The aim: Selecting technology for sustainability by using a multi-criteria technology selection model
Why a focus on technology selection?
Technology choices influence the sustainability of the project in terms of affordability, as well as in terms of usability and durability of the technology.
The tablets that are chosen for deployment in a rural environment needs to be affordable in terms of initial investment, as well as in terms of ongoing maintenance and support. The technology also needs to be appropriate for the specific circumstances (e.g. high glare, dust, low electricity environments), and needs to be easy to support. It should not place an undue load on the ability of the implementing agency to integrate it with existing support services.
Technology selection is often at the mercy of a push by vendors. This could lead to selections that are not in line with project needs, and that are perceived to favour specific vendors. A scientifically-founded technology selection process is therefore important to ensure financial sustainability and technology fit, and also to facilitate transparency of procurement decisions.
Selecting technology based on multiple criteria
The selection of technology can be considered against the following question:
Will the technology that you choose today still be a good choice over the next few years?
The technology selection model considers the definition of “good choice” from more than one perspective. The ICT4RED project team considered the following categories as important for tablet selection: technical specifications, quality, supply chain reliability, finances and tablet ecology.
The model selects tablets that represent Value for Money, as evaluated against all of these dimensions:
Within each category, a number of criteria were defined. Categories and sub-categories of criteria are as follows:
Figure 3 Categories of Tablet Selection Criteria
The web-based model allows the user to rate a set of tablets against the predefined criteria. Users have the opportunity to set their own weights, or to use the default weights that were developed by the project team based on their experience with the project.
Figure 4 Web-based Tablet Selection Tool
In addition to the weights, users are required to rate the performance of each tablet against the multiple criteria. The model provides a comparison of tablets against the multiple criteria and highlights the tablets that do not comply with minimum requirements.
Figure 5 Technology Selection Model Output: tablet comparison
Based on this analysis, the decision maker can come to an objective and transparent conclusion with respect to tablet selection.
Using technology selection models in support of sustainability
The technology selection model provides a means of redefining the practice of tablet selection in education projects. It provides a defendable and transparent process upon which procurement decisions can be based. It also speeds up the selection process by rapidly rejecting unsuitable tenders based on essential criteria, and it considers more than just cost when selecting tablets.
The tablet selection model could enable a number of benefits, such as:
- Buy tablets that give better value for the money invested.
- Reduce costs by selecting tablets from a perspective of the total cost to own over time, rather than a purchase price perspective only.
- Improve availability of tablets by including maintenance and supply chain considerations in the purchase decision.
- Buy devices that are fit for purpose.
The model is intended for use by decision makers at national and provincial government level, as well as for use by school principals, teachers, parents and learners: