lauding the project have faulted the apparent exclusivity to Microsoft International.
The association through its chief executive officer Ms Fiona Asonga says the state must come clean over its deal with Microsoft. This she adds will give directive on the future of the current modules running on free open source software’s.
“Who shall take on the role of the current programmers who are developing FOSS based applications in the country? Or is the arrangement that Microsoft gets us off the ground and handle only the first eight years and FOSS the next eight years so as to meet the industry demand and international best practice” asks Ms Asonga
Early this month, State House Nairobi, hosted Microsoft International Global president Mr Jean-Philippe Courtois. During the meeting, it is understood that Courtois assured President Uhuru Kenyatta that his company will work with different partners to develop at least five enterprises in each County to provide technical support in hardware, connectivity and software to all schools in the country.
On his part, the president, directed the ministry of Education and that of Information Commination and Technology to work with Microsoft in order to come up with a framework of rolling out the partnership immediately.
‘I am sure these five enterprises will have to be Microsoft partners which locks out all the Free Open Source Software expertise we have harnessed over the years. I would like to encourage all government entities involved to consult broadly with the private sector in a more open and transparent manner’ noted Ms Asonga
The association is also concerned that that Microsoft might prefer to work with its global partners and leave local entrepreneurs out of the arrangement. This they want the government to give assurance that Microsoft will be committed to encompass free open source software.
‘Knowing the level of competition there is between Microsoft and FOSS society, it will definitely be a dream comes true for Microsoft to agree to such an arrangement,’ added the chief executive officer
Already the government has allocated Ksh17.4 billion for the laptop project this financial year. This will include purchase of the laptops for class one pupils, development of digital content, building capacity for teachers and rolling out computer laboratory for class 4-8 pupils in all schools in Kenya.