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Education Minister Alan McIsaac says many of the computers in P.E.I. schools are federal government castoffs.
The Prince Edward Island government is finalizing a deal with Microsoft for computer security while the province updates its government software.
That’s because it will take upwards of 24 months to completely convert all the province’s computers from Windows XP to Windows 7, says Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, whose department oversees Information Technology Shared Services (ITSS).
“There’s a lot of costs and time and resources put into it to get there,” Sheridan said.
On April 8, Microsoft will officially end technical support for its Windows XP operating system.
Computers that use Windows XP will continue to work after this date, but they will be open to security and malware risks since
the monthly security patch for XP will no longer be issued.
This poses a problem for the P.E.I. government, which has standardized all computers in every department and agency with Windows XP.
Even 800 brand new computers purchased for teachers last year that came pre-installed with Windows 7 were downgraded to Windows XP after ITSS determined it would be too unruly to manage and maintain two separate operating systems.
Then, as part of its fall capital budget, the P.E.I. government pledged $5 million to update the province’s computer operating systems.
Due to the extended length of time this will take, Sheridan says Microsoft is entering into an agreement with the P.E.I. government to continue sending security patches during P.E.I.’s changeover.
“There’s a number of governments in the same boat that have had to find a way in which to make sure it’s still secure. They (Microsoft) are working with us on it,” Sheridan said.
“We’ve had very deep talks to ensure that we’re going to be safe and secure through the time period of all this transition. And we’ve been given that comfort.”
The province has faced criticism about the fact it is updating its computers to the older Windows 7 instead of the newest operating system available, Windows 8.
“Why are you replacing outdated and antiquated equipment with antiquated and outdated equipment?” Opposition education critic James Aylward asked Education Minister Alan McIsaac last November.
Many of the computers in P.E.I. schools are federal government castoffs. McIsaac said they are so old they’re not worth the investment of converting them to the newest available operating system.
“At present time we’re under the XP and we’re upgrading to Windows 7, and eventually we’ll go to Windows 8 as we go along,” McIsaac said in the legislature Nov. 29.
The entire project to convert to Windows 7 is approximately 24 months, with the majority of the work targeted to be complete in the first 16 months.