A Russian schoolteacher, convicted last year of installing unlicensed copies of Microsoft Windows and Office on school computers, has founded a lobby group to try and persuade the Russian authorities to stop using western “proprietary” software.
Alexander Ponosov co-founded the group called the Russian Centre for Free Technologies. It plans to lobby the Russian parliament to adopt laws encouraging the use of open-source software, although the Russian government has already declared its intention to use open-source applications in schools.
Ponosov has made clear his concerns about software from the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. "Our dependence on Western proprietary software is a risk for us. We are, in effect, losing the independence of this country," Ponosov is quoted as saying by Reuters during a news conference.
Ponosov is a headmaster who lives in a remote village in the Perm region in the Ural mountains. He achieved fame in his native Russia when a local court found him found guilty last year for installing unlicensed Windows and Office software on sixteen computers used by pupils at his school.
He blamed subcontractors for supplying the computers preloaded with the software, but he was fined half of his monthly wages, instead of a potential five years in prison.
His case was touted as a 'David versus Goliath' battle in the Russian media, and Ponosov received public support from some prominent Russian politicians, most notably the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The former-premier of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as the deputy of Russian State Duma Alexander Lebedev published an open letter in February 2007 to Bill Gates requesting the withdrawal of the action against Ponosov.
Microsoft protested its innocence and said the case was initiated by Russian authorities under Russian law, and not by it.
The use of open-source software in the education sector is not new. Last October, UK schools were urged to stop signing licensing deals with Microsoft by a government watchdog because of Redmond's alleged anti-competitive practices. Meanwhile last July a Welsh council introduced an open-source email system covering more than 150 schools with around 30,000 users.
Last month market research company Datamonitor predicted that primary and secondary schools and universities in certain countries will spend $489.9m (£250m) on open-source software by 2012, up from $286.2m (£146m) now.