3.3.1 Key Considerations for School Connectivity
While no two countries will develop their connectivity plans in the same manner, it is crucial to implement some kind of defined process. The ultimate plan may differ from that envisioned at the outset of the process, but ideally the changes will reflect the beneficiaries’ needs, the resources available from government and other sources, and the potential of the technologies to be employed. Also, it is necessary to devise monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that will give the plan flexibility to adjust to changes in funding or technologies.
While processes will vary, there are common elements. When developing a plan for school connectivity a country needs to determine certain key parameters by which the plan’s connectivity goals and targets will be guided and carried out. Each country has a different set of needs, but countries that have implemented school connectivity projects have considered the following key elements:
- Identification of coordination and implementation mechanisms, including determining which government entities will be involved in implementing the plan, how stakeholders will be involved, and who will be responsible for coordination and implementation;
- Evaluation of relevant policies, laws and regulations, including identification of policies and programmes that will help or hinder broadband connectivity efforts;
- Definition of appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks for cyber-security, on-line protection of minors, and privacy, and incorporation of such frameworks into school connectivity projects;
- Identification of targets and milestones, including bandwidth and deployment timelines, based on current and expected future technologies and applications;
- Identification of appropriate end-user equipment or minimum specifications for such equipment;
- Determination of whether school connectivity will be centralized and coordinated at a national level or whether it will be decentralized, with school selection taking place at different levels (national, regional and/or local) ;
- A network model to determine, for example, if a centralized education network, including through NRENs, is preferable to subsidization of direct connections to private ISPs;
- Identification of maintenance and support mechanisms, which may include help desks, continuous support, or outsourced technical assistance mechanisms;
- Identification of Total Cost of Ownership, which achieves two key objectives: (1) it provides an end-to-end view of the project costs, thus increasing the chances of success and sustainability; and (2) it allows for coordination of funding from numerous sources with different interests in the education and ICT value chains;
- Identification of funding sources and levels, including long-term plans for sustainability; and
- Identification of cross-cutting issues such as teacher training, child online protection, accessibility for persons with disabilities, etc.;
- Identification of monitoring and evaluation tools and project flexibility to accommodate market and funding realities.
Figure 3-2: Key Considerations for School Connectivity