Education decision-makers face the challenge of equipping young people with the skills necessary to compete
in the global economy and need information and tools for formulating effective policy. This white paper
discusses key issues related to technology in education and presents several major findings, including:
• Academic research and private-sector investment decisions indicate that computers in schools contribute
to improved academic outcomes, boost a nation’s economic competitiveness, and attract job-creating
• Governments need to consider the entire cost of school computing solutions, rather than merely the
initial expenses. A total cost of ownership model takes into account recurrent and hidden costs such as
teacher training, support and maintenance, and the cost of replacing hardware over a five-year period.
• Support and training are recurrent costs that constitute two of the three largest costs in the total cost of
ownership model. They are greater than hardware costs and much higher than software fees.
• Ultra-low cost computers and Linux-based solutions are relatively equal in cost to traditional hardware
and proprietary software solutions because they require higher labor and replacement costs over a fiveyear
• The total cost of ownership for different computer types and software platforms is relatively consistent.
Critical success factors, such as IT ecosystems and platform stability and longevity therefore need to be
considered in affordable computing decisions.
Success in realizing these outcomes depends largely on adequate funding and skillful implementation. To
effectively allocate resources for computer initiatives, education officials must base their decisions on the
total cost of ownership (TCO) of the full range of computing solutions.
Developing-country education budgets are increasingly strained by greater numbers of young people and
rising expectations among students and global markets. Governments face difficult choices on how to
allocate scarce resources to advance national goals for social and economic development. Education
decision-makers need information and tools that allow them to provide the growing youth population
with the skills required to excel in the knowledge economy.
Computer technology is a common element of most developing country education plans. The intended outcome of computer integration in schools is typically to improve students’ ability to learn and work, support equal access to quality education, and contribute to the nation’s economic competitiveness.
Immediate Benefits of Affordable Computing in Developing Countries
Students report increased motivation and superior academic achievement as a result of school
A World Bank-sponsored study of computersin-education programs in Chile and Costa Rica
also found enhancements in student learning, technology skills, and self-esteem, as well as
benefits for students with special needs. In Egypt, 92% of students who participated in an
iEARN Internet-based learning program reported improved English-language skills.3
Math and language scores have increased among students with access to computers
In studies of affordable computing initiatives in Mexico and India, investigators compared the
performance of students with and without computers on math test scores. In the Mexican case, students
with technology tools outscored their counterparts without such access.4 In the Indian example, pre- and
post-test comparisons of a computer-assisted math learning program implemented in 100 municipal
primary schools found that the program was correlated with significant increases in math achievement.5
Another study conducted in low-income and rural areas of India found that students who had free
computer access at public kiosks performed better on science and math tests than students without such
Teachers report being more motivated, interactive with other teachers and their students
For example, studies have suggested that effective technology initiatives promote:7
• Increased motivation for teachers
• Enhanced teacher-student interactions and adoption of more student-centered approach
• An expanded sense of community among and more opportunities for peer-to-peer training
Harvard University and the World Bank Institute surveyed 126 primarily public secondary schools in
eleven developing countries around the world and found that the use of computers is associated with
improvements in teacher learning.8 Teachers and administrators alike reported very positive attitudes
toward technology, with 74% of teachers and 95% of administrators noting that the overall impact of
computers in their school has been somewhat or extremely positive. The iEARN-Egypt study, in
addition to reporting higher student learning outcomes, also found that 88% of teachers felt they had
become more effective teachers as a result of participation in the study.
Future Benefits of Affordable Computing in Developing Countries A tech-literate population is crucial to economic development The acceleration of globalization in the past decade has given new impetus to national drives to develop
the brightest and best-educated workforce possible. As nations endeavor to improve their economies
and create high-paying jobs for millions of new labor force entrants, a tech-savvy and well-educated
workforce has become a prerequisite for meeting these goals.
Technology education has played an important role in the development of nations such as South Korea,
Taiwan, and Israel and aided their emergence as manufacturers and creators of high-tech products and
services. The benefits of a large pool of highly-skilled workers can also be seen in China and India. These
countries are luring major multinational investments and creating robust local companies such as Huawei
and Wipro that generate thousands of jobs. These jobs in turn nurture a growing middle class, produce
tax revenues, and deepen the local IT ecosystem. If computer education is not available in schools, many
students in developing countries would have no access to technology and weaker employment prospects.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers surveyed in a Harvard / World Bank Institute study reported that
computer use in schools had positively impacted their students’ job opportunities after graduation.9
Computers in education may reduce inequalities High levels of inequality are common in developing countries.
There are large material discrepancies between schools in welldeveloped, usually urban areas, and poorer, rural schools which often serve minority populations.
Frequently, there is also gender inequity, though many countries have made strides in addressing this issue,
particularly in primary education. Several studies support the notion that IT furthers the goal of achieving
Education for All (EFA). A broad 2004 study of 385 schools participating in Chile’s Enlaces IT initiative
showed that, while far more private schools children than public school children have computers at home,
85% of all students, regardless of socioeconomic level or school type, cited school as the most common
place to access technology. The report concluded that “the public policy on access to ICTs by integrating
them into schools is the mechanism that has permitted equalization [among] Chilean families.”11 Some
qualitative studies have concluded that distance education is also a useful, cost-effective means of
delivering educational materials and training to rural, underserved areas.