Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The great IT fiasco of Stockholm city

with one comment

Earlier this year, there was a lot of attention given to a deal that Stockholm city made with Volvo-IT: Basically, the city’s entire IT would be outsourced in a project called GS-IT, including the local schools. Here I will give some background and opinions of others, and then turn to a recent article on the failed implementatione.

Notably, there was a storm of protests from the schools themselves, who claimed that GS-IT would cause a lot of extra costs, reduce the service quality, and otherwise be more trouble than it was worth; in particular, as the services provided and the underlying concepts were intended for an office environment, but unsuitable for schools. A common sentiment could be paraphrased with “We have things under control. If it already works do not try to fix it.”—combined with the feeling that the fix would break something.

A particular complaint was that GS-IT would make it harder to use (often superior and almost always cheaper) open-source alternatives to e.g Microsoft, with the installation of any piece of software requiring a one-time fee of SEK 8,000 (EUR 800–900) to Volvo-IT—in addition to any license fees. Now, if someone wants to install a few thousand MS-Office packages, this fee will be a drop of water in an ocean of license costs; however, for the teacher or individual school who wants to evaluate a free-of-charge software on a small scale or install it for use during two weeks of one class, this fee can be preventative. Schools are on a budget— often a tight budget.

A particularly scary quote from an earlier article by the same papere:

Hon var särskilt glad över att staden nu helt kommer att gå över i Microsofts värld. Alla får Officepaket av senaste snitt och samtliga elever får [tillgång till Microsofts Live@edu]

([Annette Holm, in charge of IT for Stockholm City] was particularly pleased that the city would now move entirely into Microsoft’s world. Everyone receives Office packages of the latest edition [lit. “cut”] and all students [are given access to Microsoft’s Live@edu].

Well, those who know about more about the IT business than Annette will know that moving into the world of Microsoft is costly and that it is hard to leave it at a later date—and that Microsoft is interested in grabbing money by whatever means possible, while not giving a second thought to quality or customer service for any other purpose. Notably, there seems to be an increasing tendency elsewhere in education and public service to move away from Microsoft and towards open-source alternatives. As for Live@edu, I am not personally familiar with it, but have repeatedly heard claimed that it is much-ado-about-nothing, just a Microsoft-branded variation of things freely available elsewhere, and/or an attempt to bring children into the Microsoft fold under a pretense of charity.

The blog of Lotta Edholme, the “minister of education” for Stockholm city shows the great difference in opinion between the politicians and those actually involved with the schools. To quote for some of Lotta’s statements and then some of the dissenting comments:

Lotta:

Jag är övertygad om att GS-IT är bra för Stockholms elever, lärare och skolledare.

(I am convinced that GS-IT is good for Stockholm’s students, teachers, and school administrators.)

[They seem to disagree, both then and now…]

För det första skapar GS-IT en garanterad grundnivå när det gäller datorutrustning på alla skolor.

(Firstly, GS-IT creates a guaranteed base level for the computer equipment of all schools.)

[While this may be true in that a few lagging schools see an improvement, it also implies that other schools will be forced into the same one-size-fits-all. Notably, all the existing computer equipment is, apparently, given over to Volvo-IT for second-hand sale or to be thrown away, with the result that schools who have already invested in computers will find themselves with the same computers as those who did not invest—but with no reimbursement. Further, some of the schools not-up-to-date may have had legitimate reasons to give computers a lower priority. Indeed, I am myself somewhat skeptical to the number of computers and the computing power needed in good education.]

För det andra innebär GS-IT att stadens skolor får en gemensam struktur.

(Secondly, GS-IT implies a common [IT] structure for the city’s schools.)

[This is only positive in as far as it ensure abilities (and does so at a reasonable cost); however, a great part of this is simply limiting those who want to do something different.]

För det tredje innebär GS-IT en rejäl modernisering och utökning av datorparken på stadens skolor.

(Thirdly, GS-IT implies a considerable modernization and increase of the computer park of the cities schools.)

[Some considerable doubts has been raised as to whether this is true. Further, this does not take the question of cost-effectiveness into consideration. The reader may also note that there is a considerable overlap between these three given reasons—another author may have chosen to make them one single reason.]

Others:

(Mikael)

Du är helt verklighetsfrånvänd! Besök vilken skola som helst i stan som bedriver någon form av mer avancerad IKT än att skriva Word-dokument och surfa, så kan de berätta för dig att GS-IT är inget annat än en ren katastrof för och en enorm fördyring (och därmed begränsning) av verksamheten.

Och snacket om ”nya” datorer är rent nys. De datorer vi kommer att prackas på (eller ha råd att köpa) av Volvo-IT kommer att vara från ett tre år gammalt restlager som Volvo-IT nu ser sin chans att bli av med.

(Your are really out of touch with reality! Visit any school in town that has a more advanced form of ICT that writing Word documents and surfing, and they can tell you that GS-IT is nothing but a pure disaster for and an enormous expense increase (and therefore limitation) of the running. [I am grateful for a better suggestion for “verksamhet”, effectively what an institution does, than “running”.]

And the talk about “new” computers is pure BS. The computers that are dumped on us by (or we can afford to buy from) Volvo-IT will be from a three year old surplus depot that Volvo-IT sees its chance to get rid of.

(Seth Norberg – RTG)

Jag är ledsen Lotta, du har bara helt fel! Inga skolor har råd med en fördubblad IT-kostnad utslagen på 8 år. Vi larmade om detta redan från början och när förvaltningens controller kom fram till att det till och med var värre än vad vi befarade blev alla chockade.

(I am sorry, Lotta, but you are entirely wrong! No schools can afford a doubled IT cost over 8 years. We raised alarms about this from the very beginning, and when the controller of the administration found that it was even worse than we feared, everyone was chocked.)

[…]

GS-IT är mycket dåligt för lärare och elever!
Ett exempel från RTG: som du helt säkert vet använder vi oss av ett 1 till 1 koncept som det nu blir svårt att behålla pga fördyringen. Vi har idag ca 70-80 support ärenden varje dag. GS-IT har tänkt att lärare ska ringa när elever har tekniska problem. Det är inte måttligt arrogant mot lärarnas yrkesutövning. När läraren startar lektionen så är han/hon i princip alltid uppkopplade eftersom man arbetar med tidsenliga och motiverande resurser. Om då ett par elever har något tekniskt problem kan de snabbt få hjälp i vår helpdesk. Läraren kan fortsätta lektionen och eleverna kan komma in igen när problemet är avlöst, vilket kan ta 5-10 minuter. Som du själv delvis såg igår kan vi på RTG med stolthet säga att vi har världsklass 2010. Det finns det säkert andra som kan säga också, men nu tar GS-IT oss tillbaka till 1995.

(GS-IT is very bad for teachers and students!
[RTG has 70–80 support issues per day that can be handled in a timely and competent manner internally, without disturbing education, in 5–10 minutes time—with the implication that using the new support will take longer, which seems plausible to me (Michael) comparing with other support hotlines.] As you partially saw yourself yesterday, we at RTG can with pride say that we are world class 2010. There are definitely others who can say the same, but now GS-IT takes us back to 1995.)

Fördyringar
RTG kommer att tvingas att betala stora kostnader för elevkonton. 50 kr x 12 mån x 700 elever = 420 000.- per år. Vi skapar idag dessa konton själva på några få dagar, och har då dessutom en vuxen kunnig levande människa på plats som deltar i det pedagogiska arbetet som ger en digital kompetens till både lärare och elever.

(Higher expenses
RTG will now be forced to pay high costs for student accounts. 50 kr x 12 mon[ths] X 700 students = 420,000 per year. Today, we create these accounts ourselves in just a few days, and additionaly have an adult, knowledgeable, living human on the premises, who participates in the pedagogical work and provides a digital competence to both teachers and students.)

(Peter Lissenko)

Jag har arbetat som Data- och medielärare sedan -97 på en av Stockholms största skola för vuxenutbildning. Sedan den första dagen har jag tillsammans med IT-teknikerna kunnat utforma den arbetsmiljö som passar bäst för att svara mot de krav en modern arbetsmiljö kräver vad gäller programvaror och maskiner. Detta inbegriper även Öppna programstandarder eftersom jag tycker att det är viktigt att visa kursdeltagarna alternativ till de proprietära lösningar som finns.
Det som erbjuds i höst är låsta maskiner med förinstallerade program. Vill vi visa alternativ får vi lärare släpa dit egna datorer och projektorer….eller be Volvo IT att peta in de önskade applikationerna till det facila priset av 8500!! per styck även om programmen är fria att ladda ned och installera

(I have worked as computer and media teacher since 1997 on one of Stockholm’s largest schools for adult education. Since the first day, I and the IT techs have been able to shape the working environment that best fits the demands that a modern working environment raises regarding software and machines. This includes open programming standards, because I think that is important to show the course participants alternatives to the proprietary solutions.
What will be offered this autumn are locked machines with pre-installed programs. If we want to show alternatives, we teachers have to drag our own computers and projectors there…or ask Volvo IT to add the wished-for applications at the simple price of 8500!! per item, even when the programs are free to download and install.)

(With another one or two dozen critical comments not included here.)

To turn to the recent articlee (some more negative and some positive material is present in the article—I try to cut down to the core to avoid a copyright issue):

Billigare och bättre skulle det bli. Men för många av användarna, 80 000 elever, är det fortfarande precis tvärtom: dyrare och sämre.

( Cheaper and better was the idea. But for many users, 80,000 students, it is still the exact opposite: more expensive and worse.)

Den trådlösa uppkopplingen fungerar inte. Inloggningsuppgifterna stämmer inte. Batteritiden på de bärbara datorerna är knappt tre timmar[…]

(The wire-less connection does not work. Log-in data are not correct. The battery duration on the portable computers is just short of three hours, […])

På Spånga gymnasium står därför de nya, bärbara Delldatorerna i princip orörda i ett bokförråd.

(In Spånga high school, the new portable Dell computers, therefore, stand basically untouched in a storage area for books.)

Sedan höstterminen startade har många av lärarna ägnat en stor del av sin arbetstid åt att agera datasupport åt eleverna. Skolans IT-tekniker fick gå redan i våras, [pga merkostnader för GS-IT och besked från stadsledningskontoret att han inte skulle behövas].

(Since the fall semester started, many teachers spend a large part of their working hours doing computer support for the students. The schools IT technician was let go already in the spring, [due to increased cost through GS-IT and claims from city administrators that he would not be needed].)

– Katastrof. Dels för att tekniken inte fungerar, men också för att avtalet gör oss bakbundna och försämrar våra möjligheter att jobba pedagogiskt med IT, suckar Olof Linton, lärare på skolan som fick en merkostnad på en halv miljon kronor per år trots att man sparkade IT-teknikern.

(- Disaster. Partially, because the technology does not work, but also because the agreement binds our hands and reduces our possibilities to work pedagogically with IT, sighs Olof Linton, teacher at the school, which received additional costs of half a million crowns per year, despite firing the IT technician.)

Men Spånga är inte ensamt om problemen. […]

(But Spånga is not alone in having these problems. [Discussion of derogative formulations like “the emperor’s new clothes” being used and that the goal of one computer per student is unrealistic, because the schools can no longer afford it.])

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Written by michaeleriksson

September 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

One Response

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  1. Kan genom min son (som går på Spånga gymnasium) rapportera ytterligare problem. På morgonen tar en första kallstart av PC samt inloggning på systemet extremt lång tid. Klockat medeltal 7 minuter och 55 sekunder !!! Otroligt men sant.

    Jag lider med Linton.

    Lennart, målsman och skattebetalare.

    Lennart Bossér

    December 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm


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