In Germany, it seems ideology often gets in the way of practicability, at least for a while. The country is now somewhat famous for trying to replace Microsoft solutions with cobbled-together open-source software, which often leads to poor features, high support and training costs and an eventual return to Microsoft’s Office.
Today we have another telling of the familiar tale, this time about the German state of Hessen, who announced this April 2021 that they will be replacing Microsoft Teams in schools with a European solution that would comply better with European privacy standards. The deadline by the Ministry of Culture was the 31st of July 2021.
Initially, the process went well, and a local provider was quickly found. Unfortunately, a losing party in the tender process sued and won, and the tender process was reset. The result of this was that a replacement was not in place by the 31st of July, and Microsoft Teams continued to be used.
In the latest update of the process the tender process was once again stopped, as it turns out the specifications were not clear enough regarding the required functionality of the solution. Notably:
In the aptitude test, the state assumed that the term video conferencing system was not transparent because it assumed that products that did not even contain the core elements of the advertised service could also be referenced. The core elements of the advertised service include a minimum number of simultaneously supported video conference rooms (these represent the classrooms), in which all participants in class are visible when working with a browser.
The reference of the bidder, who in the estimation of the Land should be awarded the contract, had no comparable service to the subject.
It appears it is not that easy to replace Microsoft’s tried and tested solution after all. The Hessen Ministry of Education has now once again announced that “the schools will be able to use the nationwide video conference system by the beginning of the next school year at the latest”.
The whole process has been documented in detail at the independent Microsoft 365 for teachers blog here.