3.4.1 Total Cost of Ownership
An effective school connectivity plan must take into account the total cost of ownership (“TCO”), which is depicted in the diagram below. Educational objectives, actors and funding must be channelled to address the key steps that complement each other. These steps include the cost of deploying the infrastructure platform. Platform costs include more than the simple cost of acquiring computers and connectivity for schools. They also include the cost of accessing electricity where there is no access to the main electricity grid, as well as the cost of replacing equipment. Hardware and software, peripherals, the cost of security and electricity, are also factors. There are also costs for providing and maintaining content and applications, providing and ensuring continued user training and support, maintenance and technical support and the monitoring and evaluation of the project.
Figure: Total Cost of Ownership
Figure: GeSci Total Cost of Ownership Model, 2008 available at: http://www.gesci.org/old/files/docman/TCO-deploying-framework.pdf
In many cases, computers and other ICT equipment are provided through grants, donations or other sponsorship, but other costs, such as access to, and supply of, electricity, continued long-term, good-quality connectivity, training and maintenance have not been factored in. The absence of a holistic approach threatens the viability and sustainability of the project.
Access to power is essential for connectivity, yet extending electricity supplies to remote and rural areas is often expensive, entailing high installation, supply and distribution costs. Generators and solar panels also have their costs for installation and maintenance.
A recent programme driven by the Organización de Estados Iberoamericanos (OEI) (Organization of Iberoamerican States), called "Lights to learn," proposes to connect to the electricity network and provide Internet access to more than 62,000 rural and difficult-to-access schools. The initiative is based on the understanding that electricity is essential to providing the basic conditions required for teaching and for the use of ICTs. In 2012 the OEI will install pilot solar panels in at least 100 schools in each country involved in the “Luces para aprender” initiative, with the first being installed at the indigenous Itajeguaca School in Paraguay. The aim is to provide solar panels to the more than 60,000 schools that lack a power supply by 2014. The system will cost close to EUR 4,200 per school, amounting to a total cost of EUR 260 million.135
In addition, provisions must be made for the sustainability of the project. This will involve other sources; government and donor funding cannot be the only source of revenue for nation-wide coverage of schools. Schools are generally encouraged to devise funding strategies for long-term sustainability of school connectivity.