By Abeba Taddese
We have just produced rapid scans of the EdTech landscape in 11 countries: Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The scans are based primarily on desk research and offer a glimpse into the countries’ EdTech ecosystems. They examine enabling factors for EdTech from a holistic systems perspective but are by no means exhaustive. Given how rapidly the use of educational technology is evolving, we expect we’ll be updating these scans periodically.
What do we mean by the EdTech ecosystem or landscape?
The Omidyar Network notes how an ecosystem lens shifts focus from a “product-oriented approach designed to solve an individual user’s problem to a systems-oriented approach that seeks to enable the potential that is inside the ecosystem.” We use such a lens to describe and explore the different factors that influence the use of EdTech in the 11 countries: strategy and guiding policies; leadership from government ministries, agencies, and departments; funding partners and resource levels; and private and not-for-profit partners. The scans also examine the enabling infrastructure for EdTech, such as access to electricity, TV, radio, and mobile phones. Where information is available, we also highlight disparities in access to infrastructure based on gender and rural or urban location.
What did we learn from the country scans?
- Countries are in various stages of articulating a vision for how they will use technology to support teaching and learning, and how they will get there
An EdTech policy or strategy often serves as a kind of roadmap for implementing educational technology, outlining roles and responsibilities for government agencies and partners, defining engagements with the private sector, and planning for adequate financing and resources. This type of planning document can also help to ensure that the design and implementation of technology initiatives align with overall education sector priorities. In Rwanda, a four-year implementation plan accompanies the 2016 ICT in Education policy, demonstrating a commitment to ensuring policy priorities are translated to actionable plans and programmes. Although Liberia recently developed an ICT in education policy in partnership with UNESCO, the Ministry of Education has not yet officially endorsed the policy or developed a strategy for implementing and coordinating the use of technology. Finally, while Sierra Leone currently does not have an ICT in Education policy, it is a promising sign that there are plans to develop one.
- Infrastructure for EdTech is in general weak, but data on infrastructure is weak too, so it’s hard to determine precisely what infrastructure is in place
In Zimbabwe, 55% of primary schools have access to electricity compared to 71.5% of secondary schools. Internet connectivity is low across primary and secondary schools, at 26.25% and 42.76%, respectively. There is a shortage of computers across all levels, particularly at the primary-school level, with, on average, 126 learners per computer. Schools need access to basic infrastructure to support the effective use of educational technology that can improve learning outcomes for all students. An important first step in determining the readiness of schools for EdTech is to understand what, if any, infrastructure already exists. However, in several countries including Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, and Nigeria, this information is not publicly available or is incomplete.
- A range of innovative EdTech initiatives relying on both basic and more advanced hardware and connectivity requirements have become increasingly relevant during widespread school closures.
In Tanzania, Ubongo’s educational TV program for children ages 3-12, reaches 1.5 million TV viewers and 1.3 million radio listeners monthly. Most of Ubongo’s programming is offered in the form of videos available on TV and through mobile phone apps. In Pakistan Muse by Sabaq is a learning app for learners in Kindergarten-Grade 5. The Muse app is also available to teachers who can access it on a tablet or TV to supplement classroom teaching. Sabaq’s educational apps are used in more than 1,000 schools across Pakistan.
- Response to Covid-19 has been swift
As one example, immediately after the Government of Ghana announced the closure of all schools, colleges, and universities on March 16, 2020, to prevent any further spread of Covid-19, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Ghana Education Services (GES) responded quickly to introduce several measures to keep learning going, including:
- On March 30, the Center for National Distance Learning and Open Schooling launched the internet-based icampus portal with teaching and learning content for senior high school students.
- On April 3, the MoE and GES launched TV learning for senior high schools.
- On May 6, 2020, GES Ghana Learning TV launched lessons for Kindergarten, primary, and junior high school.
- On June 15, 2020, the MoE and GES launched Ghana Learning Radio with reading lessons in English and 11 official Ghanaian languages for Kindergarten-2 through Grade 4 (typically aged 5 to 9 years-old).
You can read and learn more about EdTech in the 11 countries here. We hope the scans will offer a useful background for more in-depth discussions about EdTech. Please feel free to share your comments and let us know what we may have missed, and we’ll be sure to let you know when we release new updates.