How to connect schools to the Internet in a year

25-02-2019

Source: life.pravda.com.ua

The Ministry of Education and Science has UAH 1.5 bln and almost a year to improve the quality of education.

The Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), an independent expert and analytical center, created at the initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine and funded by the European Union, offers to use 617 million of them for providing schools with the Internet.

The Ministry of Education is now actively interested in e-learning, and BRDO helping them with that.

E-learning is definitely a promising trend. After all, we live in the 21st century.

On the other hand, technology development is far from perfect in Ukraine. We have collected statistics on the connection of Ukrainian schools to the Internet, and it is disappointing.

Nationwide, 89.7% of schools have Internet access. At the same time, the Internet connection is too slow in 78.1% of cases.

10.3% of general education institutions do not have access to the Internet at all.

While the situation is normal in municipal education institutions (3.5% of schools don’t have access to the Internet), things are worse in rural areas (13.5%).

At the same time, speed of Internet connection is inadequate in 79% of cases in cities and 75% in villages.

In such situation, even the availability of electronic textbooks, video courses and computer literate teachers don’t allow to provide the full implementation of e-learning in Ukrainian secondary education.

Pic.1

89.7% of schools have access to the Internet

78.1% with slow Internet connections

National projects to connect rural schools to the Internet have been discussed before. But now the Ministry of Education and Science has enough targeted budget funds for the project, and it should allocate them to regions.

In turn, BRDO advocates that providing each school with the Internet connection should be a separate project rather than the implementation of the national program (in most cases, with one or two “selected” operators).

This will allow to purchase a service from a local player at the lowest possible cost and with the highest possible connection speed.

According to our calculations, the average cost of one wired connection is UAH 24100 in the regions, while small providers offer substantially lower prices.

In Ukraine, along with national operators, local Internet providers work in regional centers.

As of today, BRDO obtained answers regarding the possibility of Internet connections in the regions from 30 companies. This is a small percentage, since about 2 thousand operators work in the country. But even this small number of companies can connect 51% of schools that do not have Internet access.

UAH 617 mln proposed should be enough for school internetization. According to Internet providers, connecting all schools to the Internet will cost about UAH 347 mln.

In addition, UAH 158 mln will be spent on wi-fi routers and UAH 112 mln – on connection fees in 2019.

Pic 2

347 mln UAH – to provide all schools with the Internet access

158 mln UAH – to install Wi-Fi routers

112 mln UAH – to pay connection fees in 2019

Providing all Ukrainian schools with the Internet access will cost this amount of money

We have developed Internet connection requirements for project standardization.

First, access to the Internet should be provided with wired technologies. Ideally, by using fiber optic channels that will allow to increase the connection speed in the future. Next, by using wired technologies, for example, a copper-wire cable. And they should consider the wireless connection only in remote places, for example, in mountainous areas or villages, which are too far from main fiber optic lines.

Secondly, the Internet connection speed should be at least 100 Mbps in hub schools of territorial communities and high-school institutions, and at least 30 Mbps – for the rest.

Another important component of the project that we are working on now is public monitoring, so that local administrations, which are the final distributors of funds, have no temptation to spend them for purposes other than intended.

The system will monitor what schools and administrations buy at the local level, at what cost and quality, at least formally, every month.

Currently, statistics are collected only by request. If the authorities spend UAH 10 mln, nobody will know how: whether they were evenly distributed among all schools or UAH 9 mln were spent to connect 1 school and UAH 1 mln – for the rest.

After the start of the monitoring, it will be seen by the entire country. Each school has an ID number that will be included in its connection agreement. This ID number can be automatically extracted from the ProZorro system and the State Treasury Service database, which stores all payments. Then you just need to put them together and see the cost of the service.

We have ambitious plans. BRDO expects 90% of schools will have access to the Internet by the end of this year.

There are, of course, risks of local actors.

Last year, a subvention for furniture and equipment for primary schools was provided as part of the Ukrainian School project, but many schools turned out to be with empty classrooms on September 1.

The local authorities did not know how to spend money and didn’t have time to do it physically before the beginning of the school year.

But we are optimistic about the future. According to data obtained from Internet providers, the term for providing an absolute majority of schools with the Internet access does not exceed 60 days. Even if they hold a tender in the spring, the project can be completed in autumn.

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