Home & Office

ALP laptop rebate to bridge tech divide?

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd has announced Labor's plans to "bridge the digital divide" between rich and poor but some are already questioning how much the scheme will help the non tech-savvy.
Written by Marcus Browne, Contributor

As the federal election campaign enters its second week, debate over how to address the tech future of the nation has escalated.

Late on Friday, Kevin Rudd announced Labor's plan to provide a tax rebate scheme for low-income families, which will allow them to purchase laptops, printers and broadband access as an education-related expense.

The rebate falls under Labor's 50 percent Education Tax Refund plan, targeting Australia's less well-off families, and would be made available to households with incomes of up to AU$100,000.

"I think it's very positive in terms of initiatives," said Sheryle Moon, CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association.

"The industry is focused on how we continue to make sure we have the right ICT skill levels in the country, and any move to ensure that we have an ICT literate workforce in the future is welcomed," she said, but went on to add that "we still don't have enough details yet."

Moon expressed some reservations in regards to the scope and potential implementation of the plan, saying: "Without proper broadband infrastructure you might question the value of the scheme in order for certain families to really benefit."

Communications Minister Helen Coonan slammed Labor's plan, saying: "If families are paying AU$1200 per year for broadband, it's obviously going to wipe out any benefit from the education rebate."

"A one-off purchase of a computer is hardly going to keep families from the kind of spiralling cost of then having to pay at least AU$1,200 a year for fibre, having no other choice," Coonan added.

The AIIA's Moon also suggested "there might have been a case for putting the money into schools", as opposed to offering it directly to families through a tax rebate.

"When it comes to broadband, not all schools are connected yet either," she said.

"In schools children are using technology in concert with their education outcomes," said Moon. "In the home we can't even be sure of who's using it, let alone what for."

"At this stage it's very hard to tell what the impact will be, the plan is focused on a specific group of people -- a means tested group," she said. "Are we talking about impacting on a large proportion of the population or not?"

AAP contributed to this report.

Editorial standards