Victoria coughs up AU$11m for state mobile blackspots round two

Victoria is expecting to deploy 45 new mobile base stations using AU$11 million in 2018-19 State Budget funding to improve regional coverage.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Victorian government has pledged AU$11 million in its 2018-19 State Budget for a second round of its mobile blackspots program to build additional telecommunications infrastructure to improve coverage in regional areas.

It is expecting to facilitate 45 new mobile base stations during the financial year.

The state again focused on improving digital technology and infrastructure in regional areas, pledging a total of AU$25.1 million [PDF] for this -- in addition to the mobile blackspot funding. It also promised AU$13.5 million to support small businesses including "economy roadshows in regional Victoria"; AU$300,000 to develop a business case for establishing a Wangaratta Digital Hub for La Trobe University, GOTAFE, and Galen College; and AU$250,000 to set up the Wodonga Business Innovation cluster.

A continuing focus on cybersecurity will also provide AU$24.2 million to Victoria Police to enable it to respond to "serious and organised technology-enabled crime, including increasing their capacity to tackle online child exploitation".

"This includes increasing capacity to tackle organised crime syndicates trafficking drugs and firearms on the dark web, online child exploitation, gathering and recording evidence through digital forensic services, conducting covert operations, and gathering intelligence," the government explained in its Budget papers.

Victoria Police will also gain AU$9.4 million for mobile policing units.

The state government has then set aside AU$32.9 million in funding to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outcomes in schools -- AU$8.2 million for 2018-19, AU$16.6 million in 2019-20, and AU$8.1 million in 2020-21.

"We recognise that our education system must keep pace with rapid economic and technological change," state Treasurer Tim Pallas said in his Budget speech [PDF].

"We're focused on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics outcomes, with funding for 200 new maths and science specialists in our primary schools."

The government is additionally providing Tech Schools with AU$2.3 million in 2018-19, AU$5.2 million in 2019-20, AU$12.1 million in 2020-21, and AU$9 million in 2021-22.

"Continued funding will be provided for 10 Tech Schools in the Ballarat, Banyule-Nillumbik, Bendigo, Casey, Geelong, Gippsland, Monash, Whittlesea, Wyndham, and Yarra Ranges regions, which are connecting students to the skills and jobs of the future," the Budget papers say.

"Funding will provide for renewal of high-tech equipment at these shared hubs over time and will increase the reach of the industry-linked STEM programs and facilities for school and community use."

The Department of Health and Human Services will be getting AU$12 million in 2018-19 for a clinical technology refresh, as well as funding for electronic medical records in Parkville: AU$22.7 million in 2018-19, followed by AU$55.1 million in 2019-20 and AU$46 million in 2020-21.

"The technical infrastructure required to support and deliver patient-related services such as diagnostic imaging, patient management systems, and electronic medical records will be upgraded. This will improve operational stability of the delivery of information related to patient, diagnostics and other clinical services to the point-of-care," the government said.

"A modern electronic medical records system will be implemented for the Parkville precinct, encompassing the Royal Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Royal Women's hospitals."

According to the Service Delivery paper [PDF], digital government and communications will also be receiving AU$47.5 million during 2018-19.

"This output encourages innovative use of ICT to improve service delivery and business processes, and provides information and services to Victorian citizens and businesses through digital and other delivery channels," the government explained, adding that it is aiming for 300,000 average monthly visits to www.vic.gov.au, up from 245,000 last year; 2,000 eligible ideas for Pick My Project; and 150,000 votes for Pick My Project.

The Pick My Project grants program -- "which allows locals to decide on their own funding priorities," Pallas added in his Budget speech -- is getting AU$30 million in funding.

Industry and Enterprise Innovation will be given AU$194.3 million in 2018-19, while the Department of Premier and Cabinet said it is expecting to establish or renew five IT whole-of-government state purchase contracts during the year.

The government also said that part of the AU$684 million in funding for the second stage of the Monash Freeway upgrade project would go towards "installing smart on-road technology from the South Gippsland Freeway to the Beaconsfield interchange".

Following its AU$15 million investment announcement to enhance agricultural technology (agtech) for the state's farmers in March, the Victorian government has now pledged AU$436.6m in 2018-19 for its agriculture industry, some of which will go towards "research and development to develop new technologies and practices and provides services to enhance their adoption to increase farm productivity and supply chain efficiencies".

Victoria in March also announced providing AU$2.9 million to 16 service providers to deliver training to local startups through its AU$60 million technology investment body LaunchVic.

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