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Opposition to can Aus $1.3bn school laptops program

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Australia's general election is in full swing and disputes over tech funding and tech policy continue to intrude on today centre stage.

In today's spat, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said he would scrap the government's "wasteful" computers for schools initiative if the centre right Coalition wins.

That would mean Year 9 pupils will not get their mitts on laptops as promised by the outgoing Labour government.

Last year, the government agreed a second round of funding worth $91m (£52.5m, US$82.2m) to buy 141,000 laptops for year 9-12 students in 1400 schools nationwide. The idea is to have a ratio of one laptop per two pupils.

At the time, Julia Gillard, then minister of education, and now Prime Minister, costed a full roll-out at $1.3bn (£750m, US$£1.17bn) over six years.

Hockey disputes this - this has now turned into a $2bn program with half the number of promised computers, he told Fairfax Radio Network.

His party has not come up with its own computer for schools program yet.

But really, does Australia's schools need so many laptops? According to at least one study, admittedly investigating home use, of 150,000 children in North Carolina, computers and broadband for all increases the digital divide. Poor parental supervision of poorer children is partly to blame.

And who can say that schools will be so very wonderful in supervising the computer use of their teenage charges?

Australia goes to the polls on August 21. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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