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December 2011

eTransform Africa

Michael Trucano's picture

a view of Africa from afarThe World Bank Group and the African Development Bank, with the support of the African Union, are producing a new 'flagship' report on how ICTs, especially mobile phones, have the potential to change fundamental business models in key sectors for Africa.  The overall goal of this effort, which is known as eTransform Africa, is to raise awareness and stimulate action, especially among African governments and development practitioners, of how ICTs can contribute to the improvement and transformation of traditional and new economic and social activities in a number of sectors, including: agriculture; climate change adaptation; education; financial services; health; local ICT; public services; trade and regional integration; and 'cross-cutting' issues.

The final draft of the eTransform Africa education sector study (Transformation‐Ready: The strategic application of information and communication technologies in Africa. Education Sector Study), which was prepared by a team of notable consultants at ICT Development Associates, is now available online [pdf].  This 144-page report identifies specific opportunities and challenges, and recommends areas of intervention for governments, educational institutions, the private sector, NGOs, and development partners, with a particular focus on five general themes:

eLearning, Africa, and ... China?

Michael Trucano's picture
sisters in development?
sisters in development?

Earlier this year, over 1700 participants from over 90 countries attended eLearning Africa (previous blog post here) to share lessons and make contacts at what has evolved into perhaps the continent's premier annual knowledge sharing event related to the use of ICTs in education. Not surprisingly, given that the event took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania led the way in terms of attendance by its nationals, followed by its East African neighbors, with South Africa and Nigeria not too far behind.

One nationality was largely noticeable through its absence: the Chinese.  Why do I mention this? Outside the conference, signs of growing cooperation between Tanzania and China (and India, whose Prime Minister was in Dar the same week on a state visit) were hard to miss, and indeed, the increasing 'presence' of China across Africa is undeniable, and the topic of much reporting, scholarly interest and discussion, including at the World Bank. Looking around the conference itself, this cooperation wasn't immediately in evidence related to international cooperation around the use of educational technologies.  Participating in and listening to many conversations at the event, however, one got a bit of a different story related to potential cooperation going forward between China and a number of African countries on ICT/education issues.

The Aakash, India's $35 (?) Tablet for Education

Michael Trucano's picture

the tablet: resistance is futileOn 5 October 2011, the Indian Ministry for Human Resource Development announced the launch of a new low cost educational tablet: the Aakash. Developed by the London-based company DataWind with the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, the Aakash has been described by some as potentially heralding a new 'Internet revolution' within India education, doing for educational computing what the mobile phone has done for personal communications over the past decade.  The launch of this product has been accompanied by a great deal of press attention, some laudatory, some less so.  Following on a visit by Indian HRD Minister Sibal in October, DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli stopped by the World Bank yesterday to talk about the Aakash, and more broadly, about sustainable business models to drive the broad adoption of computing and Internet devices in the developing world.

Some critics have noted that this is not the first time such a device has been promised for India, recalling the general hoopla that greeted earlier devices like the Simputer and the $100 laptop (OLPC) project.  What is different this time around, they ask, and why is the government subsidizing the purchase price of this particular gadget?

School computer labs: A bad idea?

Michael Trucano's picture
OK, everyone all together now ...
OK, everyone all together now ...

As part of my job, I visit *lots* of schools around the world to see how they are actually using various types of educational technologies.  Usually, and inevitably, such trips feature a visit to the school computer lab, which is, more often than not, the locus for technology use in a school.  Generally speaking, I find that a school computer lab looks very much the same, no matter whether I am outside Pretoria or Phnom Penh. In most places I visit, putting all (or most) of a school's computers into a special 'computer lab' is seen as the obvious thing to do when a school is being 'computerized'. 

This may seem obvious ... but is it really a good idea?