Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and the Internet in particular, can have a transformative effect on education in Africa, according to a report launched by the Internet Society.
The report was presented at the first Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue which opened on Monday in Kigali. The event aims to gather various organizations working on Internet and development across the region to find synergies, and create opportunities for coordination and collaboration.
During the 2-day meeting, experts including officials from government and inter-governmental organizations, business and education leaders from the continent discuss how Africa can use the Internet to advance education, innovation and job creation.
The conference is part of a global series of Internet development conferences organized by the Internet Society with the aim of furthering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that aim at tackling the world’s main development challenges by 2030. Regional Internet Development Dialogues were held last year in Asia Pacific and Latin America.
At the Africa Dialogue, Rwanda, the Internet Society announced the results of a study entitled ‘Internet for Education in Africa – Helping Policymakers to Meet the Global Education Goals,’ which assesses how the Internet is used in the education sector in Africa. It also looks at the untapped opportunities by examining experiences in other regions, and provides recommendations for policymakers to help encourage learning via the Internet.
Expanded connectivity thanks to increased access to mobile broadband and the development of submarine cables has enabled more than a quarter of the African population (approximately 341 million people) to have Internet access in 2016. This represents a significant opportunity to use the Internet to provide education and learning opportunities.
However, the report underscores that integration of ICT and leveraging the Internet for education requires clear vision and strategy and, most importantly, commitment accompanied by investment in broadband connectivity, learning resources, and technical support.
“A skilled workforce that can use ICT effectively to solve Africa’s problems will also determine Africa’s competitiveness in the global economy,” explained Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society. “Policymakers have a critical role to play in creating the necessary ecosystem for integrating ICT in education.”
The Internet Society’s Enabling Environment Framework provides guidance and highlights the necessity of encouraging infrastructure development, fostering skills and entrepreneurship and establishing governance for the Internet ecosystem – with a particular focus on clear and holistic policies for ICT in education in Africa.
Some of the key advantages of Internet learning outlined in the report are: the Internet provides alternative learning tools to address some education challenges in Africa such as the lack of learning materials and teachers; the Internet can reach more individuals and disseminate content and learning resources at a lower cost; it can remove certain economic and social barriers to education such as geography, gender, and disabilities; it provides greater flexibility for any-time, any-place education, particularly for those who are working and want to pursue professional development.