Over the past three years Computer Aid International has supplied computers to the Africa Medical College in Ethiopia. The college provides medical education on a host of topics from medicine degrees to comprehensive nursing training.
The computers have been used for classroom teaching and learning, internet access and for use in the offices. A fourth year pharmacy student, Abera Bexabih noted, “I work much faster when I prepare and arrange my notes and I communicate easily with my colleagues using wireless internet services.”
Staff are pleased as well, as administrator Solomon Shawel comments, “the students now have easy access to e-books, I can collect, process and store data about the college and I can easily communicate with the outside world.”
To read case studies on the recipients of Computer Aid International computers visit our website.
Thousands of computers have been deployed over the last 10 years by Computer Aid and our partners into schools and colleges across Africa and Latin America. We have seen students eagerly yet tentatively approach a computer for the first time and quickly develop new skills which allow them to discover knowledge whilst improving their employability and higher education prospects. Our focus and vision should not simply be of ICTs, but of better education delivered through the integration of ICTs in teaching and learning processes. Recently I have been working closely with some of our partners in developing countries and financial donors to understand the role of ICTs in education and how we can facilitate a transformation in the student learning experience. Drawing on research and reports on ICTs in education in developing countries, this post will outline the potential and the shared vision and commitment required to achieve it.
ICTs play an important role in forms of traditional learning. ICTs can enhance traditional teaching of subjects as sources of teaching materials or through the use of multimedia presentations to deliver lectures and classes. Many implementations of ICTs in education focus on equipping both students and teachers with basic IT skills, learning how to use word processors, develop spreadsheets and reply to emails. These skills are vital for individuals to access opportunities in both employment and further education as a number of developing countries integrate ICTs into their wider economic activity. Focusing solely on delivering these basic IT skills or enhancing existing teaching however fails to fulfil the transformational potential ICTs have in shifting the focus of education away from teacher-centred lecture-based instruction to student-centred interactive learning.
We’ve had some great feedback from one of our partners in Ecuador, the Fondo Ecuatoriano de Cooperacion para el Desarollo (FECD) who have equipped hundreds of schools across Ecuador with computers donated to Computer Aid.
Consuelo Rivadeneira, whose children attend the Angel Héctor Cedeño school in the Manabi province that has received PCs donated to Computer Aid has said:
“Now we can equip schools that never had a computer before and it is very important for children to have IT skills these days. Thanks to this project, the children have an access to technology that we, parents, couldn’t have and I am very happy that they have this opportunity.”
In the past four years, Computer Aid has dispatched more than 4,000 refurbished computers donated by UK organsiations to the FECD in Equador. The PCs have been used to reduce the digital divide that exists in rural areas of Ecuador by providing high quality refurbished computers to schools, colleges and civil society organisations.
Equipping schools with computers means that they can provide lessons in basic IT skills which will give their pupils the opportunity to look for higher income employment in the future. As well as teaching IT skills, the provision of IT in schools can also help improve the lesson content in other subjects as it helps teachers to demonstrate difficult or less interesting subjects in a visual format. With PCs and IT training, many teachers are downloading and using free educational software to support them in teaching key subjects such as maths and languages.
PCs donated to Computer Aid and sent to the FECD has given up to 67,000 students who may otherwise not have access to PCs the opportunity to gain IT skills – which we think is a fantastic result!
In achieving not just universal but high-quality primary education it has become self-evident that ICT has a role to play in teacher training and in the social inclusion in education and employment of people living with disabilities and otherwise marginalised groups.
Aside from the explicit recognition of the importance of education to development articulated in the aims of MDG Two, education in a broader sense, conceived of as human capacity building, is a pivotal ingredient in achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals. Without sustained investment in the training and education of in-service healthcare professionals, for example, progress towards MDGs Four, Five, and Six would stall. Seen in through this prism, ‘Making available the benefits of the new information and communication technologies’ as targeted in MDG-8, has a central part to play in the training and development needed to achieve all of the MDGs.
Computer Aid were out in force at last night’s Digital Technology in Africa event held by the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington, London. The panel consisted of Nicholas Negraponte, Erik Hersman and Herman Chinery-Hess and was chaired by Rory Cellan-Jones.
- Having heard lots about Negraponte’s ‘One Laptop Per Child’, it was fantastic to hear about the programme from the man himself! One aspect of the programme that I hadn’t previously been aware of is that each laptop contains 100 books and each laptop contains different books from each other, so if a community is given 100 laptops, 10,000 books are made available to the whole community!
- Herman Chinery-Hess, founder of SOFTtribe, spoke about the need for Africa to develop its own technology solution and has developed his software to be, in his words, “tropically tolerant” – meaning that it accounts for regional issues with power, labour and politics, which technology built in the US and UK doesn’t account for.
- It was great to hear from Erik Hersman, founder of Ushahidi who shared some very interesting insights on how technology is developing and gave examples of African entrepreneurs who are creating mobile apps and SMS services specifically designed for the continent.
There were a wide range of opinions and lots of food for thought – some of the comments that really stood out for me during their discussions were: