Developing APAC markets step up digital education efforts

Developing APAC markets step up digital education efforts

As education PC shipments begin to slow in developed markets, device vendors, OS vendors and the channel must look for new sources of growth. Recent developments in India and Indonesia reveal some key points that the industry can build on for future success.


One of the biggest boons for the PC industry during the COVID-19 pandemic was the rise in use of notebooks and tablets to support remote learning. According to Canalys data, over 60 million devices were shipped to formal education customers, such as schools and universities, worldwide between Q2 2020 and Q4 2021. In addition, millions more were bought as consumer devices but then used to support children’s learning during lockdowns. Notably, over 80% of official education shipments went to North America, Western Europe and Japan, where formalized, big-budget device procurement programs were accelerated to pursue government goals of higher PC penetration among students.

The transition to digital education was much harder for the developing markets of Asia Pacific, whether due to lower prioritization by vendors and the channel, lack of public sector funding or limited supporting IT infrastructure and digital literacy. Nevertheless, the underlying desire for the transition remains strong in many APAC markets. As most have emerged from the worst of the pandemic, we are now seeing plans and budgets being put into place to ramp up student access to digital tools for learning, including device deployments.

For hardware vendors, operating system vendors and the channel, this represents an important opportunity to maintain momentum around PCs for education as we expect the developed markets that invested so heavily during the pandemic to slow down. Aligning offerings with the specific and unique requirements of these growing markets will ensure the industry can capitalize on this opportunity and leaves the door open for plenty of future business. Recent developments in India and Indonesia show some of the key areas to focus on.

India puts affordability and connectivity front and center

The success of education PC deployments in India is crucially tied to the ability to provide cheap and reliable connectivity. Despite a significant increase in the Internet penetration rate over the last 10 years, only 43% of India’s population are connected and less than 2% have a fixed broadband subscription, according to World Bank data from 2020. As a result, the inclusion of a mobile connectivity (3G/LTE) option on devices is close to an essential requirement when catering to large student bodies across the socio-economic spectrum.

For this reason, in addition to their affordability and similar user experience to smartphones, tablets are a key element of India’s strategy to kickstart digital education efforts. Canalys data shows that tablet shipments to the education segment in India grew 301% in 2021 and are forecast to grow a further 118% in 2022. Recent tablet deployments in states such as Jharkhand and Haryana include a 2GB SIM card as part of an offering for students. Vendors and partners that can offer tablet solutions with rock-solid connectivity will be able to get a solid foothold with government tenders. If their offerings grow to include 3G/LTE-connected Chromebooks or affordable Windows notebooks, they stand to benefit from future deals as India’s education market moves toward greater computing needs and bigger budgets.

Indonesia enlists domestic vendors to bolster education efforts

The Indonesian government is pursuing a digital education strategy that also helps it realize another public sector goal: developing a stronger domestic IT manufacturing base. The country’s Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry is partnering with Google and six local brands (Advan, Axioo, Evercross, SPC, Zyrex and TSM) to produce Chromebooks that are aimed at expanding device access for students over the next five years. The move aligns with the government’s broader view that Indonesia’s accelerated digital adoption since the onset of the pandemic provides an opportunity to strengthen its Domestic Content Level program. So far, more than US$200 million has been allocated to education IT products, which goes beyond Chromebooks to also include wireless routers, projectors and printers. Based on the stipulated budgets and manufacturing capacity increases reported by some local vendors, Canalys expects Chrome OS shipments to Indonesia to grow by a five-year CAGR of 23% between 2021 and 2026.

The move raises some important points, particularly for OS vendors such as Google and Microsoft that work with third-party OEMs. Forming partnerships with local PC brands makes a lot of sense at a time when disrupted global supply chains are leading countries to invest in stronger domestic IT manufacturing. If they can tie the products that are manufactured to the development of digital education by offering holistic solutions, training for teachers and students, and improvements in infrastructure and connectivity, OS vendors can ensure they get a foothold in nascent education markets before they ramp up. For example, Google is launching a Chromebook pilot program with Vinschool, the first of its kind in Vietnam, which is now directing research and funding toward widening PC and Internet access for students. With Google now looking for new sources of growth for Chrome OS as the US and Japan slow down, and Microsoft keen to highlight the benefits of Windows 11 SE, the battle to equip and connect the next generation of students in Asia Pacific should be an exciting one.