infoDev Releases Survey of ICT Use in Education in Africa

infoDev Releases Survey of ICT Use in Education in Africa

Results from 53-country research project highlight 'new phase' of activity, from pilot projects to government policy development

Landmark research project documents technology use in the education sector all 53 African countries, identifies new trends and old challenges.

infoDev has released initial results from a landmark Survey of ICT and Education in Africa, which seeks to gather together in a single resource the most relevant and useful information on ICT in education activities in Africa.

During the first half of 2007, a research team supported by infoDev and coordinated by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) sought to document the major developments in each African country related to technology use in education in order to create the first consolidated look at this fast-changing sector and provide preliminary answers to three broad questions:

  1. How are ICTs currently being used in the education sector in Africa, and what are the strategies and policies related to this use?
  2. What are the common challenges and constraints faced by African countries in this area?
  3. What is actually happening on the ground, and to what extent are donors involved?

infoDev and its partners hope that this publication is a first step in a larger, on-going, systematic, coordinated initiative to track developments in technology use in the education sector to help inform a wide variety of stakeholders interested in the topic as they seek solutions to larger, more fundamental educational and development challenges in the years ahead.

Report Highlights

The Summary Report from this research initiative notes that "The process of adoption and diffusion of ICT in education in Africa is in transition", finding that:

"There appears to be the beginnings of a marked shift from a decade of experimentation in the form of donor-supported, NGO-led, small-scale, pilot projects towards a new phase of systemic integration informed by national government policies and multi-stakeholder-led implementation processes," remarking that "this shift from projects to policies, and the more systematic development that that implies, would not be possible without the growing commitment to ICT in education on the part of government leaders across the continent".

While implementation varies widely throughout the continent, and with a country like South Africa, with its extant infrastructure and more mature economy a clear outlier in terms of being able to implement its ICT in education agenda, the report finds that "all but a handful of countries surveyed already have a national ICT policy in place or under development", concluding that a "new phase of ICT for education in Africa is occurring within national, and emerging regional, policy frameworks that are providing the basis for partnerships and donor participation." Over three hundred notable ICT in education initiatives on the continent are included in the survey.

ICT and Education in Africa: Some notable "macro trends"

  • Public-private partnerships are important mechanisms enabling the implementation of ICT in national education systems in Africa.  These PPPs take many forms: from complex partnerships between companies (typically involved in IT), government ministries, development agencies, schools and civil society organizations more straight forward bilateral partnerships between IT companies and national ministries of education.
  • The need for digital content development relevant to local curricula is becoming more
    urgent as ICT use becomes more widespread. 
  • Interest in open source software and operating systems is growing rapidly in Africa, but this growth is constrained by a lack of sufficient human resource capacity to support such systems and applications.
  • A number of prominent regional initiatives have emerged (with varying degrees of success) explicitly focused on ICT use in education, including NEPAD e-Schools, SchoolNet Africa, and the African Virtual University, complemented by increasing African participation in global ICT in education programmes.
  • National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) are slowly emerging, especially in North, East and Southern Africa, to enable collaboration between universities. 
  • Internet connectivity remains a major challenge, both within countries, and between Africa and the rest of the world, and several major initiatives are emerging to help address this issue.
  • Wireless networks are developing rapidly throughout the continent, and of increasing relevance to the education sector.

Coming Soon: 53 Country Reports

infoDev will also be releasing the working versions of 53 individual Country Reports developed as a result of this survey process.  These reports should be seen as “snapshots” that were current at the time they were taken during the first half of 2007. It is expected that certain facts and figures presented in some of the Country Reports may become dated very quickly; ICT use in education is at a particularly dynamic stage in Africa, and there are new developments and announcements happening on a daily basis somewhere on the continent. 

The country reports pay particular attention to the following themes:

  • ICT Policies for Education
  • ICT Infrastructure for Education
  • ICT Activities and Initiatives in Higher Education
  • ICT Activities and Initiatives in Primary and Secondary Schools
  • ICT Activities and Initiatives in Non-formal Education
  • Gender Equity and ICT in Education
  • Factors Enabling and Constraining ICT Use in Education

It is anticipated that these reports will serve as the building block for an on-line database (in a wiki format) that will be updated collaboratively over time, to be released later in the year. As such, all individual country reports are considered to be evolving "works-in-progress".

For more information

  • The full version of the Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: A Summary Report Based on 53 Country Surveys, is available at infodev.org/en/Publication.353.html.
  • The working versions of the Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: 53 Country Reports will be available in one consolidated document at infodev.org/en/Publication.354.html. Individual versions of the country reports will appear in wiki format later this year on the infoDev web site.
  • infoDev and COL recently released The NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project: A Work in Progress (A Public Report), which highlights lessons learned to date from the pan-African, public-private partnership to introduce ICTs in education and is available for download at infodev.org/en/Publication.355.html
  • infoDev is completing a similar survey of ICT use in education in the Caribbean; background information on this project can be found at infodev.org/ict4edu-Caribbean.

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