Education crucial to creating digital citizens

Panellists see education as crucial to creating ‘digital citizens’

07 NOV 2014

LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 AFRICA: A trio of panellists from across Africa’s m-education ecosystem offered up their experiences in how the mobile industry can empower growth of the ‘digital citizen.’

Simon de Haan of the Praekelt Foundation – an African nonprofit organisation dedicated to using mobile technology to improve the lives of people living in poverty – said mobile phones are an important learning tool and that, in his experience, children learnt better outside the formal school setting through the foundation’s mobile-based math learning platform.

Speaking about its girl empowerment initiative, he said the foundation was looking to create content to motivate girls to stay in school. However, he noted that often girls don’t have direct access to mobile phones and the gatekeepers of these phones may be people who are trying to convince these same girls to stay at home or work.

Ideally, the foundation wants to put out information that can positively influence both gatekeepers and girls, which de Haan admitted will be a challenge.

Steve Vosloo of education outfit Pearson South Africa – operating in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and publishing in around 60 African languages – advocated the view that it is important to collect data on learning habits so that the government knows which areas in particular to invest in. He also said that, much like medical records, student records should be made publicly accessible not just so students, parents and teachers can track performance but so that this data can be used for research and to improve standards of education.

“We must open this data up to developers and researchers – people who can use it at an aggregate level in a meaningful way,” urged Vosloo.

Levi Goertz, COO of Ghana-based social enterprise VOTO Mobile, spoke more about empowering citizens by giving them the skills and abilities to participate in the technology available to them. He said that the youth his company approached either already knew of the advantages of mobile phones or were very quick to pick up what they were being told.

Training them to teach technological skills to older members of their community was an easy and effective way of spreading awareness on the benefits of technology, added Goertz.

De Haan also agreed from personal experience that a lack of understanding of technology was a barrier to digital citizenship. For instance, people who told him they did not have internet on their phone were actually using their devices to access Facebook.

Echoing the lack of awareness issue, Vosloo said many online training courses are available for free to anyone with internet access but those who use it are mainly people who already have advanced degrees. There have been some examples where groups of people have signed up to the lessons and study together, and this model may be more suited to Africa, he concluded.


Saleha Riaz

Saleha joined Mobile World Live in October 2014 as a reporter and works across all e-newsletters - creating content, writing blogs and reports as well as conducting feature interviews...More

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