NSW education drops $150M for 267,000 school notebooks

Federal government providing $386 million in funding for notebooks in NSW schools

The NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) has selected Microsoft and Lenovo as the suppliers for a 267,000 unit netbook deployment for teachers and students costing $150 million.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees today announced the contract “to build [sic] up to 267,000 laptops” is the beginning the joint federal and state government “Digital Education Revolution”.

“Production of the new laptops for the state’s 200,000 senior secondary school students and 25,000 secondary teachers will begin immediately,” Rees said. ”I want them in classrooms as soon as possible.”

Lenovo announced it will provide some 220,000 IdeaPad S10e netbooks running Windows XP to NSW state secondary school students in years nine to 12 and their teachers.

According to the government the announcement comes after an “extremely competitive tender process”, which started last December just days after the funding package for the program was finalised.

Rees said the federal government was providing some $386 million for the roll-out of laptops for NSW public senior secondary school students. The National Secondary School Computer Fund is a partnership between the Commonwealth and NSW Government and all educational jurisdictions.

Agreements have also been signed with Microsoft and Adobe for education and productivity software, including Adobe's CS4 suite and Microsoft Office 2007.

“The combination of the laptops and the software contracts we have signed will open our classrooms up to the world,” Rees said.

The NSW government will invest a further $25.5 million on the provision of software, on top of Federal government funding. Part of this includes a $20 million agreement with Adobe - $12 million from NSW and $8 million from the federal government.

“Using this software, students will be able to create videos, edit photos and make presentations for class assignments and projects,” Rees said. “Students and teachers will also be able to set up video conferencing and collaborate on assignments using the built in Web cameras and software within the department’s secure network.”

The Adobe software will be available for all computers in NSW public schools and TAFE colleges and NSW will finance the agreement with Microsoft to include Office Professional on all the new notebooks.

Rees said the deal with Microsoft is a world first in student licensing, based on a per student approach rather than per device and “we are putting software that would cost more than $5,500 if purchased in a store on each laptop at no cost to the student or teacher”.

“The Rudd government’s Digital Education Revolution coupled with further financial investment from New South Wales will transform teaching and learning,” he said.

“In May we will begin wirelessly connecting high schools and recruiting more than 400 full-time technical support officers to assist staff and students in secondary schools across the State with IT issues.”

The deal leverages the DET’s existing volume licensing agreement with Microsoft, which provides licenses for up to 1.3 million users, and is a slap in the face for Novell, as its own SLED 10 is a shipping option (along with Windows XP) with the IdeaPad S10e.

The initial netbook rollout is scheduled for July 2009 with the Windows XP laptops scheduled to be upgraded to Windows 7 (spare a thought for the project manager) by the DET when it arrives.

NSW DET CIO Stephen Wilson said the department is looking forward to rolling out Windows laptops to schools across NSW.

“We and are pleased with Microsoft’s innovative and flexible approach to software licensing and support,” Wilson said. “Microsoft’s solution is closely aligned with the NSW government’s digital education priorities.”

“We’ve also found Microsoft’s platform to be ideal for learning and development and are confident that it is the best platform to accompany our children through today’s education system.”

Microsoft also announced it will provide software, licensing, and support to assist the DET in managing the deployment and upgrade of 200,000 student computers, in addition to the 190,000 already in place.

Microsoft Australia managing director Tracey Fellows said this partnership will help ensure students are prepared for the “real world”.

“Students will have access to tools designed to help them get the most out of school, while giving teachers the opportunity to create a highly productive learning environment,” Fellows said.

No mention of Windows Vista was made in the announcement.

Contributing factors to Microsoft's selection were ease of manageability, upcoming features of Windows 7, and a “familiar interface”.

Microsoft insists its familiar interface will assist in the implementation and training aspect of the roll-out and “help to ultimately lower total cost of ownership”.

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