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Information and Communication Technologies

Surveying ICT use in education in five Arab States

Michael Trucano's picture

revisiting the past while looking to the futureWhen I was back in school, and long before I had come across names like Wilbur Schramm or Manuel Castells, I remember learning about the power of new information  and communication technologies to help change societies. Even from the (perhaps rather limited) perspective of someone growing up in a prairie state in the American Midwest, whether it was the role of pamphlets in the American Revolution or the more contemporary examples of audiocassettes in the Iranian revolution or photocopiers helping to spread samizdat culture and messages in the countries of the former Soviet Bloc, it was clear that the emergence, adaptation and innovative uses of new 'ICTs' could help committed groups of people upend the existing status quo.

(Whether such 'upending' is a good thing or not depends, I guess, on your perspective, and the specific circumstances and context. Flip through the pages of UNESCO's Community radio handbook, for example, and you may well be inspired, but read a recent paper from a researcher at Harvard about the role of RTLM radio in the Rwandan genocide and you will be chilled to the bone. Technology is a magnifier of human intent and capacity, as my friend Kentaro Toyama likes to say.)

More recently, the events of the 'Arab Spring' have been popularly attributed, in part, to the use of new ICTs and ICT tools like Twitter and SMS. Whether or not one agrees with this attribution (and about this there is much scholarly debate), there is no denying that rhetoric around 'ICTs' and the Arab Spring has increasingly marked and colored discussions about the use of educational technologies in many Arab countries. In announcing a recent report documenting technology use in education in the region, for example, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) begins by noting that, "Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, arguably the most significant ICT-assisted “learning” phenomena of the recent past, data from five countries provide a snapshot of ICT integration in education." It continues:

"Great strides have been made in the last decade to harness the power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to help meet many development challenges, including those related to education. However, evidence shows that some countries in the Arab States continue to lag behind in fully implementing ICT in their education systems.
According to a UIS data analysis, which was based on a data collection process sponsored and conducted by the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector and the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization (TAG-Org), policies for the implementation and use of ICT in primary and secondary education systems have not necessarily translated into practice. This is revealed in the newly released data from five participating countries."

Results from this data analysis were recently published by UIS in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in Five Arab States: A comparative analysis of ICT integration and e-readiness in schools in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Qatar [pdf], one part of a larger multinational effort to collect and analyze basic data related to ICT use in education around the world (results from a similar exercise in Latin America, also led by UIS, were featured on the EduTech blog last week; recent posts have also looked at related sorts of efforts in Europe and Central and West Asia).

Til Debt Do Us Part: South African Soap Opera & Financial Education

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Will Maletsatsi take the necessary steps to get out of debt and successfully manage her finances in the future? This is the central question posed in Scandal, a South African soap opera that is the subject of a new World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. Maletsatsi, the main character in this show, is in a real bind. After borrowing an excessive amount of money and gambling away her fortunes, she is forced to confess the extent of her debt to family and friends. In one scene, her daughter convinces her to negotiate lower monthly payments with a local furniture store. The store eventually agrees to extend the loan period, but her interest rate goes up and she starts to ignore other bills, leaving them unopened and unpaid. A well-intentioned woman, you can’t help but sympathize with Maletsatsi, who was only trying to create a beautiful home for her husband and family. It is through this emotional connection that television viewers are not only able to relate to the main character’s dilemma, but are also able to share Maletsatsi’s joy as she learns the rules of sound financial management and takes control of her debt.

Beyond the wire: connecting Tonga

Tom Perry's picture
Billboards announcing the arrival of high-speed
broadband internet being installed in downtown
Nukua'lofa, the capital of the Kingdom
of Tonga.

Hoko (‘connect’ in Tongan) is the current buzzword on the streets of the Kingdom of Tonga.

With May 17th recognized around the world as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa is a hive of activity as telecommunications providers set up their activities to mark the day.  The billboards have gone up, teenagers have been lining up at auditions to become the new public face of the marketing campaign for Tongan internet, and the Prime Minister, Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō is planning a public Skype session with Tongan soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.

If there is any year the Kingdom of Tonga would be justifiably excited about its telecomms story, 2013 is it. As one of the most remote island nations on the planet, the impending arrival of high-speed, fiber-optic broadband internet – made possible through the World Bank-supported Pacific Regional Connectivity Project, an 830km-long cable being connected between Fiji and Tonga – means that everyone is talking of hoko.

I spoke to a number of people about the experience with internet in Tonga and how broadband internet would affect their lives.

Welcoming mobile phones and internet to the Solomon Islands

Alison Ofotalau's picture
54 in every 100 Solomon Islander now
has access to some form of modern

Recently my 10 year old son invited me to be friends with him on Facebook. “Hi mum I’m here too, can we be friends?” was the message I got. I was shocked and worried at the same time, and my initial reaction was fear of the perceived harm social media could do to a person as young as he.
We finally agreed that his father would have access to his Facebook account to monitor his online activities until he reaches 18. But the moment he gets or posts something inappropriate, the deal is off. That’s a fair deal, I told myself and interacting through social media could actually enrich my son’s life.
What I’m going through is also experienced by other families in the Solomon Islands. It started when mobile phone technology began revolutionizing the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders in the last five years, when the telecommunications industry was opened for competition. Previously, only business executives and senior government officials owned or had access to mobile phones – a luxury only the rich and the influential would enjoy.

Open Government Data: Helping Parents to find the Best School for their Kids

Radu Cucos's picture
I recently relocated my family from Chisanau to The Hague, leading to the difficult experience of trying to find the best primary school for my son in a new city. This challenge – finding the right school – is probably one of the most important decisions in many parents’ lives.  Parents are looking for answers to questions such as which schools are located in safe neighborhoods, which ones have the highest teacher – students’ ratio, which schools have the best funding, which schools have the best premises or which ones have the highest grades average.

Surveying ICT use in education in Latin America & the Caribbean

Michael Trucano's picture

¡más computadoras, por favor!Almost a decade ago, delegates from over 175 countries gathered in Geneva for the first 'World Summit on the Information Society',  a two-part conference (the second stage followed two years later in Tunis) sponsored by the United Nations meant to serve as a platform for global discussion about how new information and communication technologies were impacting and changing economic, political and cultural activities and developments around the world. Specific attention and focus was paid to issues related to the so-called 'digital divide' -- the (growing) gap (and thus growing inequality) between groups who were benefiting from the diffusion and use of ICTs, and those who were not. One of the challenges that inhibited  discussions at the event was the fact that, while a whole variety of inequalities were readily apparent to pretty much everyone, these inequalities were very difficult to quantify, given the fact that we had only incomplete data with which to describe them. The Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, an international, multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the availability and quality of ICT data and indicators, was formed as a result, and constituent members of this partnership set out to try to bridge data gaps in a variety of sectors. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) took the lead on doing this in the education sector, convening and chairing a Working Group on ICT Statistics in Education (in which the World Bank participates, as part of its SABER-ICT initiative) to help address related challenges. At the start, two basic questions confronted the UIS, the World Bank, the IDB, OECD, ECLAC, UNESCO, KERIS and many other like-minded participating members of the working group (out of whose acronyms a near-complete alphabet could be built):

What type of data should be collected related to ICT use in education?

Not to mention:

What type of data could be collected,
given that so little of it was being rigorously gathered
across the world as a whole,
relevant to rich and poor countries alike,
in ways that permitted comparisons across regions and countries?

Comparing ICT use in education across all countries was quite difficult back then. In 2003/2004, the single most common question related to the use of ICTs in education I was asked when meeting with ministers of education was: What should be our target student:computer ratio? Now, one can certainly argue with the premise that this should have been the most commonly posed question (the answer from many groups and people soon became -- rather famously, in fact -- '1-to-1', e.g. 'one laptop per child'). That said, the fact that we were unable to offer globally comparable data in response to such a seemingly basic question did little to enhance the credibility of those who argued this was, in many ways, the wrong question to be asking. Comparing ICT use in education across all countries remains difficult today -- but in many regards, this task is becoming much easier.

The Umpteenth Blog on using SMS Feedback in Projects…Now with Support!

Aaron Seyedian's picture

With shiny apps hogging the mobile spotlight these days, one could be forgiven for forgetting about SMS (“Short Message Service” or text messaging).  But although apps often disguise themselves as universally useful, their data and hardware requirements preclude their widespread use in poor countries.  Amongst the world’s poor, SMS is still king.  Given the World Bank’s mandate to serve the exactly that population, and in response to demand from staff, I recently attended a 2-day Frontline SMS training here in DC.

The training took place on the 2nd floor of the OAS building, otherwise known as the “OpenGovHub.”  The hub hosts many organizations working at the intersection of data, governance and development, including Ushahidi, Accountability Lab and Tech4Dem.  Though only one block from the World Bank, it definitely has a Silicon Valley vibe - open offices, young CEOs, bumperstickered laptops and standing desks abound.  Thankfully, this open and informal environment carried right into the training, giving participants the chance to experiment with the software and engage in candid discussions with Frontline’s leaders.  Two days of training, only one Powerpoint presentation. I know, right!?

On the second day, I was particularly struck by a question posed by Frontline CEO Laura Hudson.  In explaining the design tenets of using FrontlineSMS, she asked us:  “What decisions can you make that exclude the fewest voices?”  That’s a question the Dispute Resolution & Prevention team wants all staff designing grievance redress mechanisms for their projects to ponder as well.

Silicon Valley: Inspiration Tour Ends, Ideas Just Beginning

Sanitation Hackathon Team's picture

As mentioned in the previous post, the three grand prize winning teams of the Sanitation Hackathon boarded from their home countries – Indonesia, Senegal, Tanzania, and the UK – for a week-long trip to Silicon Valley, hosted by They met with companies such as Zynga, the world’s leading social gaming company, Facebook, the social network giant, AirBnB, a travel site, The Hub, a collaborative work space, and Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform. The young web developers learned about the importance of data, how to reach large networks, why trust and collaboration are key, and what makes a crowdfunding campaign successful. 

Surveying ICT use in education in Europe

Michael Trucano's picture

igniting new approaches to learning with technologyOne consistent theme that I hear quite often from policymakers with an interest in, and/or responsibility for, the use of ICTs in their country's education system is that they want to 'learn from the best'. Often times, 'best' is used in ways that are synonymous with 'most advanced', and 'most advanced' essentially is meant to describe places that have 'lots of technology'. Conventional wisdom in many other parts of the world holds that, if you want to 'learn from the best', you would do well to look at what is happening in places like the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Singapore. (Great internal 'digital divides' of various sorts persist within some of these places, of course, but such inconvenient truths challenge generalizations of these sorts in ways that are, well, inconvenient.) Policymakers 'in the know' broaden their frame of reference a bit, taking in a wider set of countries, like those in Scandinavia, as well as some middle income countries like Malaysia and Uruguay that also have 'lots of technology' in their schools. Whether or not these are indeed the 'best' places to look for salient examples of relevance to the particular contexts at hand in other countries is of course a matter of some debate (and indeed, the concept of 'best' is highly problematic -- although that of 'worst' is perhaps less so), there is no question that these aren't the only countries with lots of ICTs in place (if not always in use) in their education systems.

What do we know about what is happening across Europe
related to the use of ICTs in schools?

The recently released Survey of Schools: ICT in Education Benchmarking Access, Use and Attitudes to Technology in Europe’s Schools provides a treasure trove of data for those seeking answers to this question. Produced by the European Schoolnet in partnership with the University of Liège in Belgium, with funding from the European Commission, the publication features results from the first Europe-wide survey of this sort across the continent in six years:

Deadline extended! The Tech Awards is now accepting applications for 2013.

Dougg Jimenez's picture

Please note that deadline to submit your applications for the Tech Awards has been extended to May 8th!

Know someone who is changing the world?
Encourage them to apply to the Tech Awards 2013!

Photo Credit: Charlotte Fiorito"There is not a group that you would rather
be stuck on an island with than The Tech Awards laureates.
" -Michael MacHarg, Simpa Networks,
laureate, The Tech Awards 2012

The Tech Awards, a signature program of The Tech Museum, is an international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity.

In 2013, The Tech Awards will honor 10 international innovators who are applying technology to confront humanity’s most urgent challenges. The Tech Awards honors individuals, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies who are using technology to significantly improve human conditions in 5 awards categories. The technology used can be either a new invention or an innovative use of an existing technology.