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Information and Communication Technologies

E-Reading in Africa

Michael Trucano's picture

a, b, c, d, ... E?!Back in 2008, a World Bank study on Textbooks and School Library Provision in Secondary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa [pdf] noted that "There is little or no evidence in any of the 19 countries reviewed of any systematic approach to, or consideration of, the full range of secondary textbook cost reduction strategies", adding that "Only 1 out of 19 countries studied (Botswana) had adequate textbook provision at close to a 1:1 ratio for all subjects and all grades."

In other words: There aren't enough textbooks for most students in Africa, and what is available is too expensive.

A number of groups are looking at this reality and wondering if the use of inexpensive e-book readers may be able to help.  One such group at the World Bank is exploring an e-book pilot initiative in Nigeria (which has been examined previously on the EduTech blog). This pilot is looking at what it might take to deliver textbooks in digital formats for reading by secondary school students on dedicated e-readers, and what might happen as a result.  It is not just looking at the use of official textbooks, however.  The project team is also seeking to investigate the potential impact on educational achievement of making small libraries of digital books available to students on e-readers.  In doing so, it is intrigued by studies such as Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations, which found that

Fascinating FreedomFone

Sabina Panth's picture

As I explore innovative approaches in civilian-led movements, I become increasingly knowledgeable about the latest technological gadgets and devices that have become powerful tools in demand for good governance and democratic reform processes.   Don’t worry, I won’t go on about the Arab Revolution and the role of social media yet again.  Instead, I will talk about a latest invention that does not even require the end users to have a web access, something that can be exploited by just anyone, even the illiterates.  FreedomFone is an ICT invention that has been specifically designed to cater to those that are in most need of information, bearing in mind the barriers they face in accessing information and the opportunities it provides to improve their conditions.

Collecting survey data via mobile phone in Southern Sudan

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

We’re in the middle of an unusual data collection exercise, which we’ve called the Southern Sudan Experimental Phone Survey (SSEPS). To get a sense of how the survey works, see this photo essay. The work has been conducted in part with funds from the Poverty and Social Impact Analysis Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

In November, in conjunction with the Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, we delivered mobile phones to 1000 households in the 10 state capitals of Southern Sudan. Each month starting last December, Sudanese interviewers from a call center in Nairobi have phoned respondents on those phones to collect information on their economic situation, security, outlook, and other topics.

What role should 'education' play in donor ICT strategies?

Robert Hawkins's picture

which way should we go?A previous post on the EduTech blog asked, Is there a role for ICTs in international donor aid strategies for the education sector?  Today we would like to turn that question around a little bit, and ask:

"What role should 'education' play in donor ICT strategies?"

Solar Home Systems: Lighting up Bangladesh's Countryside

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Lives no longer interrupted by the setting sun…

We were walking towards the small bridge over the canal. The sun had already set and dusk was gradually fading into darkness. The winter air was quiet and still. Approaching the highest point of the bridge, I could sense the excitement in our quickening footsteps - we were almost there.

The project officials had told us that we could see it all, if we stood and looked out from the highest point of the bridge. So we leaned over the railings and waited, straining to see. But there was nothing – just the fuzzy darkness, gradually thickening and settling quietly on the land. I was left wondering whether we were just on a wild goose chase.

Then down below, a faint light suddenly flickered to life. A bulb was turned on in the darkness. Then another glowed – and yet another! In a few minutes, the area lying below us was glimmering with the tiny dots of faint white light bulbs. And from our high vantage point we could clearly see that the sleepy little rural marketplace - Garjon Bunia Bazaar – had woken up; ready for another evening.

Padma Bridge: Connecting People to Prosperity in Bangladesh

South Asia's picture

The Padma Bridge is expected to unlock the potential and transform the lives of nearly 30 million Bangladeshis living in the country's Southwest region. By reducing distances to major urban centers like Dhaka by almost 100km, the bridge will facilitate regional trade, reduce poverty while accelerating growth and development in the country as a whole.

The construction of the bridge would fulfill the long-standing dream of the people of the Southwest region to have a permanent crossing over the Padma River,” said World Bank South Asia Vice President Isabel Guerrero.


For more information, read the Feature Story and Press Release.

Education & Technology in 2025: A Thought Experiment

Michael Trucano's picture

thinking big thoughtsIn many places around the world, the costs associated with investments in educational technologies are perceived to be prohibitive (and often higher than one may initially calculate).  That said, there are few places where such investments are not under active consideration.

On this blog, I have criticized

"the often singleminded focus, even obsession, on the retail price of ICT devices alone, which is in many ways a distraction from more fundamental discussions of the uses of educational technologies to meet a wide variety of educational goals in ways that are relevant, appropriate and cost-effective."

I have also wondered,

"What are the costs of not investing in ICT use in education? Can we afford them?"

Reasonable people can and will disagree about what the associated costs are for ICT/education initiatives -- as well as how to calculate them, and what these costs might/should be, relative to other potential uses of scarce funds (teacher and administrative salaries, books, school infrastructure, health and feeding programs for students, etc.)

Reasonable people can also disagree on what the impact to date of such investments has been -- a frequent topic here on this blog.

But let's leave aside such discussions and debate for now.

As part of engagements in various countries, I sometimes propose the following 'thought experiment' to provoke policymakers to take a step back (or two -- or five!) and think more broadly about why they are looking to introduce ICTs in their schools.  As part of this process, I present the following scenario:

Let's assume that, by 2025, *all* hardware and software costs related to the use of information and communication technologies to support learning were zero.

How might this change the way you consider the use of ICTs to support the goals of your education system?

If we removed considerations of cost from the equation, how might we conceive of the use of technologies in education? Would our approach then be consistent with our approach today?

 

What Role Does Civil Society Play in Economic Development?

Sabina Panth's picture

I recently came across a fascinating initiative where civil society organizations have played a lead role in building public-private partnerships in economic development activities.  The USAID-sponsored Education for Income Generation (EIG) program has brought together local, national and international partners in galvanizing disadvantaged youth to partake in income generating activities toward increasing economic activities and peace building process in post-conflict Nepal. 

What are developing countries doing to help keep kids safe online?

Michael Trucano's picture

you can only shield them so much -- you also need to help them to assess risks themselves when they are beyond your protective canopy

While computers and other ICT tools offer much potential to impact learning, teaching, and educational service delivery in beneficial ways, the use of such technologies also carries with it a variety of risks -- especially for children. While most people are familiar with attention-grabbing headlines related to pornography, sexual harrassment, illegal downloading and 'inappropriate' or political speech, these are only a few of the issues related to keeping kids safe online.  In some places, for example, cyberbullying appears to be a more pervasive day-to-day threat for many students, and people are also increasingly understanding potential 'threats' to children related to things like privacy and data security.

To date, most of the internationally comparative work on issues related to child digital safety has taken place in 'developed' OECD countries, and the documentation and analysis of these risks in devellping country environmrnts, and their related policy responses, is largely unstudied. As noted in a recent publication from the Berkman Center at Harvard University and UNICEF,

"One of the next steps should identifying the problems children in developing nations are facing and map these issues in the respective technological, social, and economic context; from there, we will be better equipped to develop tangible, accessible targeted solutions and resources." 


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