Reading, writing, 'rithmetic...and technology

The Australian Computer Society has called on the new federal government to set a "guaranteed date" by which each student who completes year 10 is "ICT literate". ACS national president Edward Mandla made the call when outlining his wish list for a new federal government, due to be elected on 9 October after Prime Minister John Howard announced the poll date yesterday.

The Australian Computer Society has called on the new federal government to set a "guaranteed date" by which each student who completes year 10 is "ICT literate".

ACS national president Edward Mandla made the call when outlining his wish list for a new federal government, due to be elected on 9 October after Prime Minister John Howard announced the poll date yesterday.

Mandla said when children can legally leave school -- year 10 in most states -- they should be armed with a basic knowledge of ICT, and that the government should implement a plan to educate the "missing generation of children" that are ICT illiterate.

"Kids are escaping from the school system without gaining crucial knowledge of ICT. I'm calling for ICT to become the fourth literacy," he said.

"The basic skills should be reading, writing, arithmetic and ICT," Mandla said, as "they are the basic requirements for high living standards."

"I am confident that both parties now recognise this as a big issue," he said.

The new government must set a benchmark for ICT literacy, according to Mandla, who adds "as well as more funding the government needs put ICT into schools curriculum".

"It's a matter of getting both the education and ICT ministers in sync."

Mandla said he would also like both sides of government to adopt the ACS guidelines in relation to offshoring, adding that he already has the support of Shadow Minister for Information Technology Kate Lundy and, to a lesser degree, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Helen Coonan.

"The key thing is that there has to be a competent re-skilling option for people losing their jobs to offshoring," said Mandla. "It's a matter of the ACS feeding back to the government about what the current 'hot skills' are so people can get updated before offshoring happens."

Mandla adds that workers should also be given funding to keep up with the trends as "it's expensive to keep up to date with technology". Mandla claims that he has "spent time" with the government discussing this initiative, which, he said, "shows they have been listening".

Third on his wish list Mandla said he would like the new government to create a "level playing field" for small to medium enterprises (SME) to win government contracts, as at this stage "it's just too hard for SMEs to get a government tender".

"At the moment the government has a policy in place that if a contract is more than AU$20 million then part of it has to go to an SME, but there are none that are over AU$20 million," said Mandla. "The government wants unlimited liability, and their theory is that if you buy from the biggies how could you get blamed?"

Mandla asserts that the new federal government "needs to get serious about ICT", and start comparing the industry and policy landscapes with countries such as Ireland and the US because he said "at the moment we're just guessing".

He also suggests that the new federal government should take a more active role in distributing broadband and wireless radio frequency spectrum.

"We currently have wireless spectrum auctioned off to the highest bidder, we need part of that spectrum allocated to councils and community groups to make it affordable," he said. "How will people in the bush get a fair deal?"

"We need both sides to acknowledge that if there is a competitive landscape you'll get investment and building the infrastructure."

Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said his major ask of the new government is that they "fix up broadband availability in areas where it is not yet cheaply available - especially as driver of delivery of health, education and government services".

He adds that the new government also needs to "help us [the IIA] roll out a national authentication scheme to counter fraud and spam".

Mandla concedes that both of the major government parties do not have ICT policy high on their priorities at this time, which he said, may be due to an improved ICT environment compared with that of 12-18 months ago.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All