Quick guide: ICT i...

Quick guide: ICT in education initiatives in Africa

The following is an excerpt from infoDev's forthcoming Survey of ICT and Education in Africa.

A wide range of programmes and projects on ICTs in Education in Africa have activities that involve one or more African countries in varying numbers. These range from high-level intergovernmental, multi-stakeholder programmes such as the NEPAD e-Schools initiative, to institutions focused on networking African schools and universities such as the African Virtual University (AVU), to collaborative learning projects that directly involve learners and teachers from schools in several African countries such as the Global Teenager Project (GTP) and the International Education Resources Network (iEARN).

An illustrative (non-exhaustive) list of prominent organisations active in supporting and promoting technology-related activities in the education sector in Africa is provided below:

African Academy of Languages

  • The African Academy of Languages is a pan-African organisation that was set up in 2001 by Mali’s then president Alpha Konare. It was established under the auspices of the African Union to promote Africa’s many indigenous languages. One of its major projects relates to the promotion of African languages in “cyberspace” and particularly the use of local languages in education in Africa.

African Development Bank

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a membership-based, regional multilateral development finance institution that mobilises resources to support the economic and social development of its member countries. The AfDB has an education policy which promotes support for basic, vocational, and adult education and training. The AfDB also supports the use of ICTs in education in Africa. To date the AfDB has assisted with open, distance, and e-learning capacity development centres and connectivity provision at Africa Virtual University (AVU) partner institutions to support teacher training and development programmes and to mainstream gender issues, as in the AVU Support Project.

African Virtual University (AVU)

  • Initially a project of the World Bank and now an independent intergovernmental organisation, the AVU is an innovative education institution based in Nairobi, Kenya, that services 57 learning centres in 27 African countries. The AVU works with universities based in Africa and other countries such as the US and Australia to provide academic programmes and short courses through open and distance e-learning. The AVU also boasts a digital library that provides resources to African academics and students. 


  • AMD is a leading global provider of innovative processing solutions in the computing, graphics, and consumer electronics markets. AMD introduced the 50x15 Initiative, an attempt to promote affordable, accessible Internet connectivity and computing capabilities for 50% of the world’s population by 2015. IN the first stage of this initiative, AMD introduced its personal Internet communicator (PIC) device which it deployed to African schools through its support for the NEPAD e-Schools programme. In Africa, AMD led a consortium of companies in the promotion of the NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project in five African countries (Cameroon, Gabon, Mali, Senegal, and Uganda) where they promoted their 50x15 devices.

Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)

  • ADEA is a network of partners promoting the development of effective education policies based on African leadership and ownership. ADEA has produced research and guidebooks on the use of ICTs in education such as Towards and Information System for Non Formal Education: A Practical Guide.

Computer Aid International

  • Headquartered in the UK with a dedicated African regional programme comprising officers in Southern, Eastern, Central, and West Africa, Computer Aid International specialises in sourcing and distributing professionally refurbished computers for re-use in education, health, and not-for-profit organisations in Africa and other developing countries. To date, Computer Aid International has distributed more than 80,000 PCs to developing countries.

Computers for African Schools (CFAS)

  • CFAS is a registered charity in the UK that mobilises computer donations from firms and computer users and distributes them to schools in Southern Africa through partner organisations based in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Cisco Systems

  • Cisco Systems is a global company that promotes networking for the Internet. In Africa, Cisco is a leading partner in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) e-Schools programme to which it contributed human and financial resources. Cisco led a consortium of companies in this project in which it promoted the installation of networking equipment for Internet access and satellite connectivity in schools in Algeria, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa. It also promoted the use of digital education content and teacher training in these countries. In addition, Cisco has established a Networking Academy programme that trains students to design, build, and maintain computer networks. A number of Networking Academies have been established in Africa in countries like, Ghana, Mauritius, and Nigeria.

Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

  • The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth heads of government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources, and technologies. COL has historically assisted with the development and support of national ICT for education policies in some African countries that form part of the Commonwealth, and have promoted the growth of national schoolnet organisations through networking workshops, action research, and the publication of guidebooks such as the African SchoolNet Toolkit which it produced in partnership with SchoolNet Africa. COL is also spearheading the establishment of a Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) which involves a number of small states in Africa and which serves as a network committed to the collaborative development of free content resources for education. COL is also involved in a programme on ICTs in support of technical vocational education and training in Africa in partnership with UNESCO.

Department for International Development (DFID)

  • DFID is the official ministry within the British government that promotes the fight against world poverty. DFID supports numerous bilateral programmes in Africa in support of education, the Education For All objectives, and the Millennium Development Goals. With particular reference to ICTs in education in Africa, DFID has in the past established organisations such as Imfundo, which has developed a knowledge bank of research on the experiences related to ICTs in education in Africa; DFID has also supported research done by the TESSA programme.

Digital Links

  • Digital Links is headquartered in the UK with offices in South Africa and Tanzania. They provide an IT disposal service to UK companies, and refurbish computers for re-use in schools, NGOs, and small enterprises in Africa and the developing world. To date, Digital Links has distributed more than 50,000 PCs to developing countries


  • Edubuntu involves a group of people who distribute a complete Linux-based operating system to schools for classroom use, with future versions being made available for university use. Edubuntu also provides community-based support. Edubuntu philosophy promotes free and open source software and espouses that software should be freely available, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language, that software should be used anyone including people with disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and change their software in whatever way they see fit.

eGranary Digital Library

  • Supported by partnership between the Hewlett Foundation, USAID, and the McArthur Foundation, among others, the eGranary Digital Library provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions that do not have adequate Internet access. They deliver digital education resources by gaining permissions, copying Web sites, and delivering them to intranet Web servers in their partner organisations in Africa and other developing countries. They recently initiated satellite data broadcasting to deliver digital resources to African education institutions.

eLearning Africa

  • eLearning Africa is an international conference on e-learning which is hosted annually by the government of an African country. The main focus of these conferences is on the experiences of ICTs in education in Africa relative to the rest of the world. The conference is organised by ICWE and Hoffmann & Reif Consultants. In 2006 the conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; in 2007 it was held in Nairobi, Kenya; and in 2008 it will be held in Accra, Ghana.

Free and Open Source Software Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA)

  • FOSSFA was launched in February 2003 as a network of practitioners, professionals, and organisations promoting the use of free and open source software for Africa’s development. FOSSFA has an education subdivision focused on the promotion of open source solutions in education in Africa


  • IESC Geekcorps is an international non-profit organisation based in the US that promotes digital skills transfer and independence through various programmes that involve volunteers with technical expertise. Geekcorps has supported a few programmes in Africa, such its Last Mile Initiative in Mali, which promotes telecommunication-based business models for people without ICT access in rural areas, and the Digital Freedom Initiative in South Africa, which promotes the benefits of ICTs to small businesses.

Global Development Learning Network (GDLN)

  • The Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) is a global partnership of approximately 120 learning centres that provide tools and services in support of distance learning through ICTs. Learning centres based in a number of African countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, form part of the GDLN network.

Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI)

  • Promoted by Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada, GeSCI was established in 2003 by the United Nations ICT Task Force in an attempt to raise global standards of education for communities in the developing world and to help make the UN Millennium Development Goals a reality. In Africa, GeSCI has focused its work in Namibia and Ghana by supporting policy development and implementation. It has expanded its work to Kenya and Rwanda as well. GeSCI has also developed knowledge products such as a toolkit on total cost of ownership.

Global Teenager Project (GTP)

  • The Global Teenager Project is an initiative of the Dutch-based International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). It was launched in 1999 to promote the use of ICTs in the classroom. The project focuses on collaborative learning among secondary school students and teachers from around the world through a safe, structured virtual environment known as “learning circles.” Thus far the project involves about 3,000 teachers and students from 200 classes in over 29 countries. The most participants are from Africa, involving learners, teachers, and schools from 12 countries.

Hewlett Foundation 

  • Based in San Francisco, the Hewlett Foundation provides resources in support of activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts, and population. In Africa, the Hewlett Foundation has promoted the development of open education resources, and it supported the AVU in the development of a comprehensive open educational resources architecture to ensure the efficient application of the open content movement in African higher education and training institutions. It also supported the Meraka Institute in South Africa to promote the development of a collection of papers describing the use of open educational resources in tertiary education, in primary and secondary schools, and within communities in South Africa.

Highway Africa 

  • Highway Africa is an annual ICT conference hosted by Rhodes University in South Africa. Each year, more than 500 delegates from across the globe attend the conference to discuss issues relating to Internet governance, ICT policy, and media for democracy. Highway Africa also produces a weekly on-line bulletin, the HANA Weekly Digest, which documents progress in ICT for development, including ICTs in education in Africa.

International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Acacia

  • The IDRC is based in Canada and its Acacia programme, which was established in 1996, seeks to empower sub-Saharan communities with the ability to apply ICTs to their own social and economic development. The IDRC has supported a number of pilot projects and action research in the area of ICTs in education, particularly the initial establishment of schoolnet organisations in some African countries.

International Education Resources Network (iEARN)

  • iEARN is one of the largest and oldest global networks of teachers and learners that use ICTs in a diverse range of collaborative learning projects. All iEARN projects are designed, initiated, and run by teachers and learners. Its network in Africa involves learners and teachers from schools in 29 countries.

International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD)

  • The IICD is a non-profit foundation based in the Netherlands that specialises in ICTs for development. The IICD has supported a number of programmes such as its Global Teenager Project as well as projects supporting teacher development through ICTs in Tanzania and ICT for education policy processes in Zambia.


  • Intel is a global company focused on silicon innovation and development of technologies, products, and initiatives, to continually advance how people work and live. Intel’s education efforts centre on improving teaching and learning through the use of ICTs. The focus is on advancing math, science, and engineering education and research. Intel also works with education leaders worldwide on solutions that support the creation of 21st century skills. Their programme, Intel Teach, which is currently running in Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa, has reached four million teachers in 40 countries and is targeted to reach 10 million by 2011. Intel recently announced its new Intel World Ahead programme, a project to provide cheaper computers to schools and boost wireless Internet links. Target countries in Africa are Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

LinuxChix Africa

  • LinuxChix Africa was formed in 2004 by a group of African women to promote the development of free and open source software, particularly Linux skills.


  • Working closely with worldwide education communities, Microsoft has developed technology, tools, programmes, and solutions to help address education challenges while improving teaching and learning opportunities. In countries like Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, Microsoft has promoted low-cost access to software for schools. In addition, Microsoft established its Partners in Learning programme and its related Innovative Teachers Network which supports teacher development projects in a number of African countries.

Mtandao Afrika

  • Formerly known as ThinkQuest Africa, Mtandao Afrika holds a n Internet challenge contest for African youth. The contest focuses on the collaborative development of educational Web sites by youth who work in multinational teams and who are awarded prizes by a panel of international judges.

NEPAD e-Schools 

  • This initiative aims to impart ICT skills to young Africans in primary and secondary schools as well as harness ICT technology to improve, enrich, and expand education in African countries. The aim is to equip all African primary and secondary schools with ICT apparatus such as computers, radio and television sets, phones and fax machines, communication equipment, scanners, digital cameras, and copiers, and to connect them to the Internet. Each school will be equipped with a “health point.” which encourages the use of the schools’ ICT resources by the broader community. NEPAD e-Schools is currently concluding its first Demo project which involved 16 African country governments collaborating with five consortia companies in the provision of ICT resources to six schools in each of the 16 countries. 

One Laptop per Child (OLPC)

  • OLPC is a non-profit organisation set up to promote a low-cost laptop, known as the “$100 laptop,” in an attempt to promote access to the technology to the world’s children to support their learning. To date interest has been expressed by governments in Libya, Nigeria, and Rwanda.

Panafrican Research Agenda on the Pedagogical Integration of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)

  • A knowledge network, initiated by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), bringing together partners in eleven African countries to help researchers, practitioners, and institutions to collect and share data.

Peace Corps

  • Peace Corps is an organisation based in the US that encourages US citizens to volunteer their time to work in developing countries in areas such as HIV/AIDS, information technology, and business development. In the ICT for education sector, Peace Corp volunteers have been stationed in a number of African countries to assist with the provision of technical training and support to groups and organisations that use ICTs in education.

Schoolnet Africa 

  • SchoolNet Africa is an NGO-based in Senegal that promotes education through the use of ICTs in African schools. SchoolNet Africa functions as a network of schoolnet organisations operating in 33 countries on the basis of regional programmes on ICT access, teacher training, and collaborative learning. To date SchoolNet Africa has produced a range of research reports on the experiences of African countries on the use of ICTs in schools.  

Teacher Education for Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)

  • TESSA is a partnership led by the Open University and the African Virtual University that includes a range of African universities, the Commonwealth of Learning, and the BBC Trust. It is a research and development programme that creates open multimedia resources for sub-Saharan African teachers and teacher-educators. To date TESSA has introduced a BBC radio programme that debates the role of teachers in improving quality primary education and produced a toolkit for educators and planners on designing open and distance learning for teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa.

Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA)

  • TTISSA is a 10-year programme co-ordinated by UNESCO aimed at improving national teacher policies and strengthening teacher education in 46 sub-Saharan African countries. It is designed to support the development of national teacher education systems in African countries to produce more and better quality teachers.

Ubuntu Alliance for Education and Research Networking 

  • UbuntuNet Alliance has been established to capitalise on the emergence of optical fibre and other terrestrial infrastructure opportunities and thus become the Research and Education Network (REN) backbone of Africa. Tertiary education and research institutions throughout the rest of the world are connected to the Internet using fast, low-cost fibre.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

  • The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) was established by the United Nations to promote the economic and social development of its member states, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international co-operation for Africa’s development. UNECA has historically led the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) since 1996 and has been instrumental in supporting the development of national information and communication infrastructure (NICI) policies and plans in a number of African countries. Since 1999 UNECA has also adopted the formation of an African Learning Network which incorporated the formation of SchoolNet Africa, Out of School Youth Network, and Varsity Network. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

  • UNESCO is the UN’s specialised agency for education. UNESCO has had a range of programmes and projects to support the use of ICTs for development, specifically in education. UNESCO promoted the establishment of telecentres and community learning centres in a number of African countries. More recently UNESCO has promoted the development of a regional programme on technical and vocational educational education and training through the use of ICTs in Africa, in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning. UNESCO also leads the TTISSA programme.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

  • USAID was among the first donor agencies to support ICTs in education. Through its Leland Initiative in 1996, USAID provided grant aid for pilot projects in a number of African countries. USAID later supported the establishment of the Dot Com Alliance for e-learning and e-governance programmes in Africa such as the Network for Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange project.

The World Bank

  • Headquartered in Washington, DC, the World Bank is an international development institution that provides low-interest loans, interest-free credit, and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications, and many other purposes. The World Bank has historically supported a variety of programmes and projects for education through ICTs. These include the African Virtual University, World Links for Development, and the Global Development Learning Network.

World Computer Exchange

  • Headquartered in the US, the WCE sources secondhand computers and support services to partner organisations in developing countries. To date the WCE has established 289 partners in Africa from 25 countries and has sent 42 shipments of computers to these countries.

World Links 

  • World Links is an independent organisation headquartered in Washington, DC, spun off from the World Bank to promote ICTs in education in schools in developing countries across the world. In Africa, World Links has historically been a pioneering organisation in the promotion of ICT access and teacher development in eight African countries through various programmes and partnerships.

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