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Paris turns 175,000 kids on to open-source key plan

Aim is to give students easy access to "portable office" software suite designed to operate in Windows environment.

To help make kids aware of alternatives to proprietary software, the Ile-de-France, the political district of greater Paris, will be giving 175,000 school children and apprentices a USB key loaded with open-source software.

The keys, which will contain a "portable office" suite of software and other tools, will be given to 130,000 secondary-school pupils and 45,000 first-year apprentices at training centers at the start of the 2007 school year.

The portable office will include the office software suite, an Internet browser, an e-mail client, an instant-messaging client, and audio and video player software, according to the Ile-de-France regional council. The open-source software will work in the Windows environment.

The project will "represent for students a tool of freedom and mobility between their school, cybercafes and their home or friends' PCs," the council said. The operation will cost $3.38 million (2.6 million euros).

The president of the regional council, Jean-Paul Huchon, is a self-confessed "partisan of the rebalancing of the supply of proprietary and open-source software" who previously welcomed the launch of the Firefox 2 browser and led the support for a creation of a competitiveness hub based on open source.

Staff writers of ZDNet France reported from Paris.