A number of organisations are enabling and augmenting the steady increase of mobile technology use across the African continent, reports website Edweek.org. In countless areas still not served by stable electricity supplies or other basic education resources, cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, tablet computers and e-readers are helping African students cross the digital divide.
According to research conducted by the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association in London, about 735 million Africans use cell phones because the continent lacks the infrastructure needed for broadband technology. Jim Teicher, CEO of Cybersmart Education, based in New Jersey, USA, wants African teachers to be supported via cell phone and his company’s solar-powered interactive whiteboard. Fifty Senegalese teachers based in Dakar have signed on to Teicher’s pilot programme, which will see them collaborate via SMS on the best ways to use the whiteboards in their lessons.
American non-profit FHI 360 has also reported back on its work in Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, South Sudan and Zambia, where governmental data collectors are using GPS technology through cell phones. The officials record and transmit information to be used by ministries of education to allocate resources equitably to schools. FHI 360 – based in Durham, North Carolina – is also about to launch an app in Liberia that will enable quick and accurate teacher evaluations.
Students in African countries are also benefiting from e-readers, reports David Risher, Co-founder and CEO of USbased organisation Worldreader. Working in partnership with major publishers Penguin and Random House, Worldreader has given Kindles loaded with fiction works and textbooks to 500 Ghanaian schoolchildren and their teachers. Once charged, the Kindles can last for about a month, making them invaluable learning aids in a semi-rural region outside Accra. So many more children are reading that Risher has launched the project in Kenya and Uganda as well.
Researchers have, however, warned against too much excitement with regard to educational technology in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of Africanowned cell phones are not smartphones, and cannot therefore connect to the internet. This means that students and teachers often have to bear associated costs on their own.
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