Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), an initiative that aims to empower women to play their part in the prevention of child and maternal mortality in the country, enables pregnant women to access information about their pregnancies and unborn babies on their mobile phones.
Global director for MAMA, Kirsten Gagnaire, says: “We work to deliver vital health information to new and expectant moms straight into the palms of their hands via their mobile phones.”
Gagnaire explains that MAMA’s messages are designed to encourage and remind mothers about the importance of things like eating nutritious foods during pregnancy, going to the clinic, exclusive breastfeeding and immunising their babies.
To read the article titled, “Mobile phones, a vital tool for pregnant women,” click here.Source:SABC News
Technology is evolving rapidly and opening doors for a variety of sectors including education. In resource-poor settings and rural communities new technological advances create opportunities where none previously existed. New developments in education are becoming vital in Africa where some countries are finding that their education systems are not meeting community and societal demand, or are becoming too expensive.(2) In some places there is no real guarantee of a quality education and the efficiency and availability of primary, secondary and university level education are not assured.(3)
To combat these problems throughout continental Africa, countries are embracing information and communications technology (ICT) to increase access to the Internet and expand educational curricula at all levels of schooling.(4) E-learning, as this use of ICT in education is known, is quickly becoming an asset not only to the students but to communities and teachers as well. It provides the means for gaining stronger work skills, allows for global partnerships to develop, and increases the quality of education programmes.(5) Expanding access to and the availability of e-learning programmes for students, teachers and businesses is a key to furthering continental development and growth.
This paper discusses the broad developments in e-learning technology spreading across continental Africa. It focuses specifically on how ICT, particularly mobile phones and applications, and e-learning are changing and shaping education on the continent. The benefits of e-learning and the challenges to advancement and implementation of new educational opportunities in Africa are also briefly outlined.
The emergence of information and communications technology in Africa
Technology and its content are changing communication and publications in schools. Interactive textbooks and educational games are being introduced into schools, creating an environment like an online digital classroom.(6) In Africa, these types of environments are being introduced into both urban and rural settings, especially in areas in which reliable power sources have not previously been readily available.(7)
The rise of mobile technology was one of the most revolutionary steps in technological growth in recent times and it is particularly interesting in Africa because mobile services are well developed and have grown out of necessity.(8) Some of the most innovative advances in mobile services have occurred in resource-poor settings, and have been used to meet different technological or social needs.(9) Advances in mobile services have also provided the means to expand community knowledge about the Internet and wireless technology.(10) Overall, the use of ICT has grown exponentially across the continent in the past decade. This graph demonstrates the growth (percentage of communications growth in Africa (11))
Mobile phone subscriptions particularly have increased significantly from 1998 to 2008. In 2011, there was further growth in mobile phone subscribers. In Kenya for example, of a total population of 41.6 million,(12) there are now 25 million mobile phone users.(13) Even though the story in rural areas is changing, the majority of these users are still in urban areas with only about 30 percent of rural Kenyan families presently owning a mobile phone.(14) However, numbers like these and others across Africa are increasing continuously as ICT is rapidly expanding and is considered vital to economic growth.(15) A growing body of evidence shows that old ways of learning across the continent are not getting the desired results, so it has been necessary to introduce new ways of approaching education provision. Businesses, schools and communities are now increasingly focusing on ensuring that people are becoming more literate in ICT.(16)
E-learning and education opportunities in Africa
This new focus is changing education all over Africa and it is adapting and changing with the growing use of e-learning and technology. New kinds of content are in development regularly and are being introduced to children and adults. For example, digital textbooks are being introduced, replacing conventional two dimensional publications and books.(17) Due to the generally unreliable nature of electricity provision from national grids across many parts of Africa, new sources of power, such as wind and solar power are also required and training in these technologies is needed.(18) Great strides are being made in this regard all over urban and rural Africa as ICT expansion and provision continues. Classrooms are being powered by solar energy and battery sources that are more easily rechargeable.(19) Very slim, easily manageable computers are available for use and only require a low 3 to 15 watts of power for operation.(20) The growing availability of ICT made possible by these innovations has increased access for millions of students in Africa. In South Africa for example, about 1.5 million students can now access computer classrooms through upgraded computer technology.(21)
Education through e-learning is becoming vital in opening new doors, not only for children but also for adults. It is slowly allowing women to strengthen their positions in society through increased access to information and opportunities and is providing independence and ICT awareness.(22) It is noted that in order to continue this growth the expansion of education through e-learning must occur and that, in the African context, this is only possible through the increased use of ICT and continued training through large scale-up programmes.(23) In this way education in both urban and rural areas will be improved by access to information through technology, learning and the Internet.(24)
There are many more examples of ways that African countries are expanding education using e-learning solutions. A report from Accenture shares several ways in which technology is enhancing education and access to it through e-learning by:
- Providing teachers with digital materials to supplement traditional lectures (via laptops and projectors);
- Delivering master teacher sessions by video to wide audiences, computer-based games and simulations;
- Replacing books with electronic devices supporting more engaging and comprehensive content;
- Enabling collaboration across communities via connected classrooms;
- Supplementing traditional curricula with additional learning materials covering locally-relevant topics like health and agriculture;
- Delivering teacher training in local schools during evenings and weekends;
- Delivering vocational training and adult education via school infrastructure during non-school hours;
- Offering individual, self-paced training tailored to individual needs and goals; and
- Extending education beyond the classroom via mobile devices, personal computers or Internet kiosks.(25)
Examples from South Africa and Malawi demonstrate how ICT innovations and attendant e-learning technologies are being used to change communities. In South Africa, an initiative by Vodacom in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Education is creating a new ICT centre in the Lady Frere District that will increase education availability for students and provide training to teachers.(28) The expectation is that more than 1400 teachers with be trained throughout the district while strengthening curricula and teaching aids through cloud computing technology that stores the new content making it easily accessible.(29) These new possibilities provide ways to standardise training and teaching throughout urban and rural schools and allow for students to receive the same educational opportunities no matter where they live.(30)
In Malawi Microsoft is training teachers and helping them open their own computer labs through the Malawi Learning Partnership network.(31) It is providing students and teachers with access to e-learning resources that will enhance their learning and teaching capabilities and their access to the global community.(32) The network has also increased access for female students allowing girls in rural communities the opportunity to learn information technology skills and potentially pursue careers in technology-based industries.(33) The opportunities presented by e-learning and technology have transformed, and continue to transform, education and access to it across the continent.
Challenges to e-learning and education
E-learning and the availability of technology is changing the face of education across the African continent, but even with the aforementioned successes countries still face challenges to implementation and access. They might face many different constraints such as poor infrastructure and availability of resources. Some of the most common and key constraints to e-learning which are present at the national level are listed in the table below.
Rank Constraining Factor Percentage The Country Most Likely Identify. This is a Constraint The Country Least Likely to identify. This is a Constraint 1 Bandwidth is limited 17 Zambia Kenya 2 Financial resources are lacking 1 Zambia Nigeria 2 Human resource capacity is inadequate 11 South Africa Tanzania 2 Electricity is limited 11 Nigeria South Africa 5 Appropriate training is lacking 8 Kenya Uganda 6 Appropriate hardware is lacking 7 Tanzania Ghana 7 Lack of trained teachers 6 South Africa Nigeria 8 Appropriate software is lacking 6 Tanzania Ghana 8 Political will is lacking 4 Nigeria Uganda 8 Corruption and theft of resources 4 Uganda Zambia 11 Lack of good quality educational content 3 Tanzania Nigeria 12 Pressure of poverty 3 Kenya Uganda 12 Sustainability is not prioritised 3 Kenya Tanzania 12 Leadership is lacking 3 Nigeria Uganda 15 Instability and lack of security 1 South Africa Zambia 15 Other factors N/A N/A
The table demonstrates that some countries may be facing multiple constraints to their ability to provide e-learning solutions to educational needs. The most common problem is still limited bandwidth reducing Internet capability and stability.(35) Additionally, other continuing problems with availability of technology include limitations in access in rural areas and the capacity of the technology owned by many people to support new learning techniques.(36) An example of this is seen through research conducted in Kenya using Graphogame, a game serving as a research tool to study reading acquisition, which is used on a smart phone. Researchers found that most families in rural areas, even those with mobile phones, did not have mobiles with the capability to use the game’s technology.(37)
Other longer term and more distal constraints that may limit access to education generally include political instability, as under such conditions the key institutions and infrastructure of good governance, which include those of education, are often corrupted, mismanaged, under-funded and neglected, and brain drain, which has negative consequences for institutional capacity.(38) However, even though these barriers do represent obstacles to moving forward with education upgrades they are not stopping individuals and communities from moving forward. They are working to increase capacity-building and the mitigation of such constraints so that they can limit the effect these have on the expansion of educational opportunities and uptake.(39)
The availability of e-learning technologies is providing expanded opportunities for countries in Africa to make education available to their whole population. Rural communities are being connected to the rest of the globe and their residents are more able to achieve the same level of education as their urban counterparts. In addition, more and more examples of how different communities are providing e-learning options are highlighted regularly in the media.
This continued expansion is important for helping to maintain and further social and economic development and to secure future growth. However, there are clearly still barriers to growth and implementation of new technologies and limitations to making e-learning solutions available to everyone. Governments, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups must continue to monitor needs and build capacity to meet those needs, because the strength of a country’s education system may be a clear condition to its positive development and the lack thereof a contributor to its poverty.(40)
- Shannon Rupp (firstname.lastname@example.org), Consultancy Africa Intelligence’ Africa Watch Unit. This discussion paper first appeared on the Consultancy Africa Intelligence website, a South African-based research and strategy firm with a focus on social, health, political and economic trends and developments in Africa. For more information, see www.consultancyafrica.com.
(2) Ekundayo, M.S. and Ekundayo, J.M., ‘Capacity constraints in developing countries: A need for more e-learning space? The case of Nigeria’, 2009, http://www.ascilite.org.au.
(4) Mpunga, N., ‘EC Education and Vodacom Partner to Empower Teachers’, Province of the Eastern Cape Education, 19 September 2012, http://www.ecdoe.gov.za.
(5) Sabela, Z., ‘SA & US institutions partner for e-learning,’ Destinyman.com, 22 August 2012, http://www.destinyman.com.
(6) Isaacs, S. and Hollow, D., (eds) 2012. The eLearning Africa 2012 Report. ICWE: Germany, http://www.elearning-africa.
(8) Banks, K., ‘Mobiles offer lifelines in Africa’, BBC News, 15 September 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk.
(12) ‘Kenya’, The World Bank, http://data.worldbank.org.
(13) Isaacs, S. and Hollow, D., (eds) 2012. The eLearning Africa 2012 Report. ICWE: Germany, http://www.elearning-africa.
(18) Abell, T.E. and Long, T., ‘eLearning in Africa – Transforming Education through Enabling Technologies’, Accenture, 21 December 2010, http://www.accenture.com.
(19) Isaacs, S. and Hollow, D., (eds) 2012. The eLearning Africa 2012 Report. ICWE: Germany, http://www.elearning-africa.
(25) Abell, T.E. and Long, T., ‘eLearning in Africa – Transforming Education through Enabling Technologies’, Accenture, 21 December 2010, http://www.accenture.com.
(28) Mpunga, N., ‘EC Education and Vodacom Partner to Empower Teachers’, Province of the Eastern Cape Education, 19 September 2012, http://allafrica.com.
(31) Gondwe, G., ‘Microsoft employees train Malawi school teachers’, Bizcommunity Daily, 4 September 2012, http://www.bizcommunity.com.
(34) Isaacs, S. and Hollow, D. (eds.), 2012. The eLearning Africa 2012 Report. ICWE: Germany, http://www.elearning-africa.
(37) Suzanne, C. and Otieno, A., 2012. “Early reading acquisition using mobile learning in Africa: The case of Graphogame adaptations in Kenya”, in Isaacs, S. and Hollow, D., (eds.). The eLearning Africa 2012 Report. ICWE: Germany, http://www.elearning-africa.
(38) Ekundayo, M.S. and Ekundayo, J.M., ‘Capacity constraints in developing countries: A need for more e-learning space? The case of Nigeria’, 2009, http://www.ascilite.org.au.
MWEB has announced its partnership with mobile operator, Cell C, aimed at extending its broadband offering.
As part of the deal, MWEB will launch an ‘exclusive promotional offering’ of a 2GB Cell C data package at a discounted rate of just R89 per month.
General manager of MWEB Connect, Carolyn Holgate, points out that, "As a consumer champion, we like the fact that Cell C is shaking up the mobile Internet space in terms of prices and simplicity, and we look forward to partnering with them to offer the best mobile internet deals.”
To read the article titled, “MWEB partners with Cell C on data deal,” click here.Source:Business Day Live
Africa's booming mobile markets edge lies in its role as an innovative hub for new products in the banking, health, education and commerce sectors.
According to a recent report from PwC's quarterly journal Communications Review, titled ‘Telecoms in Africa: Innovating and Inspiring’, in addition to being one of the world's most dynamic telecom markets, the continent is also among the most innovative, a global testing laboratory and a leader in digital and mobile-enabled applications in areas like payments, commerce, health and education.
According to the PwC report, R689 billion has been invested in the telecoms sector in Africa in 2008 and this figure is expected to be as high as US$145.8 billion (R1.28-trillion) by 2015, an 85 percent increase.
To read the article titled, “Africa at cutting edge of mobile innovation,” click here.Source:Mail & Guardian
Industry experts estimate that the true cost for an SMS to mobile operators is between 2c and 5c, raising questions as to why the retail cost is up to 80c per SMS.
There are currently discussions around the potential introduction of an SMS termination rate, raising concerns that it may increase the price of SMSs to consumers.
However, BulkSMS chief executive officer, Pieter Streicher, argues that prices may actually decline if a cost-based SMS termination rate is introduced.
To read the article titled, “The true cost of an SMS,” click here.Source:Sowetan Live
Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness month in October, Lifeline has expanded its counselling services to include an online option.
The new mobile chat counselling service, which is being sponsored by Mxit, is expected to target and reach people between the ages of 12 to 29 - an age group which is very familiar with Mxit.
“This is exciting news for our nonprofit counselling organisation as it opens up a whole new world for our callers - especially those who cannot afford a telephone call,” explains Janet King, acting director, LifeLine Johannesburg.
To read the article titled, “LifeLine counselling services go online,” click here.Source:IT Online
Researchers in the United States say that mobile phone manufacturers, responding to consumer and regulatory pressure, are using fewer toxic substances in their products.
According to a study by the Michigan-based Ecology Centre, the Motorola Citrus, Apple iPhone 4S and LE Remarq, emerged as the least toxic cellphones in a study of 36 different models that have come onto the market during the past five years.
"The takeaway is that mobile phones are chemically intensive, and full of chemical hazards, but they've been getting a lot better," explains Jeff Gearhart, a research director at Ecology Centre.
To read the article titled, “Mobile phones less toxic, research finds,” click here.Source:News24
HP has partnered with NGOs - Positive Innovation for the Next Generation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative - to digitise malaria surveillance in Botswana in 2011.
By distributing smartphones to healthcare workers, the company built a real-time system to monitor outbreaks.
During the year-long pilot, cases reported to the country’s Ministry of Health in time to stop an outbreak soared from 20 percent of total diagnoses to 93 percent, and response time was minimised.
To read the article titled, “How HP harnesses technology and partners with NGOs to beat disease,” click here.Source:Fast Company
South African and South Korean researchers are working on making a smartphone capable of doing AIDS tests in rural parts of Africa that are the worst hit by the disease.
A professor in biomedical engineering at Kookmin University in South Korea, Jung Kyung Kim, points out that, "Our idea is to obtain images and analyse images on this smartphone using applications."
The team developed a microscope and an application that can photograph and analyse blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of immune systems.
To read the article titled, “Researchers working on smartphone AIDS test,” click here.Source:Times Live
- Nearly a year ago, a specialist in software risk management and data storage, Marthinus Engelbrecht, warned that while statistics on violent crimes in South Africa hit the headlines every day because of their severity, cyber crimes were much more common and had a much bigger impact (The New Age, 14 September 2011). Crime analysts and commentators have regularly warned about the insidious nature of cyber crime, and, occasionally predicted an upswing in its occurrence. The build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, for example, provided a platform for estimates of scale, some of which appeared exaggerated. There are in fact no statistics to reflect what was eventually experienced. However, numerous factors indicate that the risk of South Africans falling victim to cyber crime has grown immensely.
There is general consensus that cyber crime is any crime that is committed by means of a computer device which is linked to other computers through the Internet. At the same time, there is much uncertainty about the full range of such crimes and how they affect our daily lives. In a typical cyber crime situation, the computer may be used either as an instrument by which to initiate the crime, or as the target of the crime, as stated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Researchers’ Joey Jansen van Vuuren and Marthie Grobler, in a study done in 2009. The scope of activities which could fall within the definition of cyber crime is potentially quite broad, ranging from purely malicious or intimidatory invasions of privacy, to the theft and abuse of personal identity particulars and the fraudulent manipulation of electronic data to commit theft. At the level of state security, instances of data destruction through electronically transmitted malicious software have been reported. A common thread connecting these activities is the intrusive abuse of computers.
The primary source of risk is the increase in the number of people sharing information through Internet facilitated social networking and the phenomenal growth in the use of computer devices in the form of smart mobile phones. Since 2010, the number of users has grown, partly in direct proportion to the increase in the number of social websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as the Blackberry messenger service, and partly as a result of greater access to smartphones. Figures released in February 2012 showed that global sales of mobile phones had escalated from 1 391 billion in 2010 to 1 546 billion by the end of 2011 (International Data Corporation, February 2012). By that stage there were 5.9 billion mobile phone service subscribers. South Africa, which boasts four mobile phone service providers, has around 42.3 million subscribers. Current figures show that at least 65 percent of South African households have access to a cellular telephone on contract, compared to only 20 percent access to a home-based landline. The highest concentration is in Gauteng, with 48 percent of adults having access. Other provinces fall within the range of 43 percent for the Western Cape, and the lowest penetration of 24 percent in the Eastern Cape, according to forensics expert, Craig du Plooy.
The nature of the information transmitted through smartphones appears to be entirely up to the user. There is a high probability that users are not aware of the potential criminal uses of some of the personal information transmitted. Contact addresses and status updates, if intercepted, can be as strategically important to a fraudster as information solicited by, and provided to websites of unverified integrity. Information-stealing malicious software (malware) has become quite common, but is not generally known to smart phone users.
Ironically, improvements in the speed of accessing the Internet have escalated the cyber crime risk. With the increase in broadband access, greater opportunities for cyber fraud arise. Faster access encourages more use of the Internet, but also increases the chances for data interception. The SEACOM cable operator has reportedly increased bandwidth internationally by 10 times since its trans-continental network came onto operation mid way through 2009.
Risk also arises from the use of unprotected computer devices. An unprotected computer which is connected to the Internet is a weak link that exposes the entire system to worm-borne attacks. Unprotected computers in the hands of users with inadequate or no training unwittingly raises the risk of cyber attacks on an unlimited range of other connected computers. It is a risk pertaining not just to smartphones, but also to computers donated to charities or to schools.
The use of data storage cards, such as credit and debit cards is being encouraged in many economies striving to move away from cash dominated transactions. It is perhaps most common in Africa’s tourist hubs. Over the years, cyber criminals have targeted data storage cards as media from which to ‘harvest’ financial account information. Card cloning is proving to be a resilient form of criminality in South Africa. The statistics on distribution are however scanty. Anecdotes from reported crimes do however show a strong representation of the hospitality sector, especially restaurants in the Western Cape, among the targeted establishments. Analyses by institutions such as the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) highlight the concentric structure of crime networks implicated in card cloning. On the fringes are relatively lowly paid casual workers, mostly serving as waiters or waitresses, recruited by knowledgeable runners who instruct them to collect data from credit and debit cards using portable scanners. The collected data is subsequently transferred to cloned cards for use in commercial transactions or for fund withdrawals. Data capture from compromised auto teller machines is not as common as that which is manually assisted, but it remains an area of exposure.
Knowledge is vital in pre-empting and minimising cyber crime. In 2010, the South African government declared cyber-security to be a national security priority. The declaration reinforced the official resolve underlying the three main applicable statutes, namely the Interception and Monitoring Prohibition Act (1992), the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (1998) and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (2002). The legislation is broad enough to penalise unlawful interception and monitoring of e-mail and text messages. While the law might be in place, the reality is that its effectiveness depends on its intended beneficiaries being aware of how to use it and when.
At this point, awareness of risks and how to mitigate them does not appear to be spreading as quickly as the escalation in the use of cyber-technology. It is largely confined to governments, and the senior levels of larger users of e-technology, such as the financial industry. In 2006 the African Information Security Association (AISA) was established to promote knowledge and create awareness about computer security and cyber crime. The United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) launched the African Centre for Cyber Law and Cybercrime Prevention (ACCP) in Kampala, Uganda in August 2010 in response to mobile phone banking. The ACCP set itself the ambitious task of monitoring cyberspace abuses and the incidence of cyber crime in Africa.
More information is required on forms and trends of cyber crime. This might stimulate an improvement in cyber-crime reports, which will enable better databases to be compiled. Enhanced databases can support more pro-active investigation, as well as the identification of crime networks. Given the rapid proliferation of smartphones, it is suggested that all users should be informed of the main risks and realities. Simultaneously, service providers should be required to appropriately secure all devices they distribute.
- Charles Goredema, Senior Research Fellow, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Cape Town. This article first appeared in the ISS Today.