Are Tablets the Solution for Latin American Education?

In Discussion by Andrés Delgado Darnalt

The past few years have seen global surge in tablet adoption  schools throughout the world, particularly in Latin America, where digital textbooks are taking hold.

By Andrés Delgado Darnalt

south_americaThe past few years have seen global surge in tablet adoption not only among professionals but also in schools throughout the world, particularly in Latin America. The surge has been considerable in underdeveloped countries, driven by rising incomes, high-speed internet connections, digital content consumption and the efforts of education NGOs (one of the most popular example being the One Laptop per Child program), plus some specific government initiatives in markets such as Brazil and Colombia.

Market statistics reveal the sector’s business advantage over desktop devices. International Data Corporation believes that tablet shipments will outpace those of PCs in 2013, and also PCs and laptops combined by 2015. Low-cost devices and new learning applications are fueling the market and helping “the dream of every child with a laptop” to become a reality.

In Latin America, statistics about internet usage reveal growing interest in online content. According to ComScore’s 2013 Latin America Future in Focus report, the region has the fastest-growing Internet user population in the world. Social media consumption is extremely popular (5 of the top 10 most engaged markets with social content worldwide are Latin American) and online advertising is on the rise, with phones and tablets accounting for a considerable percentage of digital traffic.

In this context the region is quickly becoming an attractive market for mobile device manufacturers and online content providers. BNAmericas revealed last year that purchase of tablets in Latin America went up by 154% in 2012, reaching nearly 8 million units sold. Euromonitor predicts that only in the continent the business segment could reach US$3,700 million in 2013.

This growing presence in Latin America is not limited to the professional market. According to a report by Ambient Insight, the rate of growth in the mobile device usage is likely to increase over the next four years. The report argues that apart from rising individual purchases, the surge in spending in mobile devices will be driven by major digitization efforts rolled out across the region by public education systems.

In the meantime, research centers are raising public awareness of this growing trend and starting to analyze it in depth. The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) produced a report on the pros and cons of tablet education in schools, pointing out that the use of digital devices in classrooms is indeed becoming a major trend in current government policies on digital inclusion.

There is still an ongoing debate though on what works and what doesn’t work in tablet implementation programs. Michael Trucano, Senior IT Specialist at the World Bank, provides a helpful list (and explanation) of 10 big educational laptop and tablet projects around the world and arrives at the same conclusion reached by market research: PCs and laptops are slowly being eclipsed by tablets in the consumer space.

About the Author

Andrés Delgado Darnalt

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Andrés Delgado Darnalt is a Colombian journalist based in Bogotá, where he studied social communication at Javeriana University. He obtained his MBA from London School of Commerce-Cardiff Metropolitan University, and has studied at the Book Publishing Training Center. He has worked in events and public relations with the Bogotá International Book Fair (FILBO) as well as with other companies and public offices, and he has served as a project editor and consultant in digital and academic publishing.