The Federal Government has handed over $116 million to fund computer procurement across nearly 900 secondary schools. The funding is the first step in its Digital Education Revolution program to provide every secondary student with a PC.
In a statement, the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, said the $116 million first-round funding would allow 896 secondary schools across the country to purchase 116,820 computers. Schools participating in the first round are a mix of public, independent and Catholic institutions. They were found to have a ratio of one computer per eight children or worse.
Schools will be given up to two years to purchase and install computers worth up to $1000 each. A spokesperson for the Minister's department said 40 per cent of the funding must be spent within the first six months. Schools can access the funding via state and territory governments or Block Grant authorities, which are set up to manage funds for independent and Catholic schools.
State and territory governments will be responsible for how the money is distributed as well as what PC and notebook procurement arrangements schools use to access product, the spokesperson said.
Those who manage to spend just $500 on a computer can uses the remaining $500 on improving IT infrastructure, such as upgrading power suppliers or installing wireless connections, the Minister said in a statement.
In her statement, Gillard said the first round funding would push up the ratio of computers to secondary student to 1:2. During the election campaign, Labor said it would provide a PC for every secondary student from years 9-12 nationwide.
In an interview with ABC Radio, Gillard defended the 1:2 ratio, saying it still stood by its plans to have a PC in front of every secondary student long-term. The first two rounds of funding were the first step in reducing the gap, she said. Round two of the computer for schools program will open on July 14.
The Federal Government plans to spend $1.2 billion over five years on the Digital Education Revolution initiative, including $100 million towards developing fibre-to-the-premises broadband connections to schools.