3.4.2 Mobile access costs and m-learning

The cost of access and data packages, as well as insufficient connectivity or coverage, are the biggest factors limiting the growth and adoption of m-learning. 126 The high price of handsets (particularly smartphones) and service packages can limit access to m-learning tools and services. Although mobile service costs continue to decline – decreasing 22 per cent between 2008 and 2010 in the developing world, and 19.1 percent in the developed world 127 – service prices remain an obstacle to higher adoption rates.

There are both public-sector and private-sector approaches that can be employed to lower affordability barriers. For example, governments could subsidize or otherwise contribute funding to increase the accessibility of devices and/or services when used for educational purposes. Such initiatives could be driven by ministries responsible for education and ICTs, among others. In the private sector, businesses can work to build business cases for providing devices, services or both for mobile learners.

For example, operators could partner with educational institutions to offer discounted or tailored service plans targeted at students and educators. A 2012 McKinsey & Co./GSMA report estimated that educational connectivity revenue alone would total USD 4 billion globally in 2020. 128 Operators can also partner with other service providers in the education sector to offer product/service bundles and business-to-business offerings.

In addition, efforts to lower device costs in the developing world could have a positive impact on adoption of devices capable of delivering educational content. While smartphones powered by the Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows operating systems may garner much attention in the developed world, there also are efforts under way to develop lower-cost smartphones that would be more affordable in the developing world. For example, the Mozilla Foundation – the organization best known for the Firefox web browser – is developing a mobile operating system for smartphones intended for release in 2013. Mozilla and its partners, which include Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom and Qualcomm, aim to make smartphones using the Firefox OS available in Latin America at a price between USD 100 and USD 115. 129 Mozilla is working with other operator partners in regions around the world to develop and deploy such low-cost smartphones.

126 Gaudry-Perkins, Florence and Lauren Dawes, “mLearning: A powerful tool for addressing MDGs,” MDG Review (April 2012) at 11, available at http://www.meducationalliance.org/sites/default/files/mlearning_article-mdg_review-alcatel-lucent-gsma-april_2012.pdf .

127 ITU, “The World in 2011: ICT Facts and Figures,” available at http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/facts/2011/material/ICTFactsFigures2011.pdf .

128 McKinsey & Company, “Transforming learning through mEducation,” (April 2012) at 22, available at http://www.gsma.com/connectedliving/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/gsmamckinseytransforminglearningthroughmeducation.pdf .

129 Hardy, Quentin, “A Firefox Smartphone for the Developing World,” (September 7, 2012), available at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/a-firefox-smartphone-for-the-poor/ .

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