Edtech has the chance to increase the access to education for Africans by benefiting of the rising internet penetration rates. Keywords are e-learning and mobile learning. From statistics and policies to the implementation in the daily live.
The last few years have been characterized by the rise of new technologies including the financial technology (fintech), insurance technology (insurtech), regulation technology (regtech) and most recently education technology (edtech), which encompasses m-learning, e-learning, online courses and gamification. While Africa has lagged behind in innovation and development, it has numerous potential in new technologies and currently, boasts several edtech startups. The state of edtech in Africa can be described as below.
Increased Access to the internet
Access to the internet in Africa varies from one country to another. Countries such as South Africa are well connected to the internet while others like South Sudan have very little connectivity to the internet. Fortunately, with the advent of the smartphone, many Africans can now access the internet despite the state of internet infrastructure in their countries.
The continent has a very youthful population which is techno savvy and ready to adjust to new technologies. Significantly, Africa has witnessed one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration such that even people living in the most remote rural villages have access to the internet through their phones. This has, in turn, created new avenues for edtech as one can enroll and take a course entirely online without the need to attend lectures physically.
Poor Electricity Infrastructure: A Big Challenge
In many African countries, the majority of the population is not connected to the grid. The poor electricity infrastructure has stifled technology and innovation in the continent by discouraging investors. Edtech requires good access to the internet. Although smartphones do not need to be connected to power every time you use them, they have to be recharged regularly. A student who has enrolled for an online course needs to have his/her smartphone charged to avoid missing out on important lectures. This remains a challenge for a rural student with no access to electricity.
According to the UK Department for International Development (DfID), only a third of the people in Africa have access to electricity; the majority of them being in South Africa and the Arab countries of North Africa. The department further reports that very few African countries can meet the goal of providing affordable access to power for all by 2030. Majority of the Sub-Saharan African countries may not meet this goal until 2080.
Rising Above the Challenges: The Success of Edtech in Africa
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology presents a perfect example of how edtech can be implemented in Africa. The university has been using an online platform Moodle to collect together resources for class, allow communication to the students through group emails and to make announcements. Currently, the university is developing programmes that can be accessed remotely to increase access to education. The programme will greatly benefit poor students who cannot afford on-campus studies as they will be able to study from their homes.
In Nigeria, many language diplomas are being offered online. Colleges are applying Mobile learning in teaching and testing students before awarding the successful ones with diplomas. The number of both local and regional companies providing materials for online courses and exam preparation is on the rise.