We made a few announcements in BETT week – and during the course of this week, I’ll make sure I write about them all (if you’re impatient, you can see them all here).

One of the most significant from a product/service perspective was that we announced the launch of the London Grid for Learning’s new email service. I’ve snipped some of the detail from the press release below:

LONDON — 14 Jan 2009 — London Grid for Learning (LGfL), a consortium of all London’s local authorities, has today launched Microsoft Live@edu services for up to one million students across London. This is the first network of its scale for schools, and the LGfL is the only network globally providing fibre optic connections to every school, positioning London at the forefront of 21st-century collaborative education worldwide.

Branded “London Mail” by LGfL, the new service will incorporate 33 local authorities and 2,500 schools, and is the largest potential deployment of Microsoft’s Live@edu mail services worldwide. Schools will be making significant cost savings using the hosted service, as Live@edu includes applications such as mobile, desktop and web-based e-mail — encouraging students to collaborate, create online communities, and make learning and the sharing of information easier.

 

The Live@edu service has been around for a while, and is widely used across universities to provide their student email service, and this is the first implementation for schools in the UK.

Students get a 10GB inbox, and they also get to use the latest Office webmail client – which is in effect the next version of Office. As Brian Durrant, the CEO of London Grid for Learning said in the press release:

Firstquotes

Part of our responsibility within education is to bridge that gap between school and the world of work; London Mail gives students an e-mail experience in line with what they will use when they graduate. Amongst the 25,000 students we have been piloting the system with, we have enabled an increase in teamwork across schools, which is extremely positive. And, practically speaking, using this service has helped schools make significant savings. We estimate the average secondary school could save around £18,000 a year using London Mail, so across the 2,500 schools in London, it’s a multi-million-Endquotespound reduction in costs.

For LGfL and the schools, there are further benefits. Firstly the fact that we provide the core service free, means that you should be less cost for a better service. And secondly, we carry the full responsibility for running the datacentres and the backup and disaster recovery plans etc.

To comply with the Information Security guidance from Becta, we run the datacentres for the Live@edu service in Dublin, meaning that the student data is stored within the EU. For those who visited Olympia last week, imagine a data centre three times bigger than the Grand Hall, which runs this and other services.

Now that this service is live in LGfL, we’re not expecting a rush of individual schools outside of London to sign up for the service. Instead, we’re in conversation with some of the Regional Broadband Consortia over their email provision. (If you’re interested in the service in your school, you can find out more here, but rather than asking us to provide the service, we’d prefer it if you asked your broadband consortium what their plans are to update their email services!)

Email has become such a big tool for students’ lives, and the need for ever-more powerful email services is creating a demand for education establishments to provide more powerful services. Although most students aren’t going to need a 10GB inbox and 25GB of collaborative storage space on the Internet, providing it removes a few barriers for years to come!

ps You might also be interested to see what the press said about the announcement, on ComputerWeekly and Softpedia,  and on Merlin John’s blog