More the time spent practising at a computer, better is the usage skill. Unfortunately, computer usage skill is measured as the ability to run some popular proprietary software even today. Not every student has access to a sufficiently powerful computer to run such software. As schools across the country include computer skills in the curriculum, parents feel compelled to provide computers at home. But children in lower income group households, who can’t afford the latest systems, are being disadvantaged. Thus there is an pressing need for affordable computing at student homes.
Do without expensive hardware upgrades
Most proprietary operating system and software upgrades mandate a hardware upgrade for their smooth functioning. Usage of only proprietary operating system and software at schools disadvantages the students who can’t afford the license costs for their home systems. Majority of the open source software products run without any difficulties on lower end machines. This is by design of the Linux operating system’s core and of most open source software. Hence, wherever possible, opting for open source software on school computers relieves parents of the pressure to spend high to upgrade their computer and software.
Adherence to open standards and user priorities
Even if a school can afford the costly upgrades of proprietary software, usage of their latest versions is not without issues. For example, older version software can’t read the files saved in later versions. Such incompatibilities force students to upgrade their home systems to match the experience at school. Open source software projects adhere to community driven open standards and priorities. It ensures that not only a particular project but even across various products which build around those standards, there is uniformity, backward compatibility and a sense of continuity.
Upgrades to open source products are frequent and inexpensive. It ensures that adapting to advances in standards is not a costly affair for home computer users as well. Also, wherever possible, open source projects provide compatibility for proprietary formats such as files created by the Microsoft Office suite.
Educational distributions and live media
Some distributions such as Ubuntu Li-f-e, specifically packaged for educational purposes are replete with great educational software. These distributions serve as a fully equipped software tool to get started and productive on a computer. Where access to reliable internet at students’ homes is yet not affordable or not even available, schools can help distribute the live Linux media. The My sCool Server helps create a live media with just a few clicks, enabling students to take Linux home.
Therefore, such informed decisions to make software choices shall help bridge the digital divide. These options for affordable computing provide equal opportunity to all without compromising on quality of education imparted to the students.