Labour plans for free computers

Labour is planning to supply tablet computers or laptops to all pupils of low decile schools, according to speech notes the party accidentally sent to the Government.

Yesterday the office of Labour MP Clare Curran emailed the party's proposed information and communication technology (ICT) policy to the office of Communications Minister Amy Adams.

Curran's office quickly confessed the error to parliamentary media by supplying a document, but later admitted it differed from the one sent to Adams.

The email sent to Adams also included speech notes from a speech Labour leader David Cunliffe gave to a private IT leadership breakfast yesterday.

The notes describe internet access as "a right" and suggests a roll-out of personal computer devices to all pupils of less-wealthy schools.

"No digital divide - Labour will roll out universal access to individual devices in low-decile schools, starting [with] the decile-one schools," the notes say.

The notes carry a warning to Cunliffe that expanding too much on the point might spoil a later policy announcement, stating: "Don't know how much we can say about this as it is likely to be one of our kids campaign announcements".

Labour floated the idea of personal computers for school children in 2010 but the speech notes yesterday appear to go further suggesting it will be policy.

Some schools, including low-decile schools have attracted headlines for providing iPads for all pupils, although much cheaper devices are available, retailing at about $100.

The speech notes also float the idea of an "IT visa programme", although Cunliffe is given a cautionary note that it has risks such as "wages/rights".

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Labour did not comment on the speech notes last night.

The ICT policy framework document described a proposal for what was described as "KiwiCap", a fixed monthly amount of bandwidth per citizen, and "KiwiCloud", a fixed amount of encrypted cloud-based storage.

"Can be provided to some as a benefit," the document states.

Curran said the document was only ideas for policy, and had no official status.

It is not the first time Labour has accidentally had contact with Adams - last year the MP for Selwyn was invited to a policy development meeting.

"It's a bit of a laugh when their ICT team can't seem to use ICT with any basic level of competence," Adams said yesterday, adding the policy document was underwhelming.

"Calling everything Kiwi-this and Kiwi-that is their election strategy," she said.

 - The Dominion Post


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