1 Introduction

A growing number of governments around the world are investigating or implementing pilots or programmes to distribute low-cost computing devices (LCCDs) for schools in their countries. The potential LCCD market is vast. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), only 25 per cent of developing-country households had a computer and 20 per cent had Internet access. 1 Considering the availability of computers in educational institutions, a wide disparity exists in the ratio of computers to students. For example, across Latin America in 2010, learners-to-computer ratios in primary and secondary schools ranged from 1:1 to 1:122. 2 However, the increasing spread of mobile devices may help to improve access to educational resources. A 2011 McKinsey/GSMA study, for example, stated that “the increasing affordability of mobile devices, with entry-level feature phones costing as little as USD 20, can help m-education solutions transform education for 1.2 billion K-12 students, 160 million higher and vocational education students and many more lifelong learners around the world.” 3

This toolkit module examines the LCCD arena, analyzes costs, identifies implementation issues and reviews different countries’ experiences with LCCD programmes. The module also takes into account the increasing interest among policymakers, educators, vendors and other stakeholders in using mobile devices to achieve educational goals. Just a few years ago, the use of LCCDs in the classroom was limited to desktop and laptop computers. Now, there is emerging interest in how tablets, e-readers, smartphones and feature phones can be used in educational settings. Such devices are often less expensive and more portable than more traditional computer form factors, and they are expected to play an important role in expanding access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) among both students and educators, partly because of their increasing ubiquity. This module incorporates recent and ongoing developments in the use of such devices to enhance educational initiatives.

More specifically, Section 2 defines LCCDs and provides examples of devices that are currently being tested and deployed in school projects around the world. Section 3 identifies the various cost elements involved in LCCD deployments. In addition to the LCCD itself, there are other items that must be considered in implementing an LCCD project, including electricity, networking, software, training, transport and distribution and maintenance.

Section 4 examines implementation details such as coordinating LCCD programs and deciding which schools and students should receive LCCDs. Section 5 provides several case studies about LCCD deployments in different countries around the world. There is also a “checklist” for planning and implementation of an LCCD project.

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