Gmail for students

By , Tuesday, 24th June, 2008

From The Australian comes this report. It would be very handy if we could have access to all the other Google Apps as well – Chat, Docs and Calendar.

GOOGLE has edged out some of the biggest brands in the enterprise IT services market to pick up another major contract win in Australia’s education sector.

Google partner SMS Management and Technology has emerged as the leading bidder to supply the NSW Department of Education with 1.5 million student email services using a customised version of the search giant’s Gmail service, Acting NSW Minister for Education and Training John Hatzistergos said.

“This commitment is a further demonstration of the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to equip teachers and students with the best possible means to compete successfully in the constantly evolving world of information technology,” he said.

NSW education department chief information officer Stephen Wilson said the department was yet to finalise its contract with SMS but confirmed that it had lodged the winning bid.

SMS will be the prime contractor alongside Google and Telstra to fulfil the contract, valued at $9.5 million over three years. It’s expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

The department rejected bids from Hewlett-Packard, Telstra subsidiary Kaz, and incumbent provider Unisys, to award the contract to SMS.

It’s understood that the contract will be one the largest private deployments of Gmail in the world.

The win is Google’s second major victory in the academic sector after Macquarie University signed up for Gmail in September last year. It could have massive implications for the Australian software market, as it places Gmail’s online word processing software, Google Docs, in a strong position to challenge Microsoft’s Office software suite in the education sector.

Mr Wilson said the agency had no plans to switch on Google’s online word processing software at this stage.

“We haven’t made any decision there. This contract was just email,” Mr Wilson said.

SMS chief executive Tom Stianos said the trend towards providing software as a service was “unstoppable”.

However, the Gmail deployment at Macquarie University hasn’t been without controversy.

Gmail is hosted offshore and the university chose not to extend the service to staff due to concerns that it would generate excessive bandwidth bills retrieving messages.

The education department’s Gmail roll-out will increase current email storage allocated to students by a multiple of 170 times from 35MB to 6GB.

The department is also deploying extra security filtering, which will be carried out locally.

“You have to remember we’re the largest consumer of internet traffic in NSW by a long way.

“We’ve modelled it so we can grow substantially on the current email traffic and still have a cost-effective solution,” Mr Wilson said. Students will not be given access to Gmail’s chat service and NSW teachers will be moved to the agency’s corporate email system rather than being allocated Gmail accounts.

Mr Wilson also said Google may host some of the email storage locally, further easing pressure on international bandwidth requirements to operate the service.

Mr Stianos said Google was examining local hosting options.

“I understand that they are talking to other state education departments in Australia and as part of that they’re looking at the potential of establishing a centre in Australia to host Gmail,” Mr Stianos said.

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