Conference sneak preview

Good tidings for Africa’s eLearning aficionados

The good news is that the Call for Papers for eLearning Africa 2012 closes on Friday, January 9th, 2012, so there is still time to submit an application to present a paper, host a workshop, give a demonstration or showcase products and services at the accompanying exhibition. The conference will take place from 23rd to 25th May, 2012 in Cotonou, Benin, a country making many improvements in ICT infrastructure, service delivery and education. Our end of year newsletter surveys eLearning developments across the continent and offers a glimpse at the issues on people’s lips: from rural entrepreneurship to education and sustainability, the very theme of eLearning Africa 2012.

There is much work to be done to bring the Continent’s infrastructure up to standard, but from Cape to Cairo, there are inspiring grassroots initiatives that are improving people’s lives and showing that Africans have what it takes to embrace the ICT age and build healthy, functioning 21st century societies. Our year end round up drops in on projects spanning the length and breadth of the Continent. In Uganda, rural telecentres are evolving into full service points where farmers offer their produce to a wider market through an expanding sms network. This is a convenient strategy considering since more people have access to mobile phone technology than computers.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative has been seen as one way to address this imbalance. It has received rave reviews in the international press, but others have found that all that glitters on the computer screen is not a golden opportunity for learning. ICT for Development researcher David Hollow has conducted studies at a number of schools in Ethiopia and has found that issuing every child with a laptop is an untenable and expensive band aid for the country’s ailing education system. He presented a comprehensive and riveting report at our sister conference, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN on December 2nd, and the question of how to get around the cost factor is one that is relevant to government administrators, donors, corporate service providers and educators Continent-wide.

Over in West Africa, the Lagos-based Society for the Promotion of Education and Development (SPED) also considers the question of improving digital literacy in impoverished communities. They have learnt from the experiences of others but acknowledge that simply adopting blueprints that have worked in different socio-economic climates and settings and hoping for the best is a wrong turn on the route towards advancement. In all cases, the experiences of others must be adapted to local needs. Okafor Tochukwu Patrick, the managing director of SPED spoke to eLA about how they are surmounting structural and ideological barriers to bringing quality education to school children in Nigeria.

So while Africa might be bringing up the rear in using ICT in all sectors, the good tidings are that this status quo is not to last. In Durban, South Africa’s designated big convention city, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol ended on Sunday December 11th. Representatives of 193 nations and many NGOs, environmental activists and other interested parties met to hash out the finer points of how to curb climate change and administer a Green Climate Fund in order to redress questions of accountability in a world where developed countries are largely responsible for a growing global climate catastrophe that is already impacting the livelihoods of ordinary people in developing countries. One of the many outcomes of the two-week meeting is a pledge to develop a web-based platform for people to share insight into climate change issues that affect sustainable development. This issue resonates with eLA 2012 where our theme is eLearning for Sustainability, so it is certainly a matter to watch in the coming months and years.

eLearning Africa is the space for discussing all these issues. So while our newsletter will keep you informed and updated on eLearning activities across the Continent, Cotonou is the place to be next May when experts from the government, corporate and education sectors meet for three days of lively talks, workshops, fascinating demonstrations and exhibitions of everything you need to know about eLearning for sustainable development on the beloved Continent. Don’t forget to submit your proposal by Friday, January 9th, 2012, and make a date with eLearning Africa 2012.


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