Budget: Schools to get $42m for networks

The government is committing $42 million over four years to improve school computer networking infrastructure.

The government is committing $42 million over four years to improve school computer networking infrastructure.

Finance minister Michael Cullen announced the new spending, which is “so [schools] can connect easily and efficiently to online resources”, in the 2003 Budget, delivered to Parliament yesterday. The $42 million is in addition to the tens of millions already invested in the Probe broadband scheme.

The government’s spending looks to be aimed at improving ICT skills and literacy long-term, more than it is committing funding specifically to assist current computer use in business.

A $110 million contingency fund over four years has been provided “to enable the implementation of initiatives that the government undertakes” in response to the reports of the three innovation strategy taskforces, one of which is concerned specifically with ICT.

There are a bunch of more general “knowledge-economy” spurs, such as $140 million of new money for research, science and technology. A new pre-seed acceleration fund will be established with $19 million to invest over the next four years, in partnership with the private sector, in the early commercial development of promising discoveries coming out of research institutions.

Cullen has also signalled changes to tax on R&D, with possible implications for local software developers. A group has been established to report to the government on how well the policy is working, and Cullen told Parliament “it would not be surprising if this results in some modifications to the law to remove any identified problems” during the next financial year.

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