There is no doubt that the Internet is a powerful enabler for education as it provides access to information, different learning opportunities and new ideas that could contribute to both social and economic development. However, it is important to remember that well over half of the world’s population has no direct experience of using the Internet at all.
In Africa, according to the latest Global Digital Report 2018, more than a quarter of the African population (425 million of 1272 million) has access to the Internet. While this represents a significant opportunity, it also brings great challenges and responsibilities.
In this regard, the issue of unequal access to the most enabling and empowering form of Internet use remains a major concern: how can we, through Internet access, improve the quality of education in Africa?
To fully understand the situation, we must identify the different challenges in education. These go from high communication costs to limited infrastructure in rural and underserved areas, to outdated or unavailable learning and teaching materials, among others.
At the Internet Society (ISOC), we are certain that access to the Internet can transform the educational landscape in Africa and help boost the so-called Internet of Opportunities.
In Rwanda, for instance, ISOC’s local Chapter is transforming the lives of visually impaired children by using access to the Internet and technologies in education. The project entitled Internet for Education-Online Audio Library, is involved in converting textbooks into audio files and storing them on a database that will then be available online to visually impaired learners.
Moreover, the improvement of broadband connectivity in countries like Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia has already enhanced learners’ and teachers’ access to the Internet in ways never imagined before.
There is of course, still a lot of work to do. In other countries, connections to the Internet are limited. Despite the significant penetration of mobile phones across the continent, mobile learning did not take off in Africa.
Therefore, everyone must contribute. Only by working together, policymakers, the Internet community, and education stakeholders, will we be able to unlock the potential that the Internet has for education. This will lead not just to improved education, but to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Agenda and of Internet that meets the needs of all.
The Internet Society is committed to playing its full part in showing the value that the Internet has for education and, as such, we are proud to be supporting eLearning Africa this year. We believe that these types of spaces are key in developing a regional common vision and strategy in addressing the challenges of the tech and education sectors in one place.
We are convinced that the Internet’s worldwide educational significance will continue to increase throughout the next decades, creating a new culture of learning and personalizing the way we access knowledge rather than strictly relying on the norms and expectations of a traditional education system.
If you are interested in knowing more of our vision about the Internet in support of education in Africa, we invite you to read our policy paper: “Internet for Education in Africa: Helping Policy Makers to Meet the Global Education Agenda Sustainable Development Goal 4.”
About the Internet Society
The Internet Society’s goal is to promote Internet access to everyone, everywhere. Through
a wide range of stakeholders, the Internet Society promotes not only Internet standards but also its development as a platform for innovation, economic development, and social progress.
Backed by more than 80,000 members and supporters, more than 130 Chapters and Special Interest Groups around the world, as well as more than 143 Organization members, the Internet Society continues to drive the Internet as an open platform for connecting people worldwide and contributes to social, economic, and educational needs.