A revolution is occurring throughout African societies. While governments implement high-level, high-visibility ICT strategies, experts have recently identified far more radical, hidden changes occurring across the Continent. New technologies, when adopted, are adapted to local needs: a sort of under-the-radar innovation which is now pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
Mark Kaigwa, Kenyan ICT guru, digital strategist and keynote speaker at eLearning Africa, explains the situation in his own country: “it’s the organic stuff, initiated by the community and on the fringes… this is what’s really going to transform our country and the rest of the East African region, if not the whole Continent.”
Across the Continent, people are coming up with varied and innovative solutions. To a Kenyan, a mobile could be a portable bank machine – an efficient way to pay bills, take taxis or eat out, using the m-Pesa banking system. To a South African, the same device is a social networking tool, allowing free instant messaging, connections to chat rooms and file transfers – they are used, for example, by teens to download and share quality fiction from the FunDza Literary Trust. A tablet on a farm allows instant access to markets, agricultural advice and weather warnings; in a school, it is a cheap, scalable replacement for the traditional textbook.
With all this and more going on it is no wonder that the eyes of the world are on Africa, eager to find out what successful local solutions could be transplanted elsewhere. Prof Dr Johannes Cronje of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa, has been developing MOOCs which, though made for Africa, “have become very useful for people all over the world.” Although the initial concept comes from abroad, the MOOC has clearly found the most fertile conditions for growth in Africa: the latest lessons we are learning about the improvement of education worldwide are coming from examples of local endeavour in Africa.
Also speaking during one of the plenary sessions at the 8th eLearning Africa conference will be Prof Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University, who is expected to offer insight into the similarities and differences between Indian and African innovations. During the conference there will also be chances to learn about how community radio and broadcast television have collaborated to bring education to rural Zambia, and about how farmers in Ghana became hooked on the mobile phone.
Stories of individual entrepreneurship abound in Africa, and these developments clearly have an international importance. However, due to their scattered, localised nature, they very infrequently make the headlines. This is not the case, however, at eLearning Africa 2013: here over one and a half thousand professionals will gather to share their experiences, adaptations, successes and failures. The conference programme, now released online, showcases all that is local, innovative and daring. Here you can find full information on the plenaries, presentations and debates to be given at the conference, which is taking place in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29th-31st of May. The full programme can be viewed on the eLearning Africa website, at http://www.elearning-africa.com/programme_table.php