6. Hardware: the provision of connectivity and digital devices

Tiago Fragoso

A reliable connection to online digital education resources and platforms and available and properly usable devices by students and teachers are key prerequisites for the access and full effectivity of digital education. Connectivity and access to digital devices stand as necessary, albeit not sufficient, conditions for the full potential of digital education and for the digital transformation of education. The provision of high-quality connectivity has been acknowledged by OECD member countries as an important factor for the digital transformation, a way to promote equity of opportunity and increased competitivity within economic actors (OECD, 2004[1]).

In education, the provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and the provision of adequate connectivity at schools are frequent education policy objectives worldwide. Their evident need appeals to governments aiming for broader digitalisation agendas and for keeping their economies and societies – including their education systems – competitive.

The significant disruption to education systems caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic galvanised governmental ICT initiatives. As schools closed and an unforeseen shift to remote or hybrid education was mandated, further investment and efforts towards the provision of connectivity and digital devices was urgent to assure the continuity of, and, in many cases, the basic access to education.

This chapter discusses how countries have worked, are working, and aim to work towards the objective of connecting students and schools everywhere in their jurisdictions, and to provide an adequate ICT infrastructure that allows schools and students everywhere to access the digital tools and resources that they need and, in some cases, to continue their learning wherever they may be. It concludes with a few remarks on potentialities and challenges ahead, as education systems aim to bring digital education to all.

Widespread and high-quality access to the Internet are indispensable conditions to leverage the full potential of digital education. Reliable connectivity is key for students to fully enjoy digital, personalised, and engaging learning through digital solutions, for them to communicate with their teachers or tutors, and to receive timely feedback on their activities. Furthermore, at the system level, reliable connections to the Internet are essential for the data environment that populate the education systems with a strong education data infrastructure.

In addition, the need for Internet connections that are more reliable, afford more speed, more bandwidth and less latency is likely to increase as digital solutions evolve. Real-time streaming of audio and video are now commonplace in the daily life of students and teachers, either through communication software (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Zoom), video repositories (e.g. YouTube), or Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) platforms. These activities involve a large amount of data being downloaded and uploaded, which in turn require considerable speed and bandwidth, while more widespread adoption of solutions based on Artificial Intelligence, such as intelligent tutoring systems, will require more agile (i.e., smaller latency) communications between students and wherever the solution is hosted.

Besides the access and quality of Internet connections for digital education in school, where education takes place has also become a concern. The increasing availability of digital devices in the classroom, either by broader distribution programmes (further discussed in this chapter) or by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, begs the question of “last mile” provision of connectivity. The reliable and safe set-up of these wireless networks capable of sustaining considerable simultaneous and high demanding connections and data exchanges induces, in turn, a need for dedicated physical infrastructure (e.g., higher throughput routers, servers), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) expertise to set it up and support.

Moreover, the significant disruptions to in-school teaching and learning caused by the global pandemic have also shown that this “last mile” does not only encompass the classroom but may also extend as far as students’ homes and personal devices. During the period of remote learning caused by school closures, policy was put in place to subsidise mobile Internet connections for students to meet basic connectivity needs that might enjoy some continuity to support students without connections at home due to socio-economic conditions or remoteness. It became thus even clearer that high-quality connectivity is bound to play a role in fostering more equitable and resilient education systems (Principles for AI in Education).

Access to high-quality Internet, or at a more basic level, universal access to the Internet itself is still a challenge for schools worldwide both in developed and developing countries, albeit against a broader policy backdrop where OECD member countries committed at the government level to the provision of high-quality and affordable connectivity for all (“Cancún Declaration”: (OECD, 2016[2])).

However essential for connectivity, access is not sufficient: to assure adequate leveraging of digital education, a high-quality connection is critical. The next challenge after access, the provision of affordable quality connectivity, is still an open problem for several education systems in OECD Member countries, and not only in education. For instance, the provision of fibre connections, a piece of ICT infrastructure key for high-quality, high-speed Internet and the full transition to 5G still covers an unequal share of overall broadband connections even across high-income countries, with extremes such as Germany where less than 5% of all broadband connections are fibre-based (OECD, 2020[4]).

PISA 2018 data provide a pre-pandemic baseline for educational institutions: even across OECD countries, there is significant variation in the share of students enrolled at schools where Internet speed and/or bandwidth is considered sufficient (Figure 6.1).

Figure 6.1 shows a lot of variation among the participating OECD Member countries regarding the share of students at schools with better Internet, but much less in the socio-economic gap indicating a difference in the quality of connections between schools serving socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students, Brazil and Mexico notwithstanding.

Indeed, amongst OECD Member countries, the share of students enrolled at schools with higher quality Internet ranged from 31.7% in Mexico to 91.2% in Lithuania, but with quite a variation along the way. In addition, several countries where significant shares of students with access to Internet-ready computers were enrolled at schools where this connection to the Internet is not deemed ideal by principals. For instance, virtually all 15-year-old students covered by PISA 2018 are in schools equipped with computers that can access the Internet, while only 45.2% of said students are in schools that reported a quality Internet connection.

These findings align with those found during the data collection with the 28 OECD Member countries and Brazil informing the present and other chapters. Regarding connectivity, countries were asked to look back in the previous five years and report on any change of policy regarding the provision of broadband Internet to schools, and to look forward to the next five years on whether the provision of access and high-quality Internet connections to institutions was envisioned as a policy goals.

Figure 6.2 shows that the increase of Internet speed throughout all levels of the education system has been a policy focus for more than half participating countries over the past 5 years, with a small few responding on priorities related to particular levels (primary, secondary, or vocational education).1 This aligns with the backdrop observed in 2018, where speeds were found lacking in schools for many participants.

Initiatives aimed at improving connectivity speed are underway in several participating countries. In Chile, dedicated connectivity programmes exist, some building on a decade-long legacy of bringing high-quality Internet connections to schools such as the “connectivity for education 2030” programme (Conectividad para la Educación 2030, CpE2030), that builds on a previous edition (the CpE2011) and aims to provide high-speed, quality Internet connections for schools throughout the country. A counterpart of the initiative exists for Easter Island (CpE-RapaNui), and a similar programme is in place for isolated rural or otherwise vulnerable areas (Plan Última Milla). 2

Similar initiatives exist in Spain, where the “connected schools” initiative (Escuelas Conectadas) has focused on this since its first inception in 2015. Let by RED.es, a public company under the Spanish Ministry for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, and in tandem with other ministries, the initiative focused on the provision of high-speed Internet to schools. As of January 2023, the initiative reached all public schools in 12 out of 17 of Spain’s autonomous regions and both autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. 3

While high-quality Internet connection in school is not achieved yet, and may remain a moving target, significant progress has been made in the past few years in the provision of mere connectivity. Across OECD countries, 91% of households report Internet access at home, albeit with significant differences between countries, ranging from almost 100% in Korea to 60% in Colombia (OECD, 2023[6]). Household coverage notwithstanding, high-quality connectivity at schools remains on the education policy agenda: most (22) education systems out of the 29 that participated in the OECD survey on digital educational infrastructure and governance have indicated that increasing access to the Internet at schools and providing fast Internet connections remains a policy priority for the next five years (Figure 6.3 and Figure 6.4), with a relatively small but noticeable focus on providing increasing connectivity at both lower and upper secondary education. 4 5

Bridging this connectivity divide is an endeavour that will need a significant amount of resources, but ambitious initiatives are underway such as the one led in England (United Kingdom) by the Department for Education with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to invest up to GBP 82 million (EUR 94.5 million) in a bid to upgrade Internet infrastructure to gigabit capable in all schools by the end of 2025, funding new infrastructure for all schools that are not likely to be covered by commercial Internet Service Providers and rely on an outdated physical ICT infrastructure.

Examples also exist on how coverage at the national level, with high-quality, reliable Internet connections is attainable, albeit facilitated by relatively smaller geographical spans. Notably in Estonia, all schools have high speed connectivity, with 75% able to rely on fibre connections. Standards for connection speeds are determined locally depending on the context, but all connections are able to provide speeds of at least one gigabit per second.

The “last mile problem” comes from the telecommunications industry, where, after building significant infrastructure, the capillarity problem of going the last mile and reaching customers at home emerged as a significant challenge. The same applies for the provision of connectivity, providing it at an infrastructure level, such as making high-quality Internet connections reach schools, or providing it in a limited fashion through restricted access in dedicated facilities (e.g., computer labs), are first but not definitive steps to fully leverage the potential of digital education. To fully reach students and teachers, connectivity must reach classrooms but also students and teachers at their homes or wherever they are, as made visible by unforeseen circumstances such as school closures due to a global public health emergency or displacements due to major geopolitical events.

This “last mile” of providing connectivity poses its own unique set of challenges due to the capillarity and inherent large scale of the problem. In order to make reliable connections to the Internet available in classrooms (mostly via wireless connections or Wi-Fi), schools need a high throughput Internet connection that supports an elevated number of simultaneous connections and large data flows, and equipment that handles these demands. This need creates a need for more specific support equipment, which in turn must be procured navigating a complex environment of technical configurations, then set up and maintained by specialised technical support staff.

The provision and procurement of equipment are discussed later in Chapter 12 (OECD, 2023[7]), while this section looks into the provision of last mile connectivity for and at schools, and to students themselves in the 28 OECD Member countries and jurisdictions plus Brazil that participated in the data collection exercise that informs this publication.

Similar to the availability of connectivity at school, data collected during PISA 2018 in OECD countries can provide an indication of the baseline provision of wireless connectivity for 15-year-old students in lower and upper secondary education. Countries and economies participating in PISA may opt for an additional component to the student questionnaire, asking students on the availability and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources. Incidentally, the ICT questionnaire also asks students whether wireless Internet is available at school, which provides a proxy and baseline of wireless availability at (lower and upper) secondary schools in 2018 (Figure 6.5).

Figure 6.5 indicates that there was quite a significant gap in the provision of wireless connectivity at school, with Wi-Fi being available to slightly over a third (36.8%) of Japanese students, and around half of Chilean and French students (49.7% and 50.6% of students respectively). However, there were already systems where wireless connectivity was already mostly available, such as Denmark (86.2%), and Sweden (84.1%). Albeit limited to secondary education, the PISA 2018 results paint a similar picture to that observed in European Union-wide contemporary surveys more broadly covering wireless connectivity at a systemic level ( (European Commission, 2019[8])).

Responses from the participating countries to the questionnaire on governance and public-private relations regarding education data and digital technology circulated to governments, whose responses underlie the findings of this Chapter indicate that countries focused in bridging this gap in wireless connectivity in the following five years (Table 6.A.1) between 2018 and 2023. One of the lessons of the pandemic is indeed that even a small share of students with no or limited connectivity pose a problem when digital tools and resources are expected to be used for education, both in school and at home. (Vincent-Lancrin, 2022[9])

The Table shows that most participating countries focused on a systemic provision of wireless connectivity at schools, regardless of level (primary, secondary), or modality (general, vocational). Whether this focus produced effects on coverage at school level is yet to be seen in representative surveys, but several cases of national and sub-national programmes focusing on bringing wireless connectivity to schools can be highlighted.

One notable example is Japan. In 2018, Japan marked the smallest number of (secondary) students having access to wireless connections among OECD countries. Significant changes to digital education policy and expenditure were implemented to enhance, among other things, wireless and mobile connectivity at schools of all levels. This change led to marked increases in the adoption of Wi-Fi in Japanese schools: MEXT surveys document a sharp increase in adoption from 48.9% to 94.8% of schools between 2020 and 2022.

There is strong indication of the presence of connected smartphones in students’ life in PISA 2018. Figure 6.6 shows that in most countries almost all students reported having at least one connected smartphone at home, even though it may not be their own device. Thinking about the access of digital resources through mobile phones is an important dimension of digital infrastructures.

The proportion of students that reported the presence of Internet connected smartphones is rather elevated in all countries even within the less socio-economically advantaged households. Even where the smallest, albeit already elevated proportion was observed (Mexico, where 79.7% of students reported at least one connected smartphone at home), the proportion was still elevated for those in the bottom quartile for the socio-economic index (72.2%), indicating that students would feasibly be able to access public education platforms through smartphones if needed.

Some education systems such as Korea are looking beyond the provision of wireless connectivity for every student at school and focus on mobile connectivity. If not subsidised mobile connections themselves, Korea provided no data payment incurred when accessing public education platforms during the period of school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, thus decreasing the barrier of access for these resources. Given the ubiquity of Internet-connected smartphones, this policy is bound to find significant traction and is currently being implemented by sub-national authorities, albeit with different data fee support policy depending on context.

Some initiatives along these lines were indeed pioneered during the global pandemic, such as the state of São Paulo in Brazil, where, besides the donation of devices should any be needed, the regional government provided support to families without mobile data packages, and brokered free access to educational platforms to diminish the cost of entry for families with limited mobile plans (Vincent-Lancrin, Cobo Romaní and Reimers, 2022[10]).

Besides the potential of these initiatives and some promise to the approach shown during the pandemic, only 5 out 29 countries that responded to the OECD survey on digital infrastructure and governance showed an overall interest in prioritising policy along these line in the next five years (Annex Table 6.A.2, Figure 6.7). 6

Besides the sub-national Brazilian example above, other countries also put forth ambitious national-level support schemes to support continued learning during school closures due to COVID-19. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, the Department for Education supported efforts to bring connectivity to over 130 000 families through uplifts to their mobile data connections and the provision of 4G wireless routers to bring Internet to homes. This initiative included brokering agreements with the country’s leading mobile service providers to also provide free data during the period to assure continued learning. Similar initiatives were also undertaken in Korea, where public-private partnerships were put in place during the period that included the provision of Internet-able devices with free data plans, as well as subsidies for Internet access subscriptions. Notably, these efforts were maintained in the aftermath of the pandemic but pivoted to promote educational innovation.

Connecting students, either at home or at school, with the best digital educational resources does not only require connectivity but also digital devices allowing students and teachers to engage with available resources and interact with digital learning platforms, a prerequisite to learning how to fully realise the potential of digital tools and resources.

The provision of devices, be at school or directly to students, is a complex and dynamic problem for education systems to address, given the ever-changing evolution of available technology, the complex landscape of technical specification and support infrastructure, the challenging assessment of needs and impact of costly distribution programmes in a context of relatively high existing device availability in most OECD countries.

Even though well-equipped schools were associated with better learning outcomes in PISA 2018 (OECD, 2020), the evidence on pre-pandemic initiatives providing devices to students (e.g., “one laptop per child”) showed little or no effect on learning outcomes (Cristia et al., 2017[11]). The drastic shift to distance learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic changed the terms of this debate though: as school closures accumulated and lengthened, evidence gathered that students could not remotely continue their education due to a lack of connectivity or digital devices at home. The provision of digital devices appeared to not only to (often modestly) improve learning outcomes but as playing perhaps a more critical role as a driver of equity in education, providing students from all families with the conditions to continue their education with their peers (and effectively exercise their right to education).

This present section looks into these two aspects of digital device provision policy, as participants were invited to take stock of physical ICT hardware distribution policy in the past five years (2018-2022) and were invited to reflect on their distribution policy for the next five (2023-2028).

Regarding computers available to students for educational purposes, at the system level, in 2018 there were on average 0.8 computers per student across the 37 OECD Member countries for which we have information, indicating a high level of availability overall (Figure 6.8).

In 2018, there was thus a high overall but quite variable degree of provision, with nine countries (Austria, Canada, Estonia, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) averaging more than one computer per student, with others such as the Czechia, Denmark, Latvia and Lithuania relatively close of this benchmark, but others with quite a low number of computers available such as Korea (0.4), Mexico (0.2), and Brazil (0.1). The number of available computers for students might vary significantly not only between countries, but also within countries as well. Quality is also a significant dimension, and in 2018 schools serving students from different socio-economic backgrounds had marked differences in the power of the computer they worked with (Figure 6.9). The Figure shows the proportion of students enrolled at schools where principals consider that there is a sufficient number of devices for instruction and also indicates quite a lot of variability, some indicating a disagreement between the provision of computers and (perceived) quality, from 27.3% in Brazil, to 94.30% in New Zealand, but with interesting mismatches between the presence of computers and adequate specifications such as Latvia, where there was almost one (0.9 computer per student on average, but only 65% of students were enrolled in schools with computers deemed potent enough.

While the levels of availability have likely increased during the pandemic, there are likely still significant differences across and within countries in terms of the availability of devices, and of computer power depending on the socio-economic background of students.

Driven by this reported a gap of provision but, also most likely by a need to update equipment at schools due to improvements in technology, countries have moved to prioritise the provision of digital devices to students. Indeed, in the past five years, most of participating countries have reported a change in policy or expenditures related to the provision of digital devices (Annex Table 6.A.1). Majority of (23) participating countries reported change in the past five years on policy or expenditure on the matter, with a few reporting more specific initiatives aimed at lower or upper secondary (2) or vocational education and training (1).

Economic and educational recovery plans in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic also gave some momentum to equipment provision initiatives, with programmes aimed at the provision of digital devices to schools, often backed on significant planned expenditures and ambitious plans to further implement or accelerate digital transition. For instance, the Digisprong programme in the Flemish Community in Belgium is backed by a EUR 375 million bid to establish a future-oriented and secure ICT infrastructure, including plans to equip students from grade 5 onwards with devices on a one-to-one basis.

Beyond one-off initiatives for economic and education recovery, systemic and regular support for the provision, renewal, and maintenance might be particularly effective to support schools and to fully realise a given country’s digital education strategy. One notable example of such policy is Ireland. As part of its efforts to implement its 2021-2027 Digital Strategy for Schools, Ireland puts in place a grant scheme for the provision of ICT infrastructure, underpinned by planned investments in excess of EUR 200 million, that schools can utilise to purchase and provide digital devices for students and teachers, among other uses.

Albeit with less focus on computers themselves but perhaps more on versatile devices such as laptops or tablets, the matter of provision is bound to remain relevant in education systems. When prompted to reflect on their priorities for the next five years, a smaller yet relevant number of participating countries reported a focus on the provision of laptops or tablets (Figure 6.10), with a slightly increased focus on later stages of the educational trajectory, such as upper secondary and vocational education and training. 7

Another alternative for students to have computers at their disposal at the classroom is for students to bring their own digital devices should they have one at their disposal. This approach is yet to be fully explored by education systems, and Canada is an example of this policy in place at the local level. Most schools in the country encourage bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy in some way or another for learning purpose, with more or less directed guidance. Notably, in Prince Edward Island, there are directives allowing allow for the use of personal mobile devices in classrooms, within well-established expectations and limitations. While not as specific, other provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia, and Québec leave the use of personal mobile devices at the discretion of schools.

Personal-use devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, or tablets are not the only digital devices that can find their way into the classroom. Other devices such as interactive whiteboards, and simulation tools can also be used to support teaching and learning in the classroom. Support for the provision and use of these devices is on the radar for countries, some of which reported a focus on the provision of said devices in the next five years (Figure 6.11), with a slighter increased interest on the provision of these equipment for secondary education.8

One of the advantages of these devices is that they introduce computers in the classroom without changing its appearance; one of its disadvantages is that it may lead to the replication of practices that do not take advantage of the technology affordances (Avvisati, 2013[12]).

Any kind of digital device used in the classroom also requires equipment to support of digital pedagogical activities: servers to support internal networks (Intranet), high-capacity routers to provide connectivity to networks, or even less specialised equipment such as printers. Although more distant from a given institution’s educational mission, it is nonetheless equipment that must be procured, configured, and maintained, a responsibility requiring school and/or educational authorities’ staff.

As such, an indicator of education systems’ interest in improving their schools’ Information Technology (IT) infrastructure lies in the provision/improvement of Intranet servers – a particularly specialised and technical piece of equipment (Figure 6.12). Among participating countries, nine reported a change in policy or expenditure for the provision of Intranet servers throughout all levels of education, indicating an interest on setting up the IT infrastructure of all schools9.

The provision of this equipment is usually bundled with the provision of personal-use devices for students, and often the same pool of resources can be used for either the purchase of one devices or servers. For instance, the above-mentioned Irish ICT grant scheme allows for the purchase of devices for teachers and students, but also allows for the resources to be employed acquiring projectors, networking equipment (where servers and routers would be included), and other relevant equipment. Similarly, the Brazilian Educação Conectada programme, which can also provide a broad selection of equipment to schools, provides a comprehensive list of devices available to schools, from multimedia to fairly specialised IT equipment. This flexibility within earmarked IT funding programmes allows schools to modernise their equipment based on their local reality but also their pedagogical choices and preferences.

As fundamental as equal access to sufficiently potent and up-to-date digital equipment is at school, the efficacy and reach of digital education policy might be limited by students’ and teachers’ access to digital technology at home, risking a gap in access and adoption due to disadvantaged socio-economic conditions, or lack of familiarity with digital devices. For example, albeit ubiquitous in daily life, access to a computer is not a guarantee worldwide, even across OECD member countries, where an average of 78% of households have access to a computer but with significant inequality across countries, from 97% of households in the Netherlands to 37% in Colombia (OECD, 2023[6]).

The abrupt shift to remote learning caused by COVID-19 put this divide in particular display, as some students found themselves unable to continue their education remotely due to a lack of digital equipment at home. As a response, many governments either set up or ramped up their digital device policies to use online learning as a way for education to continue for everyone, albeit remotely.

This move was reflected in recent changes in policy and expenditure to provide digital devices directly to students in most OECD countries and Brazil (Figure 6.13). Indeed, 20 out of the 29 responding governments reported a change in policy and/or expenditure related to the direct distribution of digital devices for students in the past five years, with marginal variations across educational levels.10

Several initiatives were proposed worldwide to provide access to education during the pandemic, some involving a high degree of domestic co-operation, either between sectors of government, or the establishment of public-private partnership to provide timely support for students.

For instance, in the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science cooperated with other ministries and agencies throughout the Dutch government in 2021 to revise its national 2019 Digitalization Agenda for Primary and Secondary Education into its Dutch Digitalisation Strategy 2021, leading to significant investments in providing devices to students for remote learning: around EUR 24 million were committed to provide 75 000 devices to students. Even more ambitious investment was made in Korea, where, in the wake of the global pandemic, the government set up public-private partnerships with device manufacturers and telecom providers, leading to the lease of 316 000 digital devices free of cost for disadvantaged students during the pandemic, with accompanying free mobile data plans during the pandemic.

A slightly different approach was adopted in New Zealand, where the Equitable Digital Access programme was scaled up to meet the needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the provision of devices was not means-based, depending almost entirely on requests from schools for digital devices. Nonetheless, students enrolled in upper secondary education with socio-economic backgrounds measured within the bottom three deciles of the New Zealand socio-economic index were prioritised. This bottom-up approach, in which teachers in each school reported the needs of their students to principals, who in turn reported the aggregated need to the ministry led to the provision of over 49 000 digital devices to students, including to all year 9 to 13 students in need.

Looking forward, education systems, some still leveraging the moment created by post-pandemic education recovery programmes are still inclined to continue digital device distribution policies for students and teachers.

Albeit extremely disruptive to education systems, the protracted period of school closures and unprecedented shift to remote or hybrid education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted several initiatives in digital education in general, and in the provision of an enhanced physical digital infrastructure. Many countries invested in greater connectivity and providing their schools, teachers and/or students the digital devices that would be necessary to fully implement the goals of often wide-reaching digital education policy.

These pandemic-inspired policies also somehow shifted the debate around the direct provision of digital devices from a point of view related to the support of learning at school (an interest in the improvement of learning outcomes) to a perspective of equity and the willingness to support access to education and learning anywhere, whatever the socio-economic conditions of students.

As education systems take stock of the pandemic and return to a “new normal”, the momentum and significant resources afforded by exceptional, pandemic-inspired initiatives, including budgets related to education recovery programmes, this shift might constitute a window of opportunity to provide better equipped and connected schools for students and teachers to return. Several education systems such as the Flemish community of Belgium, Ireland, France, New Zealand, and Korea, can provide examples of initiatives leveraging said resources and policy interest.

In addition, as education systems tackle the challenge of connecting and equipping schools, a related need for systematic and detailed information about countries’ existing ICT infrastructure becomes more pressing. The OECD survey on digital infrastructure and governance showed that few countries performed systematic and frequent surveys of ICT infrastructure at school, such as those collected in the Brazilian school census (Censo Escolar) or by Japan’s Ministry of Education (MEXT). International surveys, such as the European Union-wide Survey of Schools – ICT in Education (European Commission, 2019[8]), would allow accounting for the results of increased investment and initiatives of countries during and after the global pandemic in terms of hardware (and even software) available to schools, teachers and students.

Finally, connectivity and digital devices distribution initiatives cannot be “once and done” programmes, given the ever-changing needs created by the evolution of technology on the one hand, and by the life cycle of acquisition, maintenance, and replacement of digital devices on the other. However important, availability and provision are not sufficient for an efficient and sustainable implementation of digital education policy: often, Internet connectivity must be contracted and set up, digital devices acquired and configured, and once acquired, this infrastructure should be maintained and updated periodically.

Technical procurement for equipment and services and for ICT infrastructure maintenance are two tasks within the responsibilities of school staff in several education systems and thus an element of digital education policy. Procurement can be a powerful tool to shape the implementation of policy, and a more detailed discussion is presented in Chapter 12 (OECD, 2023[7]). Once goods and services have been acquired, the challenging of maintenance and support remains for education systems to tackle. Albeit this particular aspect has not been the objective of directed data collection on the scope of this Chapter, some particularly comprehensive support initiatives, such as those implemented by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) in Ireland (see the related publication (OECD, 2023[13])) provide an interesting implementation of support to schools that incorporates procurement, set-up, and technical support.


[12] Avvisati, F. (2013), Review of the Italian Strategy for Digital Schools, OECD Publishing.

[11] Cristia, J.; P. Ibarrarán; S. Cueto; A. Santiago and E. Severín (2017), “Technology and child development: Evidence from the one laptop per child program”, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol. 9/3, pp. 295-320, https://doi.org/10.1257/app.20150385.

[8] European Commission (2019), 2nd Survey of Schools: ICT in Education, https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/2nd-survey-schools-ict-education-0.

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

[7] OECD (2023), OECD Digital Education Outlook 2023: Towards an Effective Digital Education Ecosystem, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/c74f03de-en.

[6] OECD (2023), OECD Going Digital Toolkit, https://goingdigital.oecd.org (accessed on  September 2023).

[4] OECD (2020), OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/bb167041-en.

[5] OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Database, https://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2018database/ (accessed on 25 June 2023).

[3] OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5f07c754-en.

[2] OECD (2016), OECD Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity (“Cancún Declaration”), https://www.oecd.org/internet/Digital-Economy-Ministerial-Declaration-2016.pdf.

[1] OECD (2004), Recommendation of the Council on Broadband Connectivity, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0322.

[9] Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2022), How Learning Continued during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Lessons from Initiatives to Support Learners and Teachers, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/bbeca162-en.

[10] Vincent-Lancrin, S., C. Cobo Romaní and F. Reimers (eds.) (2022), How Learning Continued during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Lessons from Initiatives to Support Learners and Teachers, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/bbeca162-en.

This Annex presents a breakdown of participating countries’ responses on their past and future priorities with regards to connectivity and hardware policy to the data collection instruments circulated by the OECD, the Questionnaire on digital education infrastructure and the Questionnaire on governance and public-private relations regarding education data and digital technology.


← 1. Participant responses for Figure 6.2: All levels (21): Austria, Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States. Primary (1): Ireland. Lower Secondary (2): Brazil* and Ireland. Upper Secondary (2): Brazil* and Japan. VET (2): Brazil* and Korea. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national (regions/municipalities) support is present.

← 2. https://www.innovacion.mineduc.cl/iniciativas/transformaci%C3%B3n-digital/conectividad, last accessed August 2023.

← 3. https://www.red.es/es/iniciativas/escuelas-conectadas, last accessed September 2023.

← 4. Participant responses for Figure 6.3: Primary education (17): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Estonia*, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Korea*, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Türkiye. Lower Secondary (17): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Estonia*, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Korea*, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Türkiye. Upper Secondary (17); Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Estonia*, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Korea*, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Türkiye. VET (14): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Estonia*, Finland, Korea*, Latvia, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Türkiye. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national support was reported.

← 5. Participant responses for Figure 6.4: Primary education (16): Austria, Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Korea*, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom; Lower secondary (17): Austria, Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Korea*, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom; Upper secondary (17): Austria, Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Korea*, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom; VET (12): Austria, Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Korea*, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The asterisk indicates only sub-national support was reported.

← 6. Participant responses for Figure 6.7: Primary (4): Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Spain*; Lower secondary (4): Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Spain; Upper secondary (4): Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Spain*; VET (3): Brazil, Slovenia, and Spain*. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national support was reported.

← 7. Participant responses for Figure 6.10: Primary (8); Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Czechia, Estonia*, Korea*, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain; Lower secondary (9): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil*, Czechia, Estonia*, Korea*, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain; Upper secondary (10): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil*, Czechia, Estonia*, Korea*, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain; VET (9): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil*, Czechia, Chile, Estonia*, Korea*, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national support was reported.

← 8. Participant responses for Figure 6.11: Primary (11): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Czechia, Estonia*, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and Türkiye; Lower secondary (11): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Czechia, Estonia*, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and Türkiye; Upper secondary (11): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and Türkiye; VET (9): Primary (11): Belgium (French and Flemish communities), Brazil, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and Türkiye. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national support was reported.

← 9. Participant responses for Figure 6.12: All levels (10): Brazil, Chile, Estonia, France, Italy, Korea*, Slovenia, Spain, and the United States; Lower secondary (1): Brazil*; Upper Secondary (1): Brazil*, VET (2): Brazil* and Latvia. The asterisk indicates that only sub-national support was reported.

← 10. Participant responses for Figure 6.13: All levels (17): Austria, Belgium (French community), Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States; Lower secondary (2): Brazil* and Hungary; Upper Secondary (3): Belgium (Flemish community), Brazil*, and Hungary; VET (2): Belgium (Flemish community) and Brazil*. The asterisk indicates only sub-national support was reported.

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