Using suites of ‘free’ refurbished computers may cost over four times more than buying and using ‘state of the art’ mlearning technologies

The paper is situated in the context of teacher education in the global south, and the possible role of ICTs in supporting and enabling this. The paper arises from the DFID funded Digital Education Enhancement Project (DEEP), which has been researching the use of mobile technologies for teacher professional development, with teachers serving highly disadvantaged communities in South Africa and Egypt.

The main DEEP research questions focus on the potential contribution of ICTs to teacher professional development, and subsequently on pupil learning. However, in presenting this work, the most frequently raised issue is that of cost. DEEP has used small numbers of new laptop and handheld computers in contexts where many believe suites of donated ‘cast-off’ computers are the only viable interpretation of ICT. This paper therefore, sets out to explore this challenge by comparing the total cost of ownership of the two models of ICT use. The question has significant relevance for all the schools and large scale projects currently seeking to make use of ‘refurb’ or ‘donated’ computers in schools across the global south.

The paper applies a ‘Total Costs of Ownership’ model as put forward by Moses (in Perraton and Lentell 2004), which draws upon established norms for supplies and maintenance for ICT equipment. research findings or contribution to knowledge The findings suggest that using a ‘free’ suite of old computers may cost over four times more than buying and using a set of new mobile computers of the kind used by DEEP, even before additional costs (such as retrofitting a room for a computer suite) are taken into account.

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