ANNEX 2.1 Introduction to Plan

The National School Connectivity Plan (“NSCP” or “the Plan”) needs to consider existing institutional frameworks, as well as existing policies, legislation and regulations that may have an impact on the implementation of the NSCP.

The Plan shall consider best practice approaches, as well as specific characteristics of the relevant administrative, legal and regulatory frameworks, to make proposals. This should lead to a pragmatic approach to connect schools to the Internet, and as far as possible, to broadband networks, by a determined date.

Although tertiary institutions may be considered, the Plan generally addresses connectivity in primary and secondary schools.

State the Key Challenges Posed by the Specific Realities of the Country

Infrastructure and connectivity – The main concern is with regard to ICT infrastructure and connectivity, and in particular “last mile” access for schools. This concern is particularly relevant in rural areas, but it can also be pertinent in certain parts of urban areas where computers and connectivity are not available.

Existence of a Single ICT4E strategy and coordination – Are there opportunities to combine or associate projects? Is there duplication, lack of experience in sharing or a potential ineffective use of resources and opportunities?

ICT skills – There should be adequate ICT training across the entire education sector. Distance learning should be implemented, particularly in rural areas where infrastructure is lacking.

Content – Is there sufficient local content, including content that is relevant to people in rural areas?

Legal and Regulatory Framework – This needs to be flexible enough to allow specific accommodation of school connectivity – for example, through lower spectrum fees, or by allowing school networks to access spectrum or connect to government fibre backbones at a lower cost.

Cost, Financial Constraints and Sustainability – Costs need to be addressed, and education and ICT sector budgets need to be carefully allocated and managed to ensure the efficient deployment of ICTs. School connectivity does not come cheap, and it is important to define total cost of ownership, as well as mechanisms to ensure sustainability of projects.

Promotion and Awareness - Policy-makers, school administrators, parents and students need to be acquainted with the multi-faceted opportunities, challenges and constraints of integrating ICTs into education.

Monitoring and Evaluation – Core indicators, which measure the inputs and outcomes of a programme or project, are essential in evaluating school connectivity initiatives. In order to measure the true use of resources, actual consumption and cost of the resources must be taken into consideration (e.g., the number of connections, equipment, etc.). The policy objectives -- such as better grades, and less drop-outs, for example -- must also be considered. These outcomes are usually brought about by a series of direct and measurable outputs, such as the number of students, and the number of teachers trained, among others.

Define the Vision and Objectives of the Plan

A representative vision statement might be as follows:

Vision: the provision of affordable high speed Internet access to primary and secondary schools and educational practitioners throughout the country, using any available and efficient technologies, with a preference for broadband through:

· The coordination of stakeholder input and activities to avoid duplication and enhance efficiency;

· The development of a policy and strategy to support, among other goals, the provision of broadband to schools;

· The promotion of the harmonization of activities, approaches, projects and standards in the uses of ICT in education;

· The inclusion of ICT in the curriculum at primary and secondary school level to ensure the provision of ICT skills to students and educational practitioners;

· The development of a schools network that connects schools to each other and provides a portal accessible by students, teachers and parents, allowing centralized information management and reducing the costs of access to that information;

· The promotion of digital inclusion through the development of local content for primary and secondary school education; and

· The promotion of harmonized activities and approaches to funding ICTs in education

Define Specific Actions To Achieve These Objectives:

For example: The achievement of the NSCP targets will be facilitated through a few key policy, legislative and regulatory interventions, including:

· Establishment of an NSCP Project Committee composed of key stakeholders;

· Integration of school connectivity into the universal service plans and financing mechanisms focused on ICT connectivity and integrated with other key infrastructure;

· Integration of school connectivity in any future national broadband plan;

· Imposing specific conditions on companies, targeted at achieving school connectivity, before granting or renewing service licences or rights of use for frequencies, including requiring companies to provide free or discounted Internet service to schools;

· Defining flexible spectrum mechanisms and licensing fees for research and education networks

· Auctioning spectrum that is not in use, on the condition that the licensee provide connectivity to schools at no cost, for the duration of the licence;

· Eliminating value-added tax for Internet service for schools;

· Creation of an “e-rate” (“education rate”) programme for all public and private primary and secondary schools – and even higher education institutions -- based upon meeting certain criteria, including the submission of applications by the schools.

· Promoting the reduction of prices for operators’ international connectivity, so that the operators’ lower costs can be reflected in lower prices for customers.

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