Open Digital School

Open Digital School

2020- 07- 10

ESOP defends freedom of choice and security in the implementation of the Digital School

The Portuguese government announced an investment of 400 million euros to ensure universal access to digital educational resources, such as, computers acquisition, connectivity and software licenses for public schools, prioritizing the students covered by social action support in the school context. This process will also include the "dematerialization of school manuals and the production of new digital resources ", as well as formations for teachers.

Portugal knows the best and the worst of the digitalization processes. The unfortunate circumstance of COVID-19 offers the opportunity to reinforce digital skills but also an obligation to do it well. So, to ensure that freedom of choice is guaranteed and that new and costly dependencies are not created, the universalization of the digital school requires a careful selection of tools and applications.

Portugal was a pioneer in different areas of digitalization. These include, for example, the implementation of the Citizen Card that allows digital signing of documents and authentication in multiple public services with multiplatform software, with due respect for the freedom of technological choices of citizens. Good examples of successful digitization also include several digitization projects using open source technologies that ESOP has distinguished annually through 'Prémio Abertura' Award.

However, Portuguese digital pioneering has examples where the absence of initial guiding criteria has resulted in problems of long duration that have not yet been resolved. One of the most evident examples is the authentic flop of public procurement platforms whose regulatory uncertainty and possible misunderstandings about the mechanisms of competitive pressure in regulated markets culminated in implementations with numerous compatibility problems, restrictions on freedom of choice, poor quality of service and even cases of abusive charging to market operators. The digitization of public procurement has resulted in little more than the digitization of bureaucracy, with high costs for the state and economic operators.

The Digital School will play an important role in the coming years, it is essential that its implementation is carried out ensuring the interests of schools, guardians and preventing future dependencies on suppliers. This can be done with tools that respect Open Standards, including the standards defined in the National Digital Interoperability Regulation (can be consult here, in portuguese 'Regulamento Nacional de Interoperabilidade Digita' )

In the understanding of ESOP, a digital school must guarantee:

  • freedom of choice of equipment and operating systems;
  • freedom to choose browser;
  • information security of equipment in use by students

To this end, two guidelines should be followed:

  • preferences for web applications with multi browser compatibility
  • preference for open source applications

Despite the availability of several solutions fully aligned with the guidelines suggested above, during the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a proliferation of collaboration tools based on proprietary apps that later appear to have successive security problems, which call into question user privacy. If, on the one hand, the use of these types of applications is a legitimate individual option, the same cannot be said if such use is imposed by the State.

It is manifestly impossible, even for a state, to audit proprietary tools in order to guarantee the security and privacy of citizens. That is why the preference for web applications - which do not need to be installed and are confined to the security context of the web browser - and open source applications - whose code is open and reviewed by communities - are so important guidelines.

Some examples of selected applications

Videoconferencing and web chat
Distance learning tools

Moodle

Odoo e-learning (with support of ESOP member ThinkOpen Solutions )

Awwapp

ESOP is available to support the Digital School transition strategy through many years of experience in digitizing various types of institutions.

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst