Labor party leader Kevin Rudd has today promised a AU$1 billion fund to give every senior secondary school student in years 9 to 12 access to a computer at school.
Speaking at the ALP's federal election campaign launch in Brisbane, Rudd said that the "groundbreaking reform" would make every secondary school in Australia a "digital school".
"I want to provide every secondary school student in Australia with the foundations to move into the digital economy of the future," he said.
Rudd promised that the investment would not be a 'one-off', acknowledging the need to keep computer systems up to date.
"We'll fund replacement of these systems to keep them at the cutting edge," he said. "And for those schools that have already provided computers each or most of their students, our plan will allow ... to upgrade what they already have."
The ALP's National Secondary School Computer Fund offers all high schools whether public or private a mechanism to apply for grants of up to AU$1 million for the supply of laptops, PCs, thin clients and network infrastructure.
Rudd also stepped up his attack on the government's technology credentials, highlighting the need for faster broadband and an answer to the skills crisis.
The ALP has already promised that 99 per cent of school children would have access to connections of up to 100 Mbps under its national network plan, with the remaining over per cent covered by fixed line, wireless and satellite connections.
"Mr Howard seems to believe that providing our young people with computers is exotic," he said. "Mr Howard just doesn't get it. Around the rest of the world, its not exotic, its mainstream."
While making no specific mention of the technology industry, Rudd acknowledged that more generally Australia is suffering from "an acute skills crisis".
"The government itself projects that Australia will suffer a shortage of qualified workers of up to 200,000 by 2010," he warned.
To that end, Rudd announced that he would tackle the crisis with four years of funding for an additional 450,000 training places -- including 65,000 apprenticeships, across industries.