Imagine you are a young entrepreneur in East Africa and have a great idea for a start-up, but don’t know how to implement it. A little training would help and probably be even more effective combined with a loan or a grant. You live near Mount Kenya, 150 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, and cannot afford to commute. This is where your trusty mobile phone comes in handy. Used for learning, and not bound to a time or place, they are providing a radical solution.
by Pauline Bugler
Over 70% of the planet’s mobile phones are in developing countries. However, only 2% of these handsets are smartphones. Users rely mainly on basic phones, which correspond to 90% of the 650 million African mobile devices.
Entrepreneurs across Africa are launching all kinds of ventures amid a surging wave of innovation from e-commerce to mobile health technologies and online educational content. To help business trainers integrate mobile learning into their teaching, the International Training Centre (the training arm of the International Labour Organization) has developed a Mobile Learning Toolkit for use in youth entrepreneurship programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The toolkit consists of 16 mobile learning methods divided into four categories – able to deliver content; assign tasks; gather feedback; or provide support to training participants.
Internet connectivity in Africa can be erratic; users can also be without electricity for days. To circumvent such problems, the toolkit works on low-end mobiles and is accessible through a USB business card. This takes the learning experience beyond the traditional workshop idea and relies mainly on cheap SMS-based communication, such as delivering reminders about upcoming events, refreshing learning content and sending related newsflashes.
Trainers can connect more effectively with their trainees and deliver content, assign field tasks, gather feedback or support trainees. Learners use tags and search words to find methods.
“The challenge here is that organising training is costly – especially if you want to reach out to a large group of future young entrepreneurs,” says Tom Wambeke, Senior Programme Officer at the ITC-ILO’s DELTA unit and one of the people behind the project.
An online forum was created where materials are accessible anytime, anywhere; where learners can interact and share knowledge and experiences in a forum with trainers and other participants.
Paul Muasa, who lives near Mount Kenya, said: “I liked it after going through the various tools in the kit and was fascinated by the fact that we can leverage technology to enrich the delivery of training to entrepreneurs, especially the youth in Kenya and East Africa. I will definitely try some of the tools… to add onto F2F sessions and evaluate the impact.”
Around 50 business advisors and trainers have attended three webinars this year to be introduced to the mobile learning toolkit and different mobile methodologies. More in-depth training is set to take place in the run-up to eLearning Africa 2014 on how trainers can effectively integrate mobile strategies in their teaching and the scaled-up expertise can be transferred to other training packages.
Tom Wambeke will be taking part in eLearning Africa 2014 to introduce the toolkit to an even wider audience. Find out more about highlights of the programme here.