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2007 budget reduces national contribution to the Information Society by 51%

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Despite the expected increase in the State Budget for Science and Technology, which increases available funding by 77 percent, the Information Society area is affected by the budget proposal for next year. The Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education presented yesterday at the end of the afternoon in the Assembly of the Republic the financial details related to his ministry, where you can read a 9.6 percent drop in the amount available for the Information Society, being the steeper decline in investment from national funds, which falls 51.1 percent compared to 2006.

Although some areas that were included in the Information Society have been transferred to the Science and Technology budget – such as funding for grants and R&D projects managed by FCT, the RCTS scientific and academic communications network and B-On and Web of Knowledge – the reduction is notable when one of the Government’s flags goes through the development of the Knowledge Society, in line, moreover, with the European strategy.

In the document detailing the budget of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, the fact that the ministry’s operating expenses were reduced by 3.4 percent compared to 2006 figures, which accompanies «the reorganization introduced in the central and already poured into the new organic law of the ministry and anticipating the progressive reform of Higher Education institutions «.

The growth in the Science and Technology budget had already been highlighted previously, which was even mentioned by José Sócrates as an example of the importance that this area has for the Government. In the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, S&T has increased funding by 77 percent, with national allocations increasing by 90 percent. In total, the budget foreseen for S&T now amounts to 579.6 million euros, with 336 million coming from national funds and the remaining 244.9 from community funds.

For the Information Society, the document highlights the investment in the Connect Portugal Initiative, with public investment in matters of social inclusion and regional development, but also the «joint investments in Science and Technology and in the Information Society» in the fields of the national GRID initiative , in the creation and operation of a public primary communications network and in ICT R&D.

At RCTS, the strategy for consolidating primary infrastructure on a national scale will be reinforced, connecting all the district capitals of the continent by their own cable, «thus creating, for the first time and in line with European best practices, a public infrastructure of high performance».

The expansion of the Internet Spaces network and professional training in ICT are also contemplated, through the expansion of Technological Specialization Courses, primarily in Polytechnic Institutes and with the participation of companies.

The 2007 budget also maintains the patronage regime for the Information Society and the tax benefits in the purchase of computers by students, which had been withdrawn under the government of José Manuel Barroso.

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