Using the Internet to improve access to knowledge in native African languages

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The swift rise in new technologies requires that people and businesses better anticipate the needs and challenges that our societies will face. As Africa is not immune to these challenges, the country must find ways to better equip young Africans with the necessary skills to prepare them for the digital economy and the jobs of tomorrow.

The African continent is undergoing rapid demographic growth. It enjoys an ancient, rich, and multifaceted culture, much like the different languages spoken across the territory. However, a linguistic and geographical barrier remains with respect to transmitting knowledge to all people. 

The geographical barrier can easily be overcome by implementing the following recommendations:

  • Adopt a practical, comprehensive approach to incorporate the Internet into learning techniques from the primary education level
  • Spark pupils’ curiosity in the Internet and ensure their mastery of the tool;
  • Implement a serious pedagogical approach that uses physical tools and software in schools and universities
  • More effectively leverage tools such as virtual and augmented reality displays (making them oneself would be instructive and less costly) and play-based learning tools such as Scratch, Jerry (computers built using recycled components), Arduino, etc.
  • Promote open access tools and raise people's awareness of the concepts of collaboration and contribution in the context of digital access for all
  • Organize competitions to boost skills acquisition and stimulate curiosity and the competitive spirit among learners and teachers

There is a saying in the Fon language, “whatever you hold dear should be expressed in your native tongue.” Most of the languages of instruction in African schools are foreign to the culture of our countries, in contrast to other continents where teaching is done in the native language (French for France, English for England and the United States, Chinese for China, etc.). This is a major obstacle in the knowledge transfer process as the languages must be mastered at every stage in order to assimilate the concepts. To address this problem, it is necessary to establish and promote platforms that offer instruction in the African languages, Boiteainnovations, for example.

Whether Africans remain mainly consumers or become knowledge generators, skills and techniques continue to develop at a brisk pace. The continent will have to evolve to accommodate the professions of the future. To achieve this, skills will have to be transmitted to as many people as possible. The Internet is the fastest and most cost-effective tool for allowing anyone, regardless of geographical location, to have access to knowledge in his or her own language.

Kêlvin Adantchede Nonvignon, a Beninese national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.

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