Estimate costs

Policymakers ask how much is needed to implement the masterplan. If it will cost too much, the masterplan is not feasible. The only one way to know if the masterplan is affordable is to estimate cost of proposed programmes.

We know ICT investments can be very expensive. The unit cost of ICT equipment may be going down but it still is a daunting investment to many governments when multiplied to thousands of schools and millions of students. It is baffling how some ICT in Education policies are approved without knowing how much it will cost and where the money will come from.

“ICT policies use high-minded rhetoric to justify ICT investments. But the details of financial arrangements are often left out. In some countries, it is unclear that the total cost for implementation was well thought through. In other countries, it is not clear that the funds are available to implement the program, as valuable it might be”.

If the masterplan has no costing estimates, it can encounter problems during implementation. For example, a government may find it attractive to provide every student a tablet to use in school. So it makes a heavy investment purchasing the tablets. When the tablets are delivered in the school, everyone is happy. And the teachers would realize there are no contents to use in the tablet. So they cannot do away with the books. And if there are contents in the tablets, they may not be aligned with the curriculum. Or the teachers would complain they did not receive training to effectively use the tablets inside the classroom. Then the principal would complain the school does not have enough budget to pay for the increased cost in electricity. Or to repair and maintain the tablets in good conditions. When these problems happen, the teachers will use the tablets sparingly, and when they begin to break down, the school cannot replace them. Thus the ICT programme eventually becomes unsustainable.

To estimate cost of ICT programmes, it is important to know the Total Cost of Ownerships (TCO). According to a study, the total cost of ICT programmes is often underestimated. The initial cost of investment, often the amount paid to buy the equipment, is only a part of it. There are recurrent and other hidden costs. Sometimes, the initial investment is only about 10-25% of the total cost. This means about 75-90% of the cost is often unanticipated.

When we put computers in schools, we also have to spend for the following: increase use of electricity, cost of replacement when they get old or broken, peripherals such as headphones, printers, cables, Page 1 of 5 cost of security, providing and maintaining content, user training and support, and maintenance.

What is Total Cost of Ownership?

“The recommended approach to determining costs and budgets of ICT projects is to use the Total Cost of Ownership. Total Cost of Ownership or TCO is the cost of a complete system over the useful life of the system. Currently, most projects are designed based upon minimizing initial and capital cost with little consideration for lifetime or life-cycle costs. This creates financially promising and attractive projects, but at the cost of long-term sustainability. A true Total Cost of Ownership or TCO must take into account all the system components: distribution and instalment of the ICT platform devices, software and educational content, training for teachers and support staff, technical support and monitoring and reporting, as detailed in the graph below. The sum of each of these over a selected timeframe, usually the useful life of the ICT platform, becomes the TCO value of the ICT deployment”.


Download the TCO Tool (Excel file) here .

Audit existing funds

Make an audit of the existing funds in the ministry and the schools. Maybe not all but some of the existing funds can be used to fund the ICT in Education programmes. If there is an annual budget in the organization to purchase computers, buy or print books, update the curriculum, or train the teachers, these can be used to fund similar activities in the masterplan.

Look at the budget of the schools. Schools have existing budget to pay for their monthly electricity, which means they only need additional budget to cover the increased in their monthly electricity bill.

Indicate other funding sources

This is an opportunity to explore international and local donor agencies, private sector companies, non-government organizations, and even the use of Universal Service Fund, which is a fund that government collects from the telecommunication companies.

Country examples: Jordan and Rwanda worked out an arrangement with the private sector to get involved in the implementation and in funding the programmes of the ICT in Education masterplan.

Suggested Resources

What Are the Costs of Not Investing in ICTs in Education?

An innovative approach to the procurement of 'innovative' large scale educational
technology programs?

Donor ICT Strategies Matrix

Universal Service Funds & connecting schools to the Internet around the world


Invite the following to participate in the planning meeting:

  1. Lead agencies or units for all programme areas
  2. Individuals with responsibilities related to budget preparation


Use the template to prepare the budget requirements of the masterplan.

Make Programme-Based Cost Estimates, Audit Existing Funds, Indicate Funding Sources
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