E-Learning Africa

By Anna Greenstone

Basics about E-Learning Africa Initiative

This video features participants and planners from the E-Learning Africa 2011 Conference.  This forum is an annual event, facilitated by Pearson Education, looks at innovative and new ways of using ICTs in different contexts on the continent.  Participants include government officials, entrepreneurs, educators, and businesses.  Each year a different city on the African continent hosts the event—the 2011 conference, which was the 6th event, was hosted in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.  It attracted more than 1,700 participants from over 90 countries.   The main theme of the event was ‘Youth, Skills, and Employability.

Taken from goo.gl/Zje2k

This video certainly depicts an interesting and rich ICT initiative that seeks to include leaders from different sectors and countries in Africa. The video features African leaders who reflect on their notions of ICT and the potential advancements that can happen.  Others talk about the inevitable, ongoing ICT expansion, and the myriad of ways ICT can enhance business, government and education sectors.  We certainly get the sense that this conference was widely attended, through seeing various interviews with many African professionals who are well versed and involved in projects relating to ICTs.   Those who are interviewed also mention many of the parts of society that ICTs have or can possibly reach including higher education institutions, the youth, and schoolchildren.

Youth and ICT in Africa

 In an interesting piece by Rebecca Stromeyer  published in The Citizen in 2010, she discussed the upcoming conference and brings up important points about the youth from which the conference derives its focus.  She reminds the reader that youth in Africa, have been labeled by many as lacking exposure and/or comfort with various technologies.  However, she contends, and I would agree, that youth in Africa (and likely anywhere) have varied experience, familiarity and usage of different ICTs.  In a strange mixture of a period of rapid technological advancements globally and persistent under-resourced schools and communities and African countries, there remains a broad range of when, how, or in what ways youth are oriented to these  technologies.   The conference is a great platform for them to come together and share experience, insights, and goals.

Taken from goo.gl/zlkfX

Voices on the Video and Interests of Participants

As a critical student, forgive me while I take a moment to pick apart the video for qualities that I find slightly problematic.  Though subtle, I think certain representative voices in this video can be related to overarching themes in Educ 611, and dynamics of development in many African countries.

But within seconds we hear the voice of the narrator, a white, British male.  And later in the video we hear the speakers who represent businesses that have come to market their products to African companies and governments;  all of the businesses featured on this video are represented by white males, who most likely hale from western countries.

The structure of the conference and represented businesses appears to fit pretty easily into the World Systems theory– meaning an unequal trade and cultural relationship between first and third world countries..  The companies who have come to market and sell their products, at least the ones featured, are run and staffed by outsiders from Western “core” countries. Their profits will be taken and used outside of Africa, invested back into core economies.  And yet, they have come to market themselves and seek new investments in periphery economies, who ironically are still largely the ones to provide raw metals for phones, computers and other electronics.  A commonly sited example is the titanium, which is still extracted from DRC and used in cell phones.  The process of extraction and the surrounding corruption is known to be quite central in the unending conflict and war.

This conference represents interesting possibilities for collaboration and technological advancement opportunities for governments, schools, and hopefully youth.  However, I am weary of who continues to take center stage as the conceivers, the profit makers, and the narrator—who’s voice tells the story?

Sources

goo.gl/7iSJC  “Tanzania to host e-learning Africa 2011 conference and exhibition” 11/20/2010 The Citizen

goo.gl/zlkfX Link to E-Learning Africa 2011  video on Youtube.

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Posted on January 28, 2012, in ICTs Initiatives Around the World. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I actually attended the 2010 conference, which was in Lusaka, Zambia. There indeed were a number of white businessmen selling their technology related services, but many of them were European Africans from Zambia and South Africa.

    I had only recently moved to Lusaka, from a village in the North West province. I did not have a internet phone, so my only source of internet were cafes in town, where it took 5 minutes to load a page, if you were lucky. Forget uploading photos. However, interestingly enough, there was high speed internet available a mere 10 km away at the copper mine in the fancy houses for the upper management (many of whom were expatriates from South Africa, US, UK, Australia, etc).

    Cell phone coverage is pretty good, even in rural areas, though I’m unsure how successful an e-learning venture would be. These towers run off of generators. I think e-learning advocates often skim over the lack of electricity problem. Yes, solar panels can be used, but these parts are easily removed from their home, and how long is it before the parts can be replaced (usually coming from a main town a few hour bus ride away).

    While I would like to think ICT will improve e-learning in Africa, at this point it seems to be limited to towns; I have yet to be convinced that this will work in rural villages.

  2. Anna, you raise a very important concern about who is going to occupy the center gaining the profit from initiatives like e-learning in Africa. I guess most of the initiatives in developing countries are not free from this concern of whose interests they will serve at the end. I wonder if there could be a solution or way to prevent useful initiative like this one to be free of infrastructural dependence from the countries or institutions at the core.

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