Greater government focus on ICTs for education, and ongoing reductions in the price of devices for students, are generating a lot of interest in the potential for boosting computer availability for students in developing countries. This module has examined various issues that should be considered in implementing an LCCD distribution program for schools. It also has presented a variety of country experiences. Based on the analysis, several conclusions can be drawn:
- The selection of a particular LCCD depends on a country’s educational strategy and development status. Some LCCDs, such as the OLPC xo-1 and Intel Classmate, are expressly designed for children in developing countries, featuring special ergonomic and technical characteristics. Other laptops may not have these features and may not be as appropriate for young children. Some laptops may not be suitable for difficult environments, such as extreme temperatures or lack of electricity.
- The selection of a particular LCCD is also dependent on the pedagogical orientation of a country, as well as on government software policies and the age of the schoolchildren. The OLPC xo-1, for example, is specifically aimed at primary school children and may not be suitable for older students. At the same time, traditional mass-market laptops may not be as appropriate for primary school students. Some countries have policies to adopt or favor certain operating systems and software, which also affects LCCD selection.
- The immediate introduction of a one-to-one computing model is beyond the financial capability of most developing countries. Therefore, countries need to consider a phased approach involving a mixture of installing computer labs and distributing individual computers -- the two methods are complementary rather than inconsistent. One-to-one computing will radically affect the school environment. Governments and educational institutions must consider the positive and negative aspects. For example, one-to-one computing democratizes ICTs by making an LCCD widely available to all children regardless of income level, urban or rural location or gender. They can also be taken home, so that every household with a child also becomes a household with a computer. This may well be disruptive to the established learning environment.
- Objective studies about the costs and benefits of education-oriented LCCDs, commercially available laptops, recycled computers and thin clients are still lacking. The evidence to date is not entirely convincing, because it is typically sponsored by organizations that have an interest in a particular solution. Countries also need to be aware that, although there is an altruistic element to many LCCD programs, private companies are profit-oriented. Governments must carefully evaluate LCCDs and plan programs that are driven by the educational sector’s needs and resources, rather than driven by offers of donated computers for pilot projects.
- There must be a long-term commitment to one-to-one computing and LCCDs. Each year, new students enroll and need additional LCCDs. Governments need to ensure ongoing funding and sustainability to support this.
- Another financial challenge for developing countries is the need to balance the introduction of broadband Internet connectivity in schools with promoting one-to-one computing. The goals of one-to-one computing and broadband connectivity are both important, but with limited budgets, governments need to balance priorities. Therefore, it may be difficult to implement both one-to-one computing and broadband connectivity simultaneously. One-to-one deployment plans may need to be adjusted in order for schools to also attain Internet connectivity.
- Mobile education services and applications could allow countries to leapfrog over the computer lab and one-to-one computing models that have dominated discussions of ICT for education for at least the last decade. The potent combination of lower costs, increased computing power, and ubiquity of mobile devices could help overcome one of the biggest challenges to school connectivity: the high cost of buying computers. While mobile handsets, tablets and e-readers may not be able to completely replace more traditional desktop and laptop computers, they provide a new point of access for school-age children, university students and other learners to educational content and collaboration tools.
- In order to maximize accessibility, mobile learning initiatives should cater to the full range of technology contexts. Smartphones and tablets may have the flexibility and processing power to obtain and run a wide range of applications and services, but there is still a large base of feature phone users. A comprehensive mobile learning initiative should take into account the mix of mobile devices that is prevalent in a particular market and ensure maximum accessibility. For example, feature phone users with Nokia handsets in China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria can access Nokia Life Tools, which the company describes as a “mobile-based, life-improvement information services suite.” Nokia Life Tools provides information targeted not only for education (such as English language learning resources), but also agriculture, healthcare and entertainment. The service had reached more than 30 million users as of August 2011, with the mix of available information and languages tailored to each market. 210
- ITU members can take several steps to consider the potential benefits of mobile devices for their own educational programs and policies:
- Review existing education (including e-education) policies, programs and plans to determine if they should be modified to reflect the rise of mobile devices and services suitable for education;
- Consult with education, ICT, and other stakeholders to identify potential areas of agreement, cooperation and potential improvement for m-learning initiatives;
- Identify the potential benefits and drawbacks to promoting m-learning initiatives;
- Consider making any relevant revisions needed to create an enabling environment for mobile education tools;
- Identify potential funding options for m-learning initiatives and pilot projects; and
- Incorporate mobile devices and m-learning initiatives into education policies and plans in an appropriate manner, and with adequate mechanisms for monitoring their effects.