Schools shift spending to wireless, handhelds, notebooks

Anticipating smaller budgets, school officials are spending their technology dollars more carefully, according to new research from International Data Corp. (IDC).

“A lot of disposable or short-term investments are not being done,” said Ray Boggs, author of the report “U.S. K-12 Technology Profile 2003: Changing Investment in Personal Computer, Network, and Online Resources,” which was released May 7.

“School officials are saying, ‘We know we can’t do this next year, so let’s not even bother with it this year,'” Boggs said.

The news isn’t all bad, though. Nearly 28 percent of respondents said the current fiscal climate will have no significant impact on their overall technology spending.

Instead, some school officials are scaling back computer labs filled with desktop computers and shifting their priorities to portable, wireless computing to help reduce costs.

“Stuff that is hot, like wireless networking, is continuing to grow,” Boggs said.

While desktop computers remain the most significant hardware expenditure, school officials are spending more than they have in the past on notebook computers, handheld devices, and wireless networking, according to the report.

“These really are pockets of growth,” Boggs said.

For this study, researchers surveyed 205 technology directors online about what they plan to spend on computer hardware, application software, wireless networking equipment, digital and internet-based curriculum, and distance learning. The report is directed at technology companies and costs $10,000.

The trend in K-12 technology spending, which has increased steadily the last few years, is reversing direction in light of state budget shortfalls and the economic downturn, Boggs said.

“Spending changes are coming in two areas—stuff and staff,” he said. “Equipment purchases are being delayed or refined, and IT support professionals are either not being added as planned or not being replaced if they leave.”

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they plan to delay equipment purchases, and half (49 percent) said they plan to delay spending on services. Thirty-seven percent said they’ve put a freeze on hiring technology support personnel, and another 13 percent said they plan to reduce IT staff.

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International Data Corp.

eSchool News Staff

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