COVID-accelerated edtech boom boosted by global government initiatives

Government investment in diverse forms of educational technology has thrived in countries as diverse as Peru, Japan and Kazakhstan

While the last 12 months have thrust a wealth of challenges and anxieties on citizens all over the globe, there’s no denying that COVID-19 has been a monumental boon for digital. The coronavirus pandemic has made digital transformation a reality across society at large, but the impact of the tech revolution in education the world over is, arguably, among the most impactful.

In the past year, people have come to view their respective country’s education system with pride and admiration, in awe of the way the sector so rapidly adapted to online forms of teaching and learning.

As a result, the industry of educational technology (edtech) has seen unprecedented levels of global government investment, not just in countries such as the US and UK, but also in emerging regions such as Peru and Kazakhstan.

The pandemic has also been a key driver for edtech initiatives like the Global and Innovation Gateway for All (GIGA) project in Japan, which fast-tracked five years of planned investment activity into just one year.

According to new research by Futuresource Consulting, mobile PC demand across international primary education saw unparalleled growth throughout 2020, with demand increasing by 69% on 2019, reaching 51 million units. Furthermore, demand soared by 209% year-on-year during Q4, with shipments of 16.5 million during the last few months of the year.

“With demand outstripping supply and delivery times elongated, some schools are electing to keep older devices in use much longer to ensure students have access to a device” – Michael Boreham, Futuresource Consulting

On top of this, there was a clear shift in operating system (OS) shares over the last 12 months, with Chrome claiming the global throne with a 44% share of the market, largely driven by heightened Chromebook demand in the US and Japan. Comparatively, Windows held a 32% share of international systems.

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Michael Boreham, senior consultant at Futuresource Consulting, commented: “This year has also been characterised by supply chain issues, both in terms of device assembly capacity and component parts. This, combined with continued ramp up in demand, has resulted in lengthening delivery times and the build-up of a large backlog of orders which extends well into 2021.

“With demand outstripping supply and delivery times elongated, some schools are electing to keep older devices in use much longer to ensure students have access to a device,” added Boreham. “The whole supply chain has been strained like never before. In addition, the adoption of mobile PCs has fuelled rapid uptake in G-Suite/Google Classroom and Microsoft 365.”

The huge and incredibly fast uptake of such devices has also emphasised and exacerbated issues such as the digital divide – including unreliable internet connectivity, which hinders the ability of millions of students all over the world to effectively participate in online education. Such issues have inspired a range of short-term solutions, including the rollout of devices with dongles and even mobile hotspots.

According to the Futuresource report, 2021 will see a considerable upsurge in long-term evolution (LTE) devices by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) specifically for the primary education market, as well as continued investment in teacher training and continuing professional development (CPD) to support and optimise the use of edtech – both in the classroom and remotely.

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