As a “not for gain” organisation, with no commercial interest in any particular software, educational resources or even services, SchoolNet was in a position to test a variety of technologies and lead schools to the best options available at the time of application.
The following table summarises key considerations and success factors which may apply to almost any ICT in education (or ICT4D) initiative.
- Consider free software and the incumbent advantages:
- Local communities have the freedom to use, adapt, enhance and share the software.
- The immediate acquisition costs and longer term cost of ownership is much lower
- no software license costs for the operating system, applications, etc.
- the life time of computers may be extended
- local volunteer or professional skills and resources may be used to support, adapt, enhance and maintain the software.
- Freedom from vendors, freedom to change database, operating system, applications, etc.
- Reduced risk of system security breaches
- Simplified installation and update procedures.
- Be wise about accepting donations of computer hardware
- Make sure you know what you are getting.
- Give preference to donations with some level of consistency
- e.g. from organisations offering quantities of machines with similar specifications.
- Be aware of risks, disposal procedures, regulations, supplier policies, etc.
- Consider thin client solutions which significantly reduce maintenance and electricity costs.
- At any level can be a critical to success
- develop and empower champions
- apply best practice targeted advocacy.
- Enabling access opens up a world of possibilities
- encourage users to be bold and innovative
- educate educators on how to seize them.
- Pay attention to operational efficiency, organisational development and effectiveness.
- Collaboration and Partnerships
- Develop synergies with public, private, civil, educational and community sectors
- towards mutual and societal benefit.
- Maintain close relationships with relevant people in government
- ensure there is a common understanding of educational and development principles and direction
- aim: regulatory and policy endorsement.
- Work closely with school principals, teachers learners, volunteers and local communities
- partners developing appropriate solutions
- Make regular contact and develop rapport with funders – also as partners.
- Build local capacity
- to ensure success on the ground and grow the local ICT industry
- empower communities to be able to sustain the initiative and encourage entrepreneurship
- don't under-estimate the capabilities and innovative capacity of local people, irrespective of their level of formal education
- train beyond ICT skills (vocations … life skills).
- Be flexible/adaptable and resourceful with respect to technology
- make the best of what is (or can be made) available
- in terms of hardware, software, connectivity, power, people, ….
- Be prepared to experiment – a diversity of approaches allows the best to survive and evolve.
- Networking and Profile
- Raise awareness of successes and needs (e.g. for computer donations), the network may provide.
- Share knowledge freely and be open to suggestions.
- Always credit the partners.