The Federal Labor government's digital education revolution received its final rubber stamp at yesterday's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, but one industry observer has advised education administrators to take their money and put it elsewhere.
The Labor government announced its intentions to provide individual computer access for every high school student between years 9 and 12 at its election campaign launch last year, with Kevin Rudd promising to turn every secondary school in the country into a "digital school".
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, described COAG's decision to approve the plan as a "major plank" of yesterday's meeting in Adelaide, where final arrangements between the state, territory and Federal governments were approved ahead of the first Federal digital education dollars arriving at priority schools in June.
A list of "priority schools" was compiled after COAG commissioned an IT audit of the country's secondary schools earlier this year, finding that some had a ratio of only one computer to every eight students.
"Better technology and better learning environments will encourage more young people to stay till year 12 and enhance their skills at a time when Australia is facing a skills shortage," Gillard said in a statement.
"For the first time all governments have agreed on a common framework for reform of education, a key step in the education revolution," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at the meeting.
Dr Bruce McCabe, managing director of research firm S2 Intelligence, told ZDNet.com.au today that spending on network infrastructure would yield far greater long term results than spending the entire AU$1 billion fund on hardware for students.
"I'd be encouraging every state administrator to push that the money is spent on networks rather than computers," he said, "money needs to be spent on targeting the core of the problem, which is access to information, and that's all about networks."
Nonetheless, McCabe said he broadly supports the government's plan.
"The disease for most governments is short termism: I think what the government is doing here is overall a very positive thing, and the payoff for the country will be massive in years to come," he said.
"I'd like to see similar signals in the university sector; the economic benefits of an innovative and effective education system are massive: they flow throughout the economy and into every sector," he said.