14. Digital strategies: providing a common vision for the future

Hyunkyeong Yun

Any willingness to harness the opportunities offered by digital education and to mitigate its risks starts with a digital education strategy. While such strategies are not enough in themselves, as they may or may not be followed by implementation (see (Dellagnelo, 2023[1])), they are critical to set a direction for educators to follow.

As of 2020, about half of the OECD countries had specific digital education strategies (van der Vlies, 2020[2]). These digital education policies were mostly part of broader national digital innovation strategies, aiming to equip the future generation with digital skills and tools to prepare for the fast-paced digital society. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has uncovered the state of digitalisation and led to further efforts regarding digital education.

Through the publication of digital education strategies, countries acknowledge the importance of the digital transition in education, although they do it in different ways. During the pandemic, governments focused on allowing equitable and accessible remote learning, and either revised, strengthened, or created national digital education strategies (and policies).

This chapter presents countries’ digital education strategies and their changes since 2019, possibly because of the COVID pandemic. After a brief overview of countries digital education strategies, this chapter focuses on what has been done to seize the momentum created by this shift towards digital education, and what may be in store moving forward. Countries’ digital strategy headings and upcoming priorities are presented in tabular format in an Annex.

The OECD survey on digital infrastructure and governance asked which countries have a digital education strategy and whether it was recently updated or published. Figure 14.1 shows that most countries/jurisdictions have education strategies that focus on digital education. In particular, 24 countries/jurisdictions out of the 29 for which we have information have recently published new or updated digital education strategies or have one incoming. Specifically, 16 countries published new strategy since 2020, while 7 updated their existing strategy. A few have suggested new (4) or updated (2) digital education strategy in the next 6 months, while 4 have neither a recently new published or updated digital education strategy nor intentions.

Table 14.1 details the availability and timing of each country’s digital education strategies. Most countries, apart from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czechia, Iceland, and Sweden, have a published digital education strategy. Countries that already had strategies regarding digital education before 2020 have either modified their plans or implemented new policies.

Some countries have implemented broader, general education strategies that put strong emphasis on digitalisation in education. Hungary’s Public Education Strategy 2021-2030 covers its education priorities for the next decade that centres on digitalising education. Similarly, Estonia’s Education Strategy 2021-2035 sets long-term education goals that puts digital education at its core. Italy’s COVID-19 mitigation measures, outlined in the 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan, covers digital education strategies as key pillars to its recovery from the pandemic and to prepare for the post-pandemic digitalised world.

The Flemish community of Belgium is a notable example of a comprehensive response to the pandemic that was leveraged into more permanent policy. The government launched Digisprong (Digital Jump), a digital education strategy developed during the crisis under the Vlaamse Resillience (Flemish Recovery) plan, a national initiative to address issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) of the European Commission, Digisprong aims to build a secure ICT infrastructure, equip digital devices to students on a one-to-one basis, provide training in digital competences to educators, establish relevant ICT school policies such as the prevention of cyber-bulling and the improvement of digital inclusion, and build a Digisprong Kenniscentrum (Knowledge Centre) to foster dialogues between schools and related stakeholders. Thanks to the policy a key milestone of providing digital devices to all students was reached.1

Some other countries adapted existing plans to face the challenges posed by the health crisis. Austria launched the 8-Point Plan for Digital Learning (8-Punkte-Plan für den digitalen Unterricht) in 2020 as part of the Digital Austria Act, a pre-existing national digitalisation strategy that was updated following the transition to digital learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One focus of Digital Austria is crisis resilience: considering the lessons learned during the pandemic, it promotes digitalisation as a means for a sustainable and resilient economy. In particular, the plan supports the improvement of the digital infrastructure within and outside schools, the development of digital learning materials and platforms and the provision of digital devices for students, with the aim of increasing their digital competence. It aims to sustain a continuous interest in building a stronger digital learning environment for the future.2

Some countries that had no digital education strategy prior to the pandemic have developed one or included a digital focus in their overall education strategy. In countries such as Czechia, Mexico and Brazil, digitalisation has become a high priority of their national education policy agenda. Czechia’s national education strategy, Strategy 2030+, refers to digitalisation as a key feature in modernising its education system. Similarly, Mexico introduced the Agenda Digital Educativa for the 2020-2024 period, focusing on the provision of connectivity and digital equipment and on increasing access to digital physical infrastructure in rural regions. While different layers of policies on digital education were already in place, Brazil’s National Digital Education Plan (PNED) aligns with the country’s broader 2022-26 digital transformation strategy, a strategy mandated by the national Audit Court.

For some education systems, the pandemic accelerated the implementation of existing strategies. For instance, the French community of Belgium released a digital education strategy in 2018 that aimed to develop digital learning materials, train staff and students, equip schools with ICT infrastructure and develop digital governance to reform primary and secondary education. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the execution of the 2018 digital education strategy, with various support from supplementary policies such as further funds allocated to improve broadband connectivity in school and supply digital tools to educational institutions and students with special needs. In its 2019-2024 Policy Declaration, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation put digitalisation as one of its priorities, consequently supporting the implementation of the 2018 Digital Education Strategy across different policy sectors and government levels.3

Finland adopted in 2015 the Digital Leap Programme aiming to modernise the ICT infrastructure in school, increase teachers’ and students’ digital competency, and facilitate the use of digital support for students with special education needs. Nonetheless, in comparison to other Scandinavian countries, schools in Finland used relatively fewer digital resources in teaching and learning.4 During the pandemic, the government invested significantly on providing hardware ICT infrastructure to schools and digital devices to students and teachers, beyond the efforts under the Digital Leap programme. Improving access to and quality of ICT infrastructure remains the Finnish government’s priorities in education for the future. The establishment of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency in 2020 illustrates the government’s renewed commitment to monitor the uptake of digitalisation. In April 2023, the Ministry of Education and Culture published the Policies for the digitalisation of education and training until 2027. Under the recent strategy, Finland visions to achieve sustainable digitalisation in teaching, education, and training by 2027, putting emphasis on ensuring equal opportunities for everyone to learn with an effective use of digital tools.

Italy has introduced digital solutions into its education system from the mid-2000s (Avvisati et al., 2013[3]).5 The 2015 National Digital School Plan aimed to enhance ICT connectivity, pedagogies, and digital skills for students and teachersThe Digital Plan has significantly enhanced the technological infrastructure in Italian schools. By 2020, 93% of classrooms had access to the Internet, and the student-to-device ratio improved from 1:8 in 2013 to 1:4. In addition, the Digital Plan has established over 14 000 "innovative learning spaces", such as tech-enhanced classrooms, digital hubs, and mobile labs. The pandemic spurred additional investments: funds were allocated for procurement of digital tools for students, and the 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan, backed by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) of the European Commission resources, invested in e-learning platforms, digital devices, and improved connectivity, earmarking an extra EUR 2 billion for 100 000 advanced classrooms by 2025. The subsequent "Digital School 2022-2026" strategy as part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan will streamline digital services, migrate to cloud platforms, implement a unified digital access platform, and promote single sign-on systems for government services.

Nevertheless, not all countries have a digital education strategy. Chile, Estonia, or Iceland do not have specific educational digital strategies, even though their governments consider digitalisation as key priority policy area. Chile has a national digital strategy that aims to drive a digital transformation of the country, including education. Estonia’s Education Strategy 2021-2035 and Digital Agenda 2030 communicate the government’s objectives to develop citizens’ digital competences and digital literacy through education. Iceland has been undergoing digital transformation for decades under the agency, Digital Iceland. However, digitalisation in education is not a government’s explicit priority.

Provincial and territorial governments in Canada oversee education, leading to no national digital strategy. Instead, regions have their own approaches. For example, Quebec introduced a Digital Action Plan for Education in 2018 to boost digital literacy and promote tech in education. Provinces and territories collaborate to exchange best practices regarding digital strategies, facilitated by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).

Whether they were updated, initiated, or strengthened as a response of the COVID-19 crisis or not, most strategies a common focus on physical infrastructure (devices and connectivity) and on digital competences (of students and teachers). There are few more focuses on emerging applications of technology, with many upcoming strategies that will deal with AI and generative AI. More rarely do countries/jurisdictions try to make their digital ecosystem more user-friendly and more effective.

Chief among the issues brought about by COVID-19 was the digital divide coming from the difference in access to online learning between more and less socio-economically advantaged groups. Our data collection shows that many countries have a focus on improving their ICT infrastructure and availability of digital devices to bridge the socio-economic-related digital divide identified during theCOVID-19 pandemic. Table 14.2 shows the changes in expenditure in digital hardware infrastructure in the past five years (2018-2023).

Generally, most countries showed interest in providing access to digital devices and improving internet connectivity. Twenty-three countries out of 29 have focused on providing devices in school, and 21 countries focused on Wi-Fi or Mobile connection and/or on improving their broadband connection. Twenty countries increased their spending to provide devices for students and/or on students with special needs. Improving Internet servers was less popular, with 9 countries increasing their spending on their Internet servers and platforms.

Several countries have leveraged post-pandemic recovery funds to provide digital devices to institutions and to students. For example, Latvia has started its “Computer for Every Child” project in 2021, which aims to provide every student and teacher with a computer and a computer library in schools by 2025.6 Moreover, the Latvian government purchased 26 000 laptops for students in lower secondary education out of around 60 000 students enrolled in lower secondary schools in 2021, amounting to one third of the total enrolled students having a government-provided digital device.7 In 2022, further funds from REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe) and European Recovery Fund also financed the purchase of portable devices for students in need.

Austria has also implemented such a measure as part of its national recovery plan, with European Union budget funds from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility. Since the 2021-22 school year, 320 000 lower secondary school pupils have been equipped with digital devices. By the 2023/24 school year, 98% of secondary school pupils will be learning and working with digital devices. More than 40 000 teachers have received digital devices from the federal government and, in some cases, the federal states as educational tools.

In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science updated its previous digital education strategy, Digitalisation Agenda for Primary and Secondary Education 2019, with its new Dutch Digitalisation Strategy 2021. Under the new strategy, the government purchased 75 000 devices to provide students to enable their participation in remote learning, investing EUR 24 million.

In New Zealand, in order to implement a new digital curriculum designed in 2018, the country has invested more than NZD 700 million (EUR 380 million) to improve public schools and kuras’ digital hardware infrastructure.

Some countries have adopted post-COVID policies on Internet connectivity that focus more on providing equitable digital learning environment at home by improving Internet availability. For instance, during the COVID-19 outbreak, Korea has collaborated with private telecommunication companies and service providers such as Samsung and LG to rent 316 000 digital devices to provide socially disadvantaged students with free digital devices and free data plans to ensure equitable Internet connectivity.

During the pandemic, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) took significant measures to advance digital education by revising their policies and increasing spending. They focused on amplifying Wi-Fi and cellular coverage in all educational institutions and ensuring broadband connectivity in vocational schools. A MEXT study revealed that the adoption rate of Wi-Fi in schools dramatically jumped from 48.9% in 2020 to 94.8% in 2022.

In 2023, France introduced its 2023-2027 digital education strategy, drawing insights from the COVID-19 experience and past consultations. Aligned with the France 2030 investment plan of EUR 54 billion, succeeding the “France Relance” pandemic plan, significant funds target digital infrastructure. Local authorities, under France 2030, have substantially invested in school connectivity (broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile connection, and Internet servers in schools) and provided students with tech devices for school and home use.

Table 14.3 displays countries’ future priorities in digital hardware infrastructure in the next five years. Internet connectivity in institutions such as schools is what countries prioritise the most, with 22 countries putting Internet access in institutions as future priorities and 19 countries having improving Internet speed in institutions as their priorities. Provision of digital devices in institutions and at home have become lower in importance for countries, with 12 countries prioritising the provision of devices for students in institutions and at home and 13 countries providing devices for student use in institutions.

For instance, as part of its Connected Education Innovation Programme (Programa de Inovação Educação Conectada), Brazil aims to support schools by providing universal access to high-speed Internet by 2024 and connecting remote regions in the Amazon.8 Similarly, in Japan, MEXT aims to further invest in the technological framework of schools by enhancing broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity in the coming years. One of two pillars of Ireland’s 2020 to 2027 Digital Strategy for Schools is the continuous investment in digital infrastructure especially on internet connectivity, which aligns with the government's goal of improving connectivity in remote schools, with added financial support for schools in underprivileged areas to boost their ICT capabilities.

While improving Internet connectivity and providing digital devices to schools and students either responded to the pandemic situation or to the witnessing of inadequate digital equipment, many countries’ digital strategies also point to the need to provide more possibilities for digital tools and resources to be part of teaching and learning processes (and of school administrative processes).

Table 14.4 shows countries’ digital education strategies in software in the next five years from our data collection. Most countries, 25 out of 29 countries, prioritise developing online educational platforms and digital learning and teaching resources. Next, 17 countries shown interest in improving or developing data and/or information systems, such as student information systems or education management information systems.

Around half of the countries from the data collection plan to provide and support in priority for learning management systems and different functions that support students’ admission and exam administration. 12 countries plan to prioritise support learning management systems, 11 countries for digital exam administration and 11 countries for student admission management system.

In contrast, integrating innovative digital learning and teaching tools and personalising education using classroom analytics and intelligent tutoring systems were not most countries’ priority area, having the least number of countries (7 countries) prioritising development of software for classroom analytics, followed by 8 countries for the development of intelligent tutoring systems.

Türkiye set its digital education priority as to enhance features within its digital learning resource platform, Education Information Network (EBA), as part of its Safe Schooling and Distance Education Project (SSDE). The ministry anticipates developing online learning and teaching resources through the EBA and expanding its functionalities to be further utilised in schools and at homes.

Similarly, Hungary aims to develop digital learning and teaching resources and content, along with the development of its public learning management system for education. Hungary’s Educational Authority is responsible for providing in-service teacher trainings for active teachers and developing digital learning and teaching resources and content.

Korea is a point in case for an AI focus. Its recent digital education strategy published in 2023, the Digital Transformation of Education Initiative, focuses on realising “Education for All” via personalised learning for every student using cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence. As a main project of the initiative, the government is planning to introduce AI Digital Textbooks from 2025 on, whereby teachers and AI technology cooperate to develop customised lessons for individual students. Coding classes will also become part of compulsory education for primary and lower secondary education students by 2025. Selected AI pilot school projects called for by the strategy are already started. Since 2023, 300 Digital Leadership Schools have been in operation.

In November 2023, Austria introduced a comprehensive six-point package for schools aimed at integrating and managing AI, with the objective of preparing students for a self-determined and responsible life in a world shaped by AI. The plan involves establishing 100 AI pilot schools, emphasising AI in educational materials, textbooks, and teacher training. Support will be provided to schools and educators in utilising AI for written assignments, including schoolwork and final exams.9

Latvia’s Digital Transformation Guidelines 2021-2027 seeks to use simulations and virtual labs, AI-based teaching and learning, and aims to leverage data analytics to personalise learning and enhance learning outcomes. State examinations will be digitalised, and digital tools such as early warning systems will be developed and utilised.

Ireland’s 2020-2027 Digital Strategy for Schools reflects on the lessons learned from the pandemic and covers a wide range of topics from the use of AI in education through to developing competitive digital skills such as coding and computational thinking. For instance, the Draft Primary Curriculum Framework (2020) mentions “being a digital learner” as one of its seven main competence areas and calls for integrating the use of digital technologies across all subjects for students between first and sixth grade. In the recently published Primary Curriculum Framework for Primary and Special Schools (2023), STEM education became one of five core subjects, the integration of mathematics, science and other technology-related subjects aiming to foster students’ digital skills.10

Some systems’ strategies highlight the importance of creating the conditions for digitalisation. Denmark’s 2021 Policy Agreement replaces its previous digital education strategy (Action Plan for Technology in Education). This policy agreement puts emphasis on ensuring safety and security in the online educational space and on creating a healthy digital culture. Among other objectives, England puts a strong focus on maintaining a secure and safe digital environment in the prevention of possible data breaches or system malfunction, and thus stresses the importance of cyber-security and online safety.

The COVID-19 experience has led many education systems to review their digital policies. While initial responses focused on providing adequate ICT infrastructure and digital tools to access online learning, many strategies also suggest a shift towards modernising and digitalising their education systems. Moreover, countries have strengthened their willingness to foster the digital competences of future generations to prepare them for the modern global economy. Digital education, in terms of fostering digital skills and strengthening the digital education infrastructure, has become a national education priority in many countries, making digitalisation in education a key rather than a supplemental element to national digitalisation strategies, as tended to be the case before the COVID-19 crisis.

While countries’ digital education strategies aim, broadly speaking, to equip students with digital skills and bridge the digital divide, some adopt forward-looking goals: integrating more consistently digital technologies to teaching and learning and school management systems, actively utilising data analytics to enhance student learning outcomes and assist teachers to create effective and personalised learning systems and ensuring a safe, secure, and ethical digital environment.

Having a digital education strategy, ideally designed in discussion with all education stakeholders, is key. While many existing strategies could be expanded to make countries digital education ecosystem more user-friendly, effective, and benefit from the affordances of available technology, having a strategy provides a direction of travel to all stakeholders within an education system. This is just a first step though. Implementing one’s strategy is the next (and a more difficult) challenge.


[3] Avvisati, F.; S. Hennessy; R.B. Kozma and S. Vincent-Lancrin (2013), “Review of the Italian Strategy for Digital Schools”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 90, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5k487ntdbr44-en.

[1] Dellagnelo, L. (2023), “The role of support organisations in implementing digital education policies”, in OECD Digital Education Outlook 2023. Towards an Effective Digital Education Ecosystem, OECD Publishing, https://doi.org/10.1787/c74f03de-en.

[4] OECD (2023), Country Digital Education Ecosystems and Governance. A companion to Digital Education Outlook 2023, OECD Publishing, https://doi.org/10.1787/906134d4-en.

[2] van der Vlies, R. (2020), “Digital strategies in education across OECD countries: Exploring education policies on digital technologies”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 226, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/33dd4c26-en.

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