BUDGET 2011: ICT spending in the education space

The Gillard Government must allocate funding to entice students into studying IT and educate older Australians about technology, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) have claimed.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia in the lead up to tonight's federal budget, the president of the ACS, Anthony Wong, and the CEO of the AIIA, Ian Birks, said training was a key area of concern for the IT industry.

[See the complete coverage of ICT spending in Computerworld Australia's Federal Budget 2011 section]

“Technology is crucial to Australia's productivity gains and we'd like to see greater investment in industry programs to ensure that Australia has appropriate ICT skill capacity to meet the growing demands on our sector,” Wong said.

Birks agreed that training was a priority, adding that some teachers in the education space lack basic computing skills.

“Increased investment in teacher preparation to develop their personal skills in using ICT is essential to ongoing ICT literacy in Australia, as are improvements to ICT research training which should be a priority,” the AIIA CEO said.

Wong said as well as training, a longer term strategy for the government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) was needed, and that educating the community was an important element of this.

“A longer-term strategy for ICT skills is needed to realise benefits offered by the NBN and digital economy,” Wong said.

“The ACS believes that the benefits of the NBN will be lost on many key stakeholder groups unless the Federal Government takes a more educative role regarding the NBN by itself modelling and exemplifying NBN applications such as teleworking.”

Focusing on groups disenfranchised by technology was important to the AIIA, with Birks saying the AIIA would like to see funding spent on encouraging women to work in IT as well as focusing on training for elderly Australians.

“There needs to be an inclusion of computing courses in the ‘National Priority’ band of HECS fees as a means to increasing enrolments in IT related tertiary study,” he said. “A lack of basic ICT skills in older generation citizens is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and a high-energy program to encourage young women into science, maths, technology courses is required.”

While the ACS and AIIA view education as an important area that needs funding, IDC’s senior market analyst, Emilie Ditton, said the reality is that the 2011 budget will be a tight one for spending on IT.

“Spending on education in the budget will be tight and this will mean funding in the education space will be reduced,” Ditton said. “Gillard is obviously is keen and focused on education as her key area of delivery but I think that will embody itself much more in non-IT ways than in IT specific investment.”

Ditton said that while previous years have meant an increase in funding for the Digital Education Revolution (DER), the project, which was evaluated in an audit report earlier this year, will likely continue without another dose of Federal Government funding.

“I think the Digital Education Revolution will continue as it has been, and particularly in the deployment of PCs,” Ditton said. “IDC is expecting the one-to-one ratio of PCs to students will be achieved by the beginning of 2012.”

The next major step for educators will be moving to the Cloud or using unified communications, which Ditton said is the next big opportunity for the education sector.

“The major opportunities in IT are in the use of the PCs and the connectivity that the DER drives so schools can make decisions around how to deliver education priorities,” she said.

“It’s about using unified communications and social networking solutions, utilising Cloud and certainly I think there’s a move to enable the schools to achieve against government plans.”

Earlier this year, the Gillard government was slammed for its rollout of the MySchool 2.0 website, with concerns from public schools that the next version of the site will not provide parents with enough financial information.

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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