New research centre receives AU$62m to study children's digital lives

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child will examine the digital lives of Australian children from birth to eight years old.

New research centre receives AU$62m to study children's digital lives

A total of AU$67.1 million in funding will be invested towards a new research centre that is being established at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to study the digital lives of Australian children from birth to eight years old.

Of the total amount being invested into the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, AU$34.9 million will be provided by the federal government, while the remaining AU$32.2 will be in cash and in-kind support jointly contributed by five Australian universities and 33 academic and industry partner organisations from Australia, Europe, Asia, and the United States.

"Our children are growing up with unprecedented access to technology and we need to better understand the effect it is having on them," Minister for Education Dan Tehan said.
 
"This new centre will undertake a family cohort study, run children's technology laboratories, and lead research programs to improve our knowledge of the effects of digital technology on children.

See also: 56% of employees lack digital skills needed for future jobs (TechRepublic)

The government has appointed QUT professor Susan Danby to lead the new research centre.

She said the research will specifically involve experts from education, health, digital, and social, and provide health and education policy recommendations and guidelines. This includes practical guidance for families in navigating the digital environment and information about technology innovation for young children.

"This will involve improving curriculum and learning materials for educators so they can better enable students' digital learning as well as designing innovations to ensure children are learning in safe digital environments," she said.
 
"Australia will inform international agendas in minimising children's digital risks and maximising positive digital engagement."

At a state level, the Western Australian government launched its first science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills strategy in an attempt to create a globally competitive and innovative STEM workforce. 

The strategy, titled Future Jobs, Future Skills: Driving STEM skills in Western Australia [PDF], is built on five so-called pillars: skills for future jobs; STEM culture; school leadership and teacher excellence; diversity in STEM; training and reskilling for jobs. 

Read more: 10 skills that will help you get a better job in 2019 (TechRepublic)

Earlier this month, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Science put forward 32 recommendations on how Australia could enhance its participation in the digital economy.

In the Preparing for Australian Digital Future report, the recommendations highlighted five priority areas that need to be addressed, including promoting closer partnerships between industry and the research community; strengthening Australia's digital workforce and skills pipeline; delivering whole-of-government action; achieving reforms of the research sector; and promoting digital leadership in industry.

It also recommended for collaboration between researchers from universities and industry to be improved, suggesting research-industry brokerage activities could be formalised to help match research capability with industry needs and foster research–industry partnerships focused on developing future capabilities.

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