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Computing & Information Services Newsletter
Information Technology Purchases

In today's world, the educational institutions that are heavily dependent on information and communication technologies must seriously expand their financial resources in order to meet the requirements of world-standards in the field. It is frequently observed that the institutions are hardly able to buy the technology they need because of the scarcity of the resouces. Moreover, since the extent of the essential software and hardware necessities of the universities are continously evolving and expanding, the task of managing purchasing aggreements with the vendors is getting more complicated and strenous job for single entities to cope with. The educational institutions worldwide are all experiencing similar problems.

To work out solutions to remove such problematic barriers in front of the technological concerns of educational institutions, consortiums are being established in many countries to facilitate partnerships and collaborations among educational institutions that would take concerted initiatives in order to create strong purchasing entities. Thus, a highly participated negotiation and purchasing force is created to make better purchasing decisions and to persuade vendors for notable discounts that would save large amounts of money. There is a diversity of consortiums or groups, which differ from each other according to the countries they are established in or according to their members, but they are mostly not-for-profit organizations or they charge money only for membership.

As well as affording aid in purchasing the software that are used extensively in universities, these consortiums organise and cooridnate the license renewal processes of each software annually and they manage a single-handed management of contracts entered into with the vendors that would substantially facilitate administrative processes as well as providing cost-effective solutions. Some of the outstanding consortiums are given below:

MEEC (Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium): This consortium is led by University of Maryland and currently 153 educational institutions participate in MEEC.

CHEST (Combined Higher Education Software Team): CHEST, which is one of those widespread and successful electronic data supply organizations in academic world, has included about 600 higher education and further education institutions since 1993. Today, CHEST arranges over 5000 licenses and establishes over 130 data and software aggreements. Some of the schools of Ireland and some Scandinavian Schools (Finland, Denmark, Sweden) have subscribed themselves to CHEST as well. For example, University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge.

OETC (The Oregon Educational Technology Consortium): OETC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maximizing the value of educational technology to its members by working with software and hardware vendors to procure the most effective and appropriate technological resources at the lowest possible price. OETC membership is comprised of over 350 educational institutions. OETC now has members in Alaska, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Missouri and New Jersey. The Consortium continues to grow each day with participations outside Oregon.

WSIPC (The Washington School Information Processing Cooperative): WSIPC provides information services such as contract management with software vendors and carrying out purchases of popular software and services at a reasonable cost to Washington state's 180 schools without charging a membership fee.

MHEC (Massachusetts Higher Education Concortium): Established in 1997, MHEC provides contract management for 95 universities in Massachusetts and constitutes a common purchasing force for its member universities. MHEC is a not-for-profit organisation.

Ohio Institutions: 15 state universities in Ohio made an alliance to enter into "Enterprise License Agreement" (ELA) with Microsoft. This aggreement aims to make 2.313.929 dollars of profit in 4 years.

The establishment of such organisations and memberships in Turkey, surprisingly enough, has evidently not become an issue of serious concern yet. However, as the electronic libraries are becoming widespread, especially seeking ways for establishing collaboration between the libraries of the universities have gained wider importance. Projects such as ANKOS (The Consortium of Anatolian Libraries) and OBES (Alliance for Provision of Publications) try to surmount shortcomings brought about by the rapid increase of the prices and disadvantages of not providing the publications from one source. All these efforts aim to reduce the costs; then consequently increase the means to access more resources.

It is, at present, undeniably evident that it will be highly beneficial to establish a similar consortium to define and compare organizational IT needs and priorities and to promote the management of IT purchasing affairs for most of the organisations in Turkey. If, the arrangements and regulations to accomplish such projects are completed as quickly as possible, I believe, it will not take long for us to see the results and profits to be made in all IT related purchases, which will consequently ease the procurement and management of the licenses.

Sinem Cezayirlioğlu

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