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How much does it really cost to introduce and sustain computers in schools?

A World Bank ICT and Education Community of Interest Discussion (EduTech), in  collaboration withthe e-Development Thematic Group, infoDev and the DC-based Technology Salon


How much does it really cost to introduce and sustain computers in schools? 


Total Cost of Ownership (TCO):  A Study of Models of Affordable Computing for Schools in Developing Countries


11am - 12:30pm Washington DC time (GMT+5)

6 November 2008



The seminar was streamed and recorded for on demand viewing. Try one of these channels (Real media will work for most people who have this player installed):

Speakers: Karen Coppock, VP of Consulting Services, and Brendan Smith, Senior Consultant, Vital Wave Consulting


Discussant: Jon Camfield, Director of ICT, Youth Service America


We had a lively presentation and discussion of the findings of this study, their potential implications, and the underlying methodologies and assumptions underpinning the models explored in this work.


We initiated the discussion with comments from Jon Camfield, Director of Information and Communication Technologies at YSA (Youth Service America), who has co-authored an update to the TCO Tool for schools developed by the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI).  This tool, "Deploying 1:1 educational models in large scale: a practical budgeting tool based on TCO", is available for free use under a Creative Commons License and is currently being utilized as part of planning processes in Rwanda, drawing on lessons learned from its earlier use elsewhere in Africa, most notably in Namibia.


Program Description


"Total cost of ownership" (TCO) is often underestimated, sometimes grossly, when calculating costs of ICT in education initiatives in developing countries.  Estimates of initial costs to purchase equipment to overall costs over time vary widely; typically they lie between 10-25% of total cost.  That said, there is a dearth of reliable data, and useful tools, to help guide education decisionmakers in their assessments of the true costs of educational technology initiatives.


A  recent whitepaper from Vital Wave Consulting, "Affordable Computing for Schools in Developing Countries: A Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Model for Education Officials", and accompanying case study of ICT in education initiatives in India , provide further insight and perspective on this important and often controversial issue.       The white paper discusses key issues related to technology use 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 economic investments.
  • 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 five-year period.
  • The total cost of ownership for different computer types and software platforms is relatively consistent.

Please note that this independent study was commissioned by Microsoft.


For more information:


Affordable Computing for Schools in Developing Countries: A Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Model for Education Officials


Affordable Computing for Schools in India: A Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Case Study


infoDev Knowledge Map: ICTs in Education: Costs





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