A high level meeting chaired by AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the Web Foundation at the World Economic Forum on Africa conference in South Africa heard that technology is the key to bridging the gap between the state of education in Africa today and what it has the potential to be.
The meeting, attended by the Ministers of Education and Science and Technology from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda; also included representatives of Intel, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, HP, Adobe, and Microsoft and other leading technology companies. Other country governments represented were Benin, Burundi, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Nigeria and Rwanda.
The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways in which modern technology can improve access and quality of education in Africa and in which areas should financial institutions like the AfDB and the private sector invest in ICT in Africa. The AfDB presented its New Education Model for Africa (NEMA) which is ICT-based, with strong links to the labour market, fosters Public Private Partnerships which would allow educational institutions to tap into the experiences, knowledge and financial leverage of the private sector
Margaret Kamar, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology for Kenya, said that her country was considering investments in fibre-optic cable as a solution to the national issue of brain drain and to upgrade the quality of education.
Kaberuka stressed the importance of technology in addressing the quality of education. “While the challenge of numbers was being addressed successfully, that of quality remains. Science, Technology and Innovation is opening up opportunities which might enable Africa to leapfrog development through education. The track record in a few pilot countries seems to indicate that that was Africa’s way to the future”, said President Kaberuka
“Training is the most fundamental thing anyone can do. Otherwise utilization will be low and teachers will feel stupid if they don’t know as much as the children do”, said John Davies, Vice President for Intel .
“Technology is not what is important. We need to train the teachers in using the technologies as well as ensure that the country owns the digital content production”, agreed Ricaud Gervais Auckbur, representative of the Ministry of Education of Mauritius.
The technology firms encouraged governments to be more creative in using inexpensive low bandwidth for sending and receiving mobile data, and Microsoft presented its “white spaces” project – the space, which has been freed up on television channels as we moved to digital technology, and if deregulated, can provide affordable access to the Internet.
Image: AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Tim Berners-Lee. By BiztechAfrica