A recent BBC News headline entitled “Google’s e-mail for universities” states that “Trinity College Dublin has switched to Google’s e-mail – with other universities considering such a switch“. A news item on the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Web site gives their perspective – and this has also been discussed by Alison Wildish on the Edge Hill University’s Web Service blog.

And I have discovered that I was influential in Trinity College Dublin making that decision! Michael Nowlan, Director of Information Systems Services at Trinity College Dublin informed me in a Skype message last night that “at the Terena conference a couple of weeks ago I stated publicly that Brian Kelly’s talk at EUNIS changed my attitude totally.” Michael reminded me about two talks I gave at the EUNIS 2005 conference: one “IT Services – Help Or Hindrance To National IT Development Programmes?” and another on Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences. Michael went on to say that my talks “led me to talk about disruptive technology at [the HEAnet Conference 2005] and here is the talk (WMV format) at least partly plagiarised from you!”

Why was I making such predictions over two years ago? Well IT Service departments have been at the forefront of network developments, with the UK University sector having promoted the benefits of network services for many years (and let’s not forget that the UK has funded the provision of applications services, such as those hosted by MIMAS, EDINA, JISCMail and other national services). And the provision of such services by a commercial company is simply the application of mainstream political and economic orthodoxies within an IT context. We’ve got the network – so this is surely no big deal?

What are your thoughts? Is having a diversity of providers of IT solutions (which need not be restricted to email) a good thing, in that it provides the user community (staff and students) with greater choice and can also help to ensure that the default IT provider (the IT Services department) is user-focussed (i.e. driving out the ‘IT fundamentalist”). Or is this Thatcherite privitisation of the educational sector which must be resisted at all costs, as it is likely to lead to a deterioration in the quality of the services as the commercial provider seeks to maximise its profits and ignores the specialist requirements of the educational sector? And as I’m giving a talk on “Web 2.0: Opportunity Or Threat For IT Support Staff?” at the UCISA SDG IT Support Staff Symposium 2007 next week I’m very interested in people’s views on this matter. Will I get lynched at the conference, I wonder?