Category Archives: ICTs Initiatives Around the World

ICT and Education in Chile

By Maria Aguirre

What is Enlaces?

Enlaces is an ICT program first introduced in 1992 by the Ministry of Education of Chile. First as a pilot, and then as a national educational program in Chile, its main objective was to improve the access to technology in public schools. In that sense it aimed to reduce the existent gap between the technological services that students from private and public schools get. The program was thought to motivate not only students from under-resourced schools, but to encourage teachers to promote learning in “modern” ways. In the video, the program Enlaces is introduced, portraying how fourth graders are highly motivated by the positive effects of ICT in their learning processes. Teachers also have the opportunity to describe how students’ examinations have improved over time, and what other  positive effects are noticeable in their schools, since the program has been introduced..

Enlaces and its impacts over education in Chile

Chile is a middle-income country with impressive socioeconomic indicators if compared with its regional peers. In the educative field they were the pioneers of introducing ICTs as a tool for learning. A pilot which rapidly grew into a national program was set to create technological access to students from public schools as a way to diminish the gap from those of private, more privileged schools.

In 2008, at least 87% of the school body in Chile had access to ICT thanks to this initiative; with an expected ratio of 10 students per computer (2010), one of the most crucial aspects of Enlaces is its appropriate educational content which includes the Chilean curriculum –supported by the state educational portal Educarchile-.

Among the most important impacts of the introduction of ICTs in Chilean education, according to Enlaces, is the increasing awareness “of the importance of ICT in education” and the new competencies developed by the students which are more related to “XXI century skills”. Under a functionalist point of view, Chile is doing a good job by seeking for its students a broader chance to get timely-appropriate skills by means of the use of ICTs. Functionalism perceives education as a way in which students, no matter their backgrounds or their strata, can achieve the same opportunities than their more privileged peers. Moreover, as students get the chance to improve their learning process, they are expected to improve their academic records and do better on standards examinations. This ultimately leads to a meritocratic-based system, in which all the students have the same opportunities. Even though there are many contradictors to this theory –like conflict theory-, I consider that in this case ICTs are actually affecting in a positive way the range of possibilities and options that a public school student has.. If their access to ICTs were to be neglected, their motivation and their contact with a wider range of information would decline, ultimately affecting their possibilities to succeed in both educative system and market place.

The impact of ICT has not only enhanced the experience of  Chilean students;  teachers are more aware of educational improvements globally  and connect to other educators,  actively participating through virtual communities. Educational administrators have also benefited; by having a system with easy access, administrators can track student records. This set of experiences facilitates the inclusion of international standards in education; furthermore, Chilean students are building  wider knowledge about international development and considering expanded advancement options, like applying to a foreign university.

Upcoming challenges

One of the challenges of Enlaces is that because it started so early, rapid technological advances make it difficult for public policy officials to maintain the technology at a quick enough pace.  Some are concerned that it is not suitable to sustain upcoming technological progress. For example, they built appropriate, large laboratories in order to support large desk computers but now, with the increasing use of handheld devices like personal laptops and e-readers at very affordable prices, these laboratories may become dated or unnecessary. . But, that is the price of technology! With constant changes, policy makers and administrative educators need to be at the very forefront of massive technological updates so they can constantly improve the effectiveness for schools.. Sounds expensive and challenging, right? Yet, along with great technological improvements usually also are more affordable prices, especially for educative meanings; so let’s hope that Latin American countries keep the leadership from their neighbors Chile, Uruguay and Brazil and from international success cases like India and some African countries.

Sources

Linking up with Enlaces (Chile), World Bank Blogs on Octuber 29, 2009. goo.gl/crq0K

Enlaces Program, the experience of Informatics Education in Chile, Chilean Ministry of Education. goo.gl/GAC2N

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m-Learning: How Broad is the Janala (Window) in Bangladesh?

By Fatima Tuz Zahra

Young woman using Janala to learn English. Source: http://goo.gl/uz4RY

According to the World Bank, Mobile (m)-learning has gone “mainstream” in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the last few years. It is interesting to see how m-learning has captured its market in Bangladesh at the moment when mobiles as hand-held devices for communication is an integral part of the ICT scenario in the country. Subsequently, BBC World Service Trust’s (BBC WST) latest initiative in Bangladesh called English in Action featuring BBC Janala was launched in 2009 with funding from DFID and UK Aid. The BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) through Janala aims to “educate” 25 million people by 2017 through a television, drama, a game show, and mobile phone-based English lessons.

A snapshot of BBC Janala webpage

Janala’s three-minute mobile English lessons are reported to be “accessible to those living on less than two dollars a day” as its cost is equivalent to the price of a cup of tea, a regular drink for the average Bangladeshi. That lagging behind India and Sri Lanka in English affects the smooth operation of trade and commerce is frequently used as a strong argument for motivating Bangladeshis to learn English. A recent impact research reveals that 8.5 million Bangladeshis are users of English learned through BBC Janala, which uses TV, mobile and newspaper to reach a large section of the population who come from a low socio-economic background. BBC claims that the project has already reached 26 million Bangladeshis, which was the ultimate goal of the project as outlined by the BBC WST. The producer of the content disseminated through mobile messages in Janala Ken Banks, is also an innovator, anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. His work led to the development of FrontlineSMS, “an award-winning text messaging-based field communication system” which is devised to empower individuals and organization at the grass-root level.

In a developing country like Bangladesh most people – including individuals from low-income background – use cell phones for daily communication; the country is a haven for a booming mobile industry. Also, the colonial history of Bangladesh and the pressure to meet the Education For All (EFA) Goals make Bangladesh one of the best markets for English teaching and learning industry, which in turn facilitated the establishment of BBC Janala. The scope of m-learning in such a densely populated country is therefore soaring because of high mobile phone usage, the international pressure for literacy, and the market economy. The successful expansion of the initiative in Bangladesh proves that the country was indeed a suitable ground for the use of mobile for learning to communicate in English (the language used in mobile phones).

BBC: Media for cultural domination. Source: http://goo.gl/bczfn

However, BBC Janala operation is an example of the reinforcement of the existing World system where the relationship between the developed and developing nations is not that of two equal and interdependent entities. BBC Janala may be called a success because of already reaching out to a large population with the noble aim to teach the 25 million Bangladeshis learn English, the global language. However that BBC Janala likens English learning in Bangladesh to literacy is problematic. It claims to “educate” the citizens of Bangladesh by teaching them English! In this case, the unequal relationship between the country in the periphery  (Bangladesh) with the country at the core (UK) is reinforced by exporting Western ideas of literacy to Bangladesh from the core (the UK). This in turn facilitates the Westerners’ cause to be a dominant power in Bangladesh ( a new market untrammeled by m-learning). English learning through Janala in Bangladesh can be seen as a way to expand BBC’s market in the name of catering the Bangladeshi citizens with literacy learning and establish the hegemony of English/English culture in Bangladesh.

The lesson that needs to be learned from such an m-learning initiative is the applicability of using mobiles to learn new skills. Homegrown initiatives to use mobile phones to spread literacy in mother tongue can be equally or more innovative than BBC Janala to reach the grass-root level. Most importantly, Deshi content developers should be given preferences for programs that service their community as their aligned interest in the positive outcome would be a resource to sustain the project. The policy makers in my country, Bangladesh, thus can find a cost-efficient way to utilize the mobile phones without having to sacrifice their cup of tea.

I would like to know what our readers think about such a Janala of our own!

Sources

English in Action: Mobile Learning in Bangladesh in National Geographic Emerging Explorer on March 29, 2011: goo.gl/PKwKf

Mobile learning in developing countries in 2012: What’s Happening? in World Bank Blog on ICT in Education on January 31, 2012: goo.gl/6nQFC

Biography of Mr David PROSSER, World Innovation Summit for Education Qatar: goo.gl/PJ1Ni

Explorers Bios. Ken Banks in National Geographic: http://goo.gl/x5kX8

FrontlineSMS: Using Mobile Technology to Promote Positive Social Change: http://goo.gl/X1XHS

IPad Rival From Congo: a New Challenge From the South

By Naoko Asano Enomoto

As One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has just launched their newest version as a tablet, the tablet has become one of the active players in education of developing countries, especially in Africa. However, tablets are not always from “developing countries” anymore. This time, I will write about the new wave of tablets from Africa, based on the article from the global post.

The Way-C (US$ 300). Taken from goo.gl/QDJnp

A 26 year-old inventor, Verone Mankou and VMK, his company, have just introduced the new tablet named the Way-C, which means “the light of stars”, in Republic of Congo on Jan30, 2012.  Mankou evaluated the Way-C as highly competitive enough to survive the global tablet market, where iPad by the US Apple and other giant competitors are waiting.

The innovator of the new product, Mankou claims on the official Way-C website that the product he invented is inexpensive and durable. Another special feature of the product is that it will fulfill the market demands for a tablet for and by the Africans. “Originally the idea was to design a low-cost computer to bring Internet access to as many people as possible,” Mankou said.

Verone Mankou, the inventor of the Way-C. Taken from goo.gl/QDJnp

As a matter of fact Way-C  is spreading fast,  being exported across Africa now. VMK marketing plan aims to expand the Way-C tablet to West Africa, Belgium, France and India from this February. The initial selling price of the Way-C is $300. To keep their product market-competitive, and due to the lack of appropriate factories in African countries, the Congo-born tablet is assembled in China.

Considering the recent ICT industries, many are aware of the progress and developments of ICT hardware,  which more and more come from developing countries. For example, the Indian government invented $35 tablets , and a China-based company produces a mobile phone for Ethiopians within Ethiopia.

However, the emergence of this high-tech device from Africa stands out when we see the case from the lenses of the World-system theory. While BBC’s Mobile-learning has worked to sustain the existing socioeconomic power distribution between UK and Bangladesh (reported by Fatima), the case of the Way-C suggests the possibility to open up a new horizon and challenge the existing dynamics around the globe.

Challenge from “Periphery” to “Core” in the same arena

Unlike the existing low-cost ICT devices, the Way-C is targeting not only domestic market but also the global market, as the inventor Mankou saying “In technological terms, this tablet is equivalent to all those to be found on the market”. Moreover, the Way-C is the cutting-edge “tablet”, which is one of the strongholds of the “Core”, including the US giant Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.

According to the World Bank’s country report , the economy in the Republic Congo is highly dependent on the oil sector, which is typical of “Periphery” countries in the World-System theory. This cutting-edge tablet is from such a typical “Periphery” country, but it breaks the model by being a finished product, instead of just a raw material exported to the Core.

The new model of supply chain in ICT global market

VMK’s model for supply chain is also notable. The Way-C is designed in the Congo but assembled in China because the Congo lacks a domestic factory and VMK seeks to minimize the cost.   Then will be sold in 10 West African countries, Belgium, France and India. This model suggests that even if a firm which has a solid idea but has insufficient domestic infrastructure, it can still introduce products to the global market.

The Way-C has just started to test its value in the market   We need to wait and see if the Way-C model successfully opens the new frontier outside the existing World System and earns its name as “light of the stars” for the people in the Periphery.

 Sources:

Congo Republic: Country Brief from The world Bank Country Brief
goo.gl/cD6hD

India launches Aakash tablet computer priced at $35 from BBC NEWS South Asia on October 5, 2011  goo.gl/qes1v

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) goo.gl/vbhUN

Way-C tablet, the first African iPad rival, goes on sale in Congo from GlobalPost on January 30, 2012
goo.gl/yzU8l

ZTE to assemble mobile phones in Ethiopia from nazret.com (n.d.)
goo.gl/WnUH6

 

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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