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Educational technology Innovations and Investments in Africa

There is much hype about Educational Technology. ‘Disruption’ and ‘transformation’ are common bullets in presentations at large education gatherings mostly in North America-especially where ‘Silicon Valley type’ education entrepreneurs are present. The popular press is full of articles on the revolutionary potential of new technology to transform education forever.

Rosie Spinks of the Guardian laments about the unfortunate fate of African children who cannot access education due to the failure of policy makers to integrate technology in education. She notes that while the mobile penetration in Africa is well over 73%, 30 million children are still missing out on education.

UNESCO observes that it is somewhat a paradox to talk about information technology innovation in Africa when some areas have no access to electricity. The report further notes that the priority in these areas revolves around meeting basic needs and not acquiring the latest technology.

However, IT News Africa notes that m-learning, online courses and other e-learning related technologies have the potential to transform the education sector in Africa. There are many countries in the continent that are doing pretty well in terms of internet and electricity connectivity.  This article agrees as the opportunities for innovation in education technology in Africa are immense.

There is a rapid increase in the affordable internet with the advent of the smartphone. In South Africa, for example, 75% of the population had internet access in 2016. While not all countries are as connected as South Africa, one common denominator is that affordable internet penetration in Africa is increasing with predictions showing that mobile industry will account for 8% of the continent’s GDP by 2020.

Experience has shown that the integration of hardware and software solutions can solve the gap in access to education in Africa. Erik Hersman, founder of technology stratups Ushahidi and iHub in Nairobi has developed Kio Kit, a tablet loaded with school curriculum and designed for African rural schools where access to power is not guaranteed. The material on the tablet can be updated by connecting it to the BRCK which has Wi-Fi, a sim card, and ethernet connectivity.

The Centre for Education Innovation lists key themes in innovative education technologies in Africa which can inform education technology investors of the range of opportunities the continent offers.

  • The use of technology to increase access to learning materials for example the computer exchange programme  (Kenya)
  • The provision of learning content and software free for all or at reduced prices for example Train Your Brain (South Africa)
  • The provision of instructional materials and training for teachers for example Nokia Life+ (Nigeria)
  • Creation of an online platform for students interaction for example Connecting Classrooms (Liberia)
  • Online delivery of skills for work, for example, Shamba Shape Up (East Africa)

The selection of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Central African country, to host the DT X Aqua Telecom Education 4.0 pilot project is significant. The other country hosting this programme is Moldova. The programme will enable access to e-learning materials of international standards using blockchain technology. Students who go through the programme will be issued with internationally recognized certificates. The programme will later be rolled out in the rest of the world.

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