One question I am regularly asked (by colleagues at funding agencies, in governments, and from private groups looking to network with like-minded groups) is,
Can you point us to some innovative or exemplary ICT & education projects in developing countries?
As follow-up, they often note that "We already know about prominent projects like Microsoft Partners in Learning, Intel Teach and One Laptop Per Child, but what else is out there that we should know about?"
In an attempt to help provide partial answers to such queries, this post is a continuation of sorts of a blog entry we published in 2009 which continues to generate a good amount of regular traffic despite being over a year old, Finding (useful) research on ICT use in education in developing countries. Those who haven't read that post, but who have made it this far through this one, are encouraged to go back and read it, as the information in it is still quite relevant (and so I won't repeat much of it here), as well as a post from early 2010 on ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch -- and Learn From.
At the World Bank, we are privileged to have regular and often rather unique exposure to lots of very interesting people and initiatives active in this area. One of my first responses when asked the question above is, "you may wish to scroll through the ~ 100 posts in the archive of the World Bank EduTech blog", as one of the reasons this blog came into existence was to have an informal outlet to provide pointers to some of the interesting developments and organizations active in this area. We make no claim to be comprehensive or all-inclusive, of course, and (as the frequency of posts probably suggests), we are certainly not full-time bloggers. (In fact, the EduTech blog has for the most part been an 'extra' activity, with posts assembled in short bursts in-between 'normal work' and on personal time.)
While we do look at them from time to time, we try on the EduTech blog not to focus too much of our attention on initiatives that already receive heavy scrutiny and exposure via other outlets (although we do appreciate the passion of the supporters of some of these individual initiatives who contact us weekly, and sometimes daily, advocating for more attention to their particular project). We also try to highlight activities inside projects that the World Bank is involved with in some way, both as an aid to transparency and because we find that lessons from such activities are often not, for whatever reason, well shared via other means. To provoke discussion about both individual projects, topics and trends, we also sponsor a separate monthly online EduTech Debate.
As we don't want to appear to be endorsing specific projects or organizations, I will not make a simple list here in response to the question that triggered this blog post. Instead, I'll point to some of the primary online tools I use to identify and track such projects and organizations, in case they might be of any interest to others, as an update to last year's post (which btw contains lists of academic journals that has not changed, so these publications are not mentioned below).
One year on, there still aren't many new sources that cover this general topic itself (as opposed to single, individual initiatives) regularly and exclusively. There is this blog, of course, that of the Inter-american Development Bank (IDB), the UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education newsletter and accompanying database, and the multiple-author blogs of the Commonwealth of Learning and GeSCI. Digital Learning out of India is one of the longest, continuosly active online publications devoted to this topic (with, not surprisingly, a strong representation of stories from India itself). ICT4D organizations active in this area with regular news feeds that cover education topics include IICD, Inveneo's ICTworks, and MobileActive (which also maintains a very useful m-learning database).
As a default we try our best to open up the informal 'brown bag lunch' (BBL) presentations on interesting projects to the public (most happen at the World Bank in DC, but occasionally in other places as well), to stream them over the web as best we can, and to archive results on our web site.
There are a few high profile international 'competitions' that recognize ICT/education initiatives, including those in developing countries. Most prominently, these include theUNESCO Prize on ICT use in education, the World Innovatrion Summit for Education (WISE) awards, the Stockholm Challenge, and the Digital Media and Learning (DML) Competition supported by Hastac and the Macarthur Foundation.
Projects that 'win' such awards are usually quite established and have a track record of activity and accomplishment. To identify smaller projects, it can often be useful to turn to ...
There are a huge number of educational technology conferences around the world evey year that shocase interesting and valuable initiatives. (The most comprehensive list of such events is maintained by Clayton R. Wright). These include large established events like eLearning Africa, and other regional events focused largely on projects in 'developed' country markets like Online Educa Berlin, e-Learning Asia and BETT, which increasingly include small numbers of initiatives from developing countries. Often times more projects participate in so-called ICT4D conference, the highest profile of which is probably ICTD. Other places where interesting educational technology projects and applications are sometimes featured include high profile "influencer" conferences like TED and PopTech.
infoDev and UNESCO have published regional surveys on ICT use in education in developing countries around the world on Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean and South Asia (the Insight reports from European Schoolnet do something similar for Europe.) These surveys, even if some of them are a little dated, can be useful ways to find pointers to specific projects that might be of interest.
Learning about new projects via
Most of the email newsletters and listservs to which I regularly subscribe have made the transition to blog formats, or at least have related RSS feeds, and I find that I rely less and less on email to learn about new initiatives in this area. (Given the fact that I receive up to 400 emails a day, a figure that I often find physically unmanageable, I concede that I regrettably may miss some things in my in-box.) As a result of information overload, I have unsubscribed to almost all email newsletters and listservs (one notable exception is the CIVIC list in the Caribbean).
On a practical level, Twitter has replaced email as my main source of news about new developments and initiatives. If you are interested in using Twitter for this purpose, good places to start might be the people and organizations who follow our Twitter feed, @WBedutech, and the related curated topical lists. (Note that you need to be logged into Twitter to view these.)
What's missing from this list of resources? A lot of things, without a doubt. Facebook is certainly a great way to identify and conenct with interesting projects. And, geographically, there is one country where there is a tremendous amount of interesting initiatives underway, but which is grossly under-represented in the resources mentioned above: China.
Please feel free to submit any suggestions in the comments section below of useful resources that can be helpful when 'on the lookout' for interesting projects (or of worthy projects themselves) outside of 'developed' markets in Europe, North America, Australia and East Asia that I've missed -- or, more likely, simply don't know about!
Note: The public domain image used at the top of this blog post ("wow, a lot is happening, but it's hard to make out the specifics") comes via Wikimedia Commons.