The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has called for further clarity on how funds will be redirected from key government educational IT projects axed or reduced in the 2011-2012 federal budget.
The budget, handed down this week, revealed the Federal Government would reduce funding to the Digital Education Revolution by $132.5 million of DER funding over four years, leaving only $20 million available per year – or less than half - to support the project until the 2013-14 fiscal year. Savings would be redirected to establishing a digital strategy for teachers, as well as an education advisory group.
Budget papers assured the cuts would not impact on the National Secondary Student Computer Fund, and claimed the government would still be able to reach its goal of providing a one-to-one ratio of computers to students in Years 9 to 12 by the end of this year.
The government also signalled it would axe the $80 million Vocational Education Broadband Network due to duplication with the National Broadband Network (NBN). Budget papers indicated the savings would be redirected to “other government priorities” but did not detail this.
ACS president, Anthony Wong, told Computerworld Australia that while the budget was positive overall, the government had left out many specifics. He said those could be ascertained through the forthcoming National Digital Economy Strategy, set to be launched by Senator Conroy later this month.
In particularly, Wong called for greater detail on how the government would address a much predicted skills shortage in the IT industry.
“In this current budget paper, there is a lot of detail about specific programs but no specific mention about how many will be ICT base skills,” he said.
“NBN and Cloud computing are two of the technology processes that will change some of our work skills programming.”
Ahead of the budget, Wong said the ACS was keen for an increase in funding to the ICT sector to entice younger and older Australians into becoming more web savvy.
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