E-readers, laptops, palmtops, desktops…designs and devices are hard to keep up with even in developed economies where salaries and wages allow these as luxury items. In the developing South and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa technology offers the promise of access to information and improved livelihoods. The transformation is not instant, but the promise is there. Yet Africa continues to lag behind.
Why have education sectors in most developing countries been slow to adopt new technology? Where adoption has taken place there are numerous tales of equipment safely stored out of learner’s reach, disregarded due to lack of skilled teachers or “stripped” for more valued metal parts. In recent times much attention has been placed on mobile phones, “Africa’s computer” but despite a concerted effort by UNESCO to mainstream mobile learning, take up remains sluggish.
At the risk of being labelled a neo-liberalist, one suggestion to educators and social welfare actors is to look for lessons from the health and business sectors. M-Health has been hugely successful in reminding patients to take their ARV meds while M-Banking has surpassed all expectation through m-pesa. Both these sectors found innovative solutions to real problems facing developing communities. And all this through a Text/SMS.
Hopefully education will learn from their example by making the call to explore mobile learning.