Unleashing Web 2.0 for African education

Experts on Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Africa have challenged African universities and other learning institutions to adopt Web 2.0 technologies and use social media for teaching. At eLearning Africa 2011, they agreed that institutions can reduce running costs, mobilise learning resources and expand research capacity with social media.

By Ludger Kasumuni, Dar es Salaam

The experts presented papers in a session entitled “African Experiences with Web 2.0 Integration Classroom Practice”, pinpointing an urgent need for learning institutions in Africa to build strong networks with the developed world using Web 2.0 practice.

Web 2.0 and social media include Wikipedia, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other interactive ICT tools providing an attractive, integrated, cheap and collaborative learning environment.

Delivering her paper on “Making Web 2.0 Technologies work for Higher Learning Institutions in Africa”, a librarian and lecturer at Sokoine University of Tanzania, Dr Edda Tandi Lwoga, said, “The use of Web 2.0 in Africa is still at infancy stage. In order to improve the quality of education, African universities should take advantage of innovative and emerging technologies and consider the learning preferences of the Net generation or digital natives”.

According to Dr Lwoga, Web 2.0 supports constructivist approaches to learning with great potential to socialise online learning, by providing technologies that foster interactive, collaborative, and participative roles of instructors and learners.

She said, “The new technology can not only improve teaching and learning processes in universities and schools, but deliver vocational training and lifelong learning and help marginalised groups like street children and disabled young people.”

Skyping for improved library services

Dr Nkisheng Mphahlele, information librarian at Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa, said that Web 2.0 will improve library services.

She said Skype and blogs can enhance learning and access to library information resources in institutions of higher learning.

Pointing the dearth of information on Africa’s development she said: “Most of the information in Africa remains unrecorded, thus cannot be captured. Tools like Skype address oral, visual and written at the same time.

“As more individuals and institutions are having access to the Internet, there are many resources available at no extra cost that can be effectively used to enhance learning at institutions, in a format that can best address the needs of the African student.”

Web 2.0 for the poorest rural schools

Expressing similar views on the role of Web 2.0, the Chief Executive of eKhaya ICT of South Africa, Ronald Wertlen, said that the open source software platform and the social network awareNet had tremendously improved education bringing social media to some of the poorest schools in South Africa, allowing offline use and making use of the Internet at times when the cost is reduced.

Wertlen said that awareNet was addressing the question of personal self-worth in an innovative digital manner: “Many young black Africans grow up in a culture where personal self-respect is squashed by gross disrespect for human life in the very context of their environment. Sub-standard services in terms of health, policing, education etc. and subsequent high mortality rates, as well as dismantled cultural traditions, teach youths that intrinsic motivation is worthless since the self itself is worthless. As against that, awareNet teaches youths that their voice can be heard and that there is someone listening. “

This expression is channelled into wiki-style projects that explore cultural and historical heritage of the youths, in addition to allowing free-flowing conversations. “AwareNet attempts to minimise the requisite involvement of teachers, so that learners’ motivation is not bridled. It attempts to heighten receptivity of otherwise dysfunctional schools to an innovative idea through the great strength of social media.”

Alex Lindsay, an ICT expert from the U.S based Pixel Corps said that there was a need to integrate local customs and culture when using Web 2.0 in order to attain practical benefits to students and teachers. He said his organisation has been conducting weekly training workshops for application of Web 2.0 technologies to suit the prevailing environment for learning.


  1. I totally agree that exploring and harnessing web 2.0 in teaching and learning will improve the learning process and give leverage to educational systems no matter the boundaries that exist.

  2. This is a great initiative. kudos to all involved. Let’s use new media to change the face of teaching and learning in Africa.

  3. Web 2.0 remains an important aspect for education and life in Africa. With the prices of smart phones going, there is need to enhance this tool.Most african countries have educational resources are that are disproportionately located in the urban areas. In the most urban locations schools have the best facilities, most qualified staff and that applies to health. So this is the solution- that great mathematics in the rural area can post his/her worked examples in a wiki or a blog and the language teacher can have a podcast, y tube just for an example. That way the standards will be uniform. The rural nurse can use an appropriate web 2.0 tool to consult a senior medical member in an Urban area.

  4. Lawrence Ssenkubuge

    It is encouraging as already commented that Web 2.0 tools have a lot of potential in supporting the process of teaching and learning. Open source nature of the tools puts the potential users at an advantage. The collaborative aspect that web 2.0 provides is potentially helpful in helping learners in diverse geographical locations learn together and to network. It will potentially help transcend barriers that for a long time have limited achievement of certain learners and educators. the other advantage that Web 2.0 provides is the preparing of learners to get exposure to global competitive practices that will help them survive in the their future. Educators therefore should do all the can to build capacity to harness all the opportunities that Web 2.0 has to offer.

  5. CTA, in collaboration with the College of Information and Communication Technologies (CoICT) of the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania will host a 5-day Web 2.0 Learning Opportunity on 12-16 december 2011.

    Participants will be introduced to selected web 2.0 applications and learn on how to use them; hands-on. The Learning Opportunity will cover advanced online searching, getting information served via alerts and RSS, collaborating remotely using wikis and Google Docs, using VoIP, online mapping and social networking. Participants will get a chance to see what others have done, get hands-on experience on how to use innovative applications, and assess how they could adopt these innovations within the context of their work and organisation.

    Participation is free of charge. For more information visit: http://tinyurl.com/web2-udsm

  6. Kwame Amankwah

    People have referred to Africa as the Sleeping Giant! It means, for me that inherently, there is something withing Africa and for that matter Africans that is yet to be tapped.
    The unlimittedness of the internet has globalised learning and teaching, making it easier for Africans to reach hitherto unreachable levels of education without a phycical change in location!
    Problems of shortages of teachers and books and other resources will become a thing of the past, if we accelarate to catch up with virtual learning! Its now all never! Governments should incorporate funding of ICT in their curriculum and help in the provision of infrastructure to faciliate the transfer of knowledge!

  7. Robert Kisalama

    It is quite encouraging to note the new enthusiasm about integration of ICTs in the actual teaching process. However, I would like to draw the attention of fellow practitioners in Africa to a few facts. Firstly, while Web 2.0 might be a new phenomenon in Africa, it has been trialled out in the developed world and one major dilemma that continues to prevail is the mode of assessment in our educational system where we value scores as opposed to intuition and innovativeness in solving daily problems in our society.

    Secondly, while we may look at this platform as being open, it is still inevitably dependant on internet connectivity. Take the case of Moodle.

    Thirdly, it is important to note that while the resistance to ICT integration in education may be more pronounced in Africa, it is indeed a world problem as Emma rightly points out. The already known limited access in Africa, withstanding, it is high time we took a keen interest in the comments of Mr Trucano, ‘trying to use whatever we can easily access innovatively’ and the advice given by John Traxler, about visualising ICT integration models that are designed more for our African settings. Of course these are but just the challenges of early adopters to technology.

    That said, in the concluding remarks about the Knowledge maps for Infodev, Mr Trucano encourages us to learn from the plethora of experiences that were observed in the developed world, all these efforts are surely laudable,the future is certainly bright.

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  9. Some ideas – and good to see that it’s being seen as important to incorporate local customs.
    Moses said “I wonder what will force our people to change from the traditional teaching aids” – In my experience, that doesn’t just apply to African teachers, it applies to all teachers! Not all are willing to change. (Perhaps ‘force’ is a bit strong, after all, there are times when paper/chalk are more useful than electrons!)
    And, of course, it’s not quite ‘zero cost’ – someone has to buy the phone & also pay for the electricity to keep it going 🙂

  10. Salami Oshioke Abdullahi

    Please we want details on how to deplore this technology for the benefit of our rural schols in Nigeria. We will appreciate every information that can help us to act quickly

  11. Web 2.0 is another bigger opportunity provided by ICT which we have to exploit for fast social and economic development. I appeal to all those who have the knowledge of it to freely share with those who have no idea. I once organised a workshop for teachers in Jinja-Uganda with web 2.0 issues in perspective but the response wasn’t good. I wonder what will force our people to change from the traditional teaching aids to the latest technology which is provided at zero price.

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