The Federal Government seems committed to spending the first $100m of its National Secondary School Computer Fund by June 2008. Whilst the application process for schools appears to be well underway, there is still no word on exactly how the state and territory agencies, as well as non-government school systems, will undertake purchasing of the equipment and services.
The first tranche will be directed to schools most in need. An audit of computer resources in Australian schools is already underway. Schools interested in the first round will need to submit their applications by early April 2008. Applications for the second round will be open to all Australian secondary schools in July 2008.
According to the Department’s (DEEWR) website “Funding agreements will be entered into with state and territory government education departments and Block Grant Authorities (BGA) by May/June 2008. The relevant state and territory departments or BGAs will manage the funding and will acquit these funds on behalf of schools.”
It is clear that the Federal Government will not be involved in the purchasing process.
Having evaluated applications from individual schools, the Federal Government will pass on funds to the states and BGAs through the normal grants process. The first $100m will be transferred before the end of the current financial year.
It is highly likely that none of this purchasing will occur until next financial year.
The main question that still remains unanswered is who will be the purchasing decision-maker? If each state education authority, as well as Catholic and independent school organisations make their own purchasing arrangements, it could mean that suppliers will need to respond to a large number of individual tenders.
A range of panel contracts are already in place to supply schools in each state. Several states also have whole-of-government contracts for PCs and related equipment.
Victorian schools currently buy from a whole-of-government PC and notebook equipment panel that includes six suppliers - Optima, Volante, Acer, HP, Toshiba and Dell. The contract was signed in 2006, and will run for five years, with options to extend for a further two years.
Queensland Department of Education, Training and the Arts awarded a new PC, notebook and server panel contract late in October 2006 that included HP, Acer, Dell and Queensland-based reseller, Coretech. The contract was initially for one-year, with a three 12-month extension.
In May 2007, the NSW Department of Education and Training axed agreements with local desktop PC manufacturers in favour of a single supplier, four-year deal with Lenovo. The NSW Government also has in place a whole-of-government desktop PC panel that includes Lenovo, Acer, HP, Optima and ASI Solutions.
It is possible that existing contracts may be used to procure equipment under the first round of funding for needy schools, however, they may decide to go to the market for equipment and services that will be allocated from the remainder of the $1b funding.