4.3.1 Sustainable funding
One of the key research findings on ATs in developing countries is the need for a sustainable funding model. While the initial capital needed to provide the equipment and software is of course necessary, it is vital that consideration also be given to ongoing support and maintenance of this equipment. The following best practices are based on the case studies in this module; they point to a variety of funding strategies and partners. These partners include government (national and regional), educational authorities, private industry (local and international), and international aid organizations.
Provision of subsidized AT from AT vendors and charitable organizations
Several projects around the world provide computers and other ATs to schools and telecenters in developing countries, at a significantly reduced rate or for free. Charitable organizations and multinational companies provide heavily subsidized or free laptops and computers with ATs. In one project supported by Sight Savers International, 45 refurbished laptops, supplied by ComputerAid (the UK based PC recycling charity), and flash drives containing screen readers and magnifiers by Dolphin (the UK based assistive technology developer) were provided to blind students at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. At a cost of USD 250 for each laptop and flash drive, the prices “compare very well with Braillers and Braille books.”120 See more on this in the case study from Kenya.
In comparison to this approach, the POETA project, based in Latin America and the Caribbean, works with local non-governmental organizations over a longer term to develop IT training centers that contain ATs and provide job-training skills to persons with disabilities (see POETA case study). This longer- term approach works to develop accessible IT training centers, with the ultimate of making them self-sustaining. One study of the POETA centers found that participants, at least anecdotally, were willing to pay a nominal fee to attend the courses.121
This study also found that while the cost of AT is a significant barrier to access for persons with disabilities in developing countries, it is critical that funding strategies go beyond “parachuting-in technology” and look to support projects that will empower persons with disabilities through long-term access to AT.122 This presents a significant challenge from the ”corporate social responsibility” perspective, whereby funding and/or technology are often provided on a once-off basis.123
Therefore, whatever funding strategy is used to capitalize the initial provision of AT in connected schools, governments and educational authorities will need to be able to support students and teachers alike in the use of ATs, and in their incorporation into the inclusive curriculum of a school.
121Technology and Social Change (TASCHA) group, University of Washington. Technology for employability in Latin America: Research with at-risk youth & people with disabilities http://cis.washington.edu/files/2009/11/tascha_ict-employability-latin-america_200910.pdf
122TASCHA study page 86
123TASCHA study page 84