Estonian schools are facing crunch time as their heavily subsidized Microsoft software licensing agreements are about to expire, leaving them in at least a half-million-euro hole.
Most of the lucrative agreements - Tallinn city paid only 15,000 euros for a year's worth of licenses this year, about two euros per school computer - expired in 2011, with Microsoft citing World Bank data to make the case that Estonia no longer qualified for such financial assistance. Most municipalities were able to negotiate three-year extensions, however. But these will expire next year, Eesti Päevaleht reported.
Along with the problem that licensing fees are set to rise 10-20-fold, many computers are still running the XP version of the Windows operating system and the older computers may not be able to run Windows 7 or 8.
Ene Koitla, board member of the successor of the Tiger Leap Foundation, which spearheaded a program to introduce computers to every school in the 1990s, said her greatest fear is that some schools will opt for pirated solutions.
Although the free Linux operating system certainly has backers in Estonia and within the school system, freeware solutions may not be a cure-all, either. Taavi Kotka, Economic Affairs Ministry undersecretary for IT, told the paper that Linux did not have a clear edge on Microsoft.
Koitla added that LibreOffice might be implemented, but the concern related to operating systems is that Estonia has a shortage of Linux server administrators.