"Dad, virtually everyone in my class has their own computer to do homework. How come I have none?"
Granted, we've postponed the cost. I have bought a used computer from work, and we had a laptop of our own running slowly but fine. Indeed, he's growing 16 this year, and needs a PC more and more - prepare slide shows, do some research, and what not. He says he doesn't even care if it's not a game computer - just being able to write documents, a spreadsheet, ... and run his (windows based) chess engine.
So off we went looking online for affordable laptops. There were plenty of €500+ - but after a long search, we found that the German market has the cheapest ones, and that there is this Lenovo V110 for just below €300!
That is... unless you want Windows. And MS Office. Those two requirements add €150 to the bill.
So we were about to buy the laptop. But I offered him a choice: I would install Linux+LibreOffice+Wine on it for free, or he buys the Microsoft licenses. Given that he's not very computer-savvy, that's a hard choice to make. But to my delight, he approved to go the free-as-in-free-beer way!
Now the academic year has started and he's doing quite well with his Ubuntu 18.04. The computer boots in under 30 seconds, his chromium is snappier than he's used to.
And here comes the first hurdle. A physics assignment mailed to him in a .docx. And in class, obviously, they entered all their measurement data in... excel. Opening these documents is not too hard - he has an Office 356 account from school. Even creating a line chart of the measurements works alright. But then comes the struggle - copy/pasting the line charts and the tabular measurement data into the Office Online document.
Obviously, there's no way.
So after some fuzz about 'everyone has MS Office', an hour of trying stuff out with tables, font sizes to make stuff match and so on, I come by and reproduce all of his effort in 5 minutes on Google Docs.
That's a long story to come to this: why, o why does my nation spend a ton of money on software licenses? A small calculation is in place.
In Belgium, about 10'000 kids are born yearly. That means that about the same number learn to work with computers every year. They'll work with... Windows and Office.
When they grow up, they'll want to buy a computer as they know it - with Windows and Office on it. These licenses amount to approximately 1'500'000 €, yearly.
Imagine we could spend these euro's on Linux laptops for kids in families on a tiny budget. If we take 15% of the families are in a tight situation (cf. here), amounting to 1500 kids per year that need, but can't afford a laptop... the equation works!
Or we could support open source software, making it better.
Why is it that the educational system enforces the Microsoft monopoly? Why doesn't it teach our kids make 'educated' choices when it comes to buying a tool essential to their life as a grownup?
If you are able to support your kid in learning to use Linux, or better, to assist the school's IT department to support Linux laptops, you are in a position to help out the next generation's kids to get affordable computers.
I hope we can do this!