eLearning Africa 2013 is fast approaching and the conference programme is now online!

Highlights include workshops and sessions with distinguished industry professionals addressing current topics, including:

·         education opportunities for refugee communities

·         local mobile learning solutions nurturing entrepreneurial skills in young Africans

·         African-made content and computers – tablets, mobiles and learning apps

Building lasting bridges: Good and bad eGovernment strategies in Africa

The successful implementation of ICT in governmental operations can help to bridge a gap between citizens and governments by promoting transparency and a more citizen-friendly style of government. When used effectively, eGovernment can act as a catalyst toward sustainable development and help to build and stabilise economies. However, technology is not the solution in itself, and governments need to think about exactly how to use ICT in a way that will help to improve the dialogue between people and leaders.

By Claire Adamson

According to a 2012 United Nations survey, Africa is falling behind the rest of the world in eGovernment initiatives. There are no African countries represented in the survey’s top 20, which is made up of mostly European and North American countries. Connectivity issues and lower rates of literacy have been cited as major barriers to the implementation of eGovernment strategies in Africa, but as economies grow and infrastructure improves, it is imperative that governments explore innovative methods of communication and team up with the private sector to explore new ways of reaching and engaging citizens.

The recent Kenyan elections offered an interesting case study of the utilisation – both successful and unsuccessful – of technology in government. The deployment of a biometric voter registration system, imported from Canada, was decided upon at great cost and at the last minute, meaning that the government had no time to test it on a large scale. This system caused a huge delay in the tallying of the votes and the government had to resort to manual counting systems. The use and ultimate failure of this biometric system in Kenya shows that technology cannot magically fix problems in governments. Technology itself does not immediately deliver transparency – it can be a great tool but it requires careful analysis of local contexts, systematic planning and the right attitudes from all involved parties in order for it to work.

However, there were some technological successes during the Kenyan election. Social media played a big part in keeping the population calm during the registration and voting period, despite an atmosphere of tension and the underlying threat of violence and civil unrest that had plagued the previous election in 2007. Kenyan open-source platform Ushahidi promoted transparency and participation by allowing citizens to report on incidences during the election. Twitter also serves as an important source of information in Kenya, and possibly as something of a democratising force: democracy indices for African countries have been shown to correlate roughly with the number of tweets per capita in those countries, and the Kenyans are some of the most frequent tweeters in the Continent.

The Arab Spring of 2011 showed that social media, despite its democratising effect, is an extremely volatile medium: the revolutions in North Africa now inform many governments’ policies towards the Internet and social networking – Kenya’s, in the shadow of recent history, not least. Of particular concern was the volume of hate-speech promulgated in the fierce cyber-war between supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta, now sworn in as president, and his rival Raila Odinga. According to the research of the Nairobi-based dangerous speech monitor Umati, exhortations to evict, steal from or butcher members of other tribes became commonplace online. These were taken very seriously by the government, which in the run-up to the elections took several measures to curb the rise of inflammatory tweeting, including banning media outlets from reprinting hate-speech in full and taking legal action against its authors. Whether such harsh measures were necessary is unclear; psychologist Patrick Obel, of Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi, has suggested that social media, far from aggravating existing tensions, in fact acted as a safer avenue for people to express their grievances. It could be that the vitriol poured out on twitter actually helped to defuse the potential for civil unrest; that the ability to express any opinion online, however abhorrent, acted as a more harmless replacement for actual physical violence.

Cloud services, social media and biometrics are all providing interesting new methods for communication and efficiency across the Continent, and mobile technology has already become a vital tool for governments in Africa. As mobile phone usage far outstrips the number of PCs in use, governments are looking at ways to provide health services, education initiatives and other governmental services via mobile phones. As the cost of handsets falls and more and more private businesses team up with governments to provide innovative services to citizens, mobile has the potential to be the number one way to achieve an effective, two-way dialogue between governments and people, allowing citizens to engage more fully with their government and in turn allowing policymakers to see exactly what people need.

The Botswana Speaks initiative is using mobile technologies to link local tribal meetings with national government, essentially letting local tribe leaders voice their concerns and needs at a national level. This is particularly useful in a country where smartphones and mobile broadband hugely outnumber computers and Internet access, and where rural communities are geographically isolated from the government. The scheme represents a meeting of tradition and innovation, and is a great example of technology that perfectly fits both the government and the citizenry, offering benefits for both.

The broad trends in eGovernment in Africa seem to be toward mobile government initiatives and social media strategies. The danger now for governments is the temptation to utilise technology for technology’s sake – implementing schemes that serve no useful purpose or are not geared toward the people using them. It is also important for policymakers to explore eGovernment on a more fundamental level – adjusting legislation and strategy to encompass developments in technology and welcoming new ideas and ways of connecting with citizens.

eLearning Africa 2013 will delve further into the possibilities suggested by existing eGovernment strategies, while exploring what could be the right fit for African countries. For more information and up-to-date conference news, please visit www.elearning-africa.com.

Education in refugee camps

ICT has become an essential tool for humanitarian aid work, and its role in both education and healthcare throughout sub-Saharan Africa is indispensable: particularly its use in educating large groups of young refugees, from diverse backgrounds and with varying levels of basic education and literacy. The eLearning Africa News Service took a look at the inspiring way ICT is being put to use in the world’s largest refugee camp to provide young refugees with personalised education and a brighter future.

The largest refugee camp in the world is located in Dadaab, in north-eastern Kenya, 100 km from the Somali border; more than 500,000 refugees reside here, many of them displaced by the civil war taking place in southern Somalia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been working to provide not only food and healthcare for the camp’s residents, but also educational opportunities for its more than 80,000 young people. To achieve this, they have been integrating solar-powered technologies to support ICT delivery in the 39 primary and secondary schools and 4 vocational centres in the camp.

The difficulty in educating such a large and diverse population using traditional educational tools is in addressing language barriers, illiteracy, and the high drop-out rate found throughout the camp. Making the task more difficult is the absence of necessary infrastructure, materials and qualified teachers. This is where ICT is making a difference:  the use of computers and portable devices has allowed young people to obtain quality education in a safe and secure environment, taking part in eLearning programmes that can be adjusted to the needs of the individual student.

The close-knit community in the camp has played an important role in the design, sustainability and success of the project, with meetings attended by teachers, students and parents at every stage of its creation. Additionally, each school was responsible for designing solutions to the challenges of security and computer maintenance, as well as for sourcing additional funding to ensure the project’s sustainability. Erin Hayba, Associate Community Services Officer at UNHCR and a speaker at the upcoming eLearning Africa conference in Namibia, has been involved in the project for several years and explains the situation:

“When working with communities, particularly in a refugee camp, I believe that it is crucial to involve various members of the community in every aspect of a project, from planning to implementation and beyond.  Refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camp had expressed the need and desire for increased access to, and training in, technology.  Involving community members from the beginning helped to not only design a project plan that met the needs of the community, but also built in ownership and interest within the community, which will lead to the sustainability of the project.  In addition, it has helped build the capacity of these stakeholders to explore and develop solutions to challenges they face.

“This particular project that I have worked on to bring computers, Internet and solar power into the schools has sparked a new trend amongst the refugee community and partner NGOs to be innovative.  Implementing change and innovation is often extremely difficult, with many hurdles to overcome, including dealing with naysayers.  Innovation, in my mind, happens when people come together with varying perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to address a challenge and work toward a solution. Once a solution proves viable and people see positive results, this encourages more innovation to occur.”

The stakeholders involved in the project have been brought together to find innovative uses of ICT in education, particularly within the harsh and volatile environment of humanitarian work. And because the schools and communities are encouraged to participate in the design and implementation, as well as to invest in their own learning, the solutions found are more sustainable and appropriate. It has sparked a wave of innovative thinking within school- and education-focused humanitarian organisations. As a result, a foundation of learners, teachers, and community members who are more knowledgeable about ICT in education has been developed, creating a platform from which eLearning can grow and flourish.

Erin Hayba is a keynote speaker at the upcoming eLearning Africa 2013 in Namibia. For more information on the UNHCR ICT programme see here. You can register for the event here.

More than meets the eye: In conversation with Mark Kaigwa

Mark Kaigwa is a digital strategist, consultant, speaker, writer and self-proclaimed ”power networker.” Nairobi-based Mark makes it his business to keep absolutely up to date with the developments of the technology and communications sectors and uses his expert knowledge to help businesses, start-ups and non-profits to launch into the thrilling environment of African entrepreneurialism. Ahead of his keynote speech at eLearning Africa 2013, we interrupted his busy schedule to get some insider tips from the very heart of Kenya’s thriving technology scene.

By Alicia Mitchell

So, what makes Africa buzz like nowhere else? Kaigwa has no doubt about the answer:

“The one central point that everything revolves around is the mobile phone.” Currently standing at 750,000,000, African mobile subscriptions are set to hit one billion by 2015.[i]  “The role that [mobile] plays in accelerating or changing the landscape for people is the most important part of the equation … mobile penetration is one of the things that distinguishes this market.”

One of the most globally known mobile success stories to come out of Africa in recent years is M-pesa,Safaricom’s mobile-phone-based microfinancing and money-transfer service. Kaigwa himself has spoken widely on the M-pesa revolution, which saw Kenyans transferring an average of US$1.4 billion each month in 2012.[ii] M-pesa is an innovative answer to specific African circumstances and a great story of Kenyan tech success. So, what’s the next big thing?

Nairobi has been creating an international name for itself as a hotspot for game-changing initiatives such as the iHubm:lab, and Nailab, and this, says Mark, is indicative of where the Continent is headed. “[Mpesa] is owned by a large corporate organisation … so it’s not the best example of what innovation looks like. Innovation doesn’t necessarily happen in the corridors or boardrooms of organisations like Safaricom: We should expect and anticipate innovation from the hubs, labs, and accelerators.”

Although there are many fantastic projects out there, Mark insists that the real story is an atmosphere of change with a unique African context. “In the seven years that M-pesa has been around, we’ve seen a transformation that’s led to an influx of incredible talent and the entrenchment of user-centred design here. Now people don’t come with preconceived notions and a blueprint made in Boston or San Francisco.

“We have hundreds, if not thousands, of pilot projects: health, manufacturing, 3D printing, education … you name it. Some last a year, two years, or three years, and some are past proof of concept – saying ‘yes, we can scale this’. The more you have an atmosphere where things like this are happening, the higher the likelihood that you’re not going to get an M-pesa, but something greater and possibly in a field or sector that needs it the most.”

Mark points to the two sides of the famed Kenyan tech scene that are contributing to its high profile. “There’s the organic side, and then there’s the more high-level side. The Kenyan tech scene, Africa’s so-called ‘Silicon Savanah-to-be’, is a promising market, but we have more than meets the eye.”

The construction of the Konza Techno City, the Kenyan government’s focus on ICT and local content, and sustained efforts to raise support and encourage large businesses and blue-chip companies to come into the country are only half of a bigger picture. [Read more about Kenyan ICT policy and leadership here.

“The other is the more organic side of the coin, with hubs and labs investing in entrepreneurs and the very early stages of start-ups. It’s creating an atmosphere where great talent is growing and thriving; good ideas and strong problems are being turned into business opportunities; and investors are finding out what it takes to get involved in an African country.

“People assume that it’s more of the high-level stuff that makes change happen. I really believe, though, that it’s the organic stuff, initiated by the community and on the fringes – the stuff that might not have been on the government’s radar previously. This is what’s really going to transform our country and the rest of the East African region, if not the whole Continent.”

Later this month, Kaigwa will be speaking on African self-reliance at the BMZ’s (the German Federal Ministry for Economic and Cooperation Development) second Future Forum in Berlin.

What role does he see for international government and investors in Africa?

“There’s plenty of room, plenty of problems and plenty of challenges that are going to need smart people to tackle them.

“We are in a very unique place, but you can never stop learning, especially with how far we still have to go. Shared experiences, in both directions, set the tone for sharing ideas and potential partnerships. We can learn what we have in common and what we don’t, and I might discover what I have to learn from the Berlin scene, and Nairobi could probably teach Berlin a thing or two as well.

“However, sometimes I feel that dealing with governments can be very high level: a lot of handshakes, exchanging of flags and books, and that’s awesome. But what does the ecosystem have to gain? What are the incentives for a Kenyan entrepreneur to work with a developer based in Berlin? … Is there an incentive for working together and forging partnerships? What’s the government doing to make it easier for this to happen?”

And finally, what is the secret behind Mark’s prolific personal success?

“I’ve understood some essentials about good communication and branding and have taken some of those concepts to invest in my own personal brand by really connecting with entrepreneurs (young and old) and with investors. I set out to meet people and make an impression.

“The exposure part has been a continuous experiment. Nothing is written in stone. History is ahead of you, and it’s up to you to make it. With this mindset, there is no problem with making mistakes. Fear of failure and rejection is diminished because no one else has set the expectation for you to fall below. You set your own expectations.”

Mark Kaigwa will be giving a keynote speech at the Wednesday evening opening plenary session of eLearning Africa 2013. To find out more about the Conference, please visit www.elearning-africa.com.

Mark Kaigwa on Twitter: twitter.com/mkaigwa

Update from Tariq Khokar on Open Data news from the World Bank

Tariq, who must have one of the coolest job titles at the World Bank (he's their official Open Data Evangelist), posted the following remarkable update to Facebook today. I am impressed, and recommend all four links to Kabissa members seeking to understand and use World Bank Open Data relevant to Africa and the whole world. If you contact their helpdesk and get interesting answers, let us know about them here!  

On the plane back to DC from SFO and feeling very proud of my World Bank Data colleagues who are launching a number of superb products today, if you'll indulge me, my top 4:

1) The 2013 World Development Indicators (WDI):http://wdi.worldbank.org/ now in an "online first' form with a streamlined print edition to wet your appetite / slam down on a desk with the conviction that comes from being informed by most trusted facts on global development. 

2) The WDI Data Finder Mobile Apps: http://bit.ly/WDI-DataFinder - a suite of cross-platform, multi-lingual products that get better with every iteration making it easy to access data wherever you are and if you're brave, still slam down on a desk with conviction.

3) The New World Bank Open Data Catalog: http://datacatalog.worldbank.org/ - this is really the backbone of the Bank's Open Data Initiative - over a hundred databases from across the institution that cover dozens of topics and geographies, now searchable and all available free for anyone to use and re-use.

4) The New Work Bank Data Helpdesk: https://datahelpdesk.worldbank.org/ - our team answers over 500 queries a month from users wanting to know more about our data or get help using it. This new knowledge base and discussion space make it easier for people to find answers and share their ideas. 

And if that weren't enough, our friends from the World Bank Group Finances Open Data team just announced they've opened a bunch of data from the International Finance Corporation (IFC): https://finances.worldbank.org/

Hope you enjoy them. I'm going to spend the rest of this flight editing some videos... but more on that next week.

Le Social Learning, filière d’avenir pour les jeunes africains

Tableaux noirs, stylos et papiers, professeurs jonchés sur leur estrade,  l’ère de l’éducation traditionnelle constitue-t-elle encore la norme ? Ou au contraire, laisse-t-elle la place à un nouveau mode de transmission des savoirs plus interactif ? Pour répondre à cette interrogation, l’équipe d’eLearning Africa s’est attachée à décrypter et cerner la tendance du Social Learning.

The 5th Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship



infoDev and South Africa's Department of Science and Technology present

May 28-30, 2013 | East London, South Africa

Meet with the Global Forum community and benefit from the experience of business leaders, powerful networks, and learning sessions on mobile, climate, and agribusiness innovation, as well as business incubation best practices.

infoDev, a global innovation partnership within the World Bank, and South Africa's Department of Science and Technology cordially invite you to the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship on May 28-30, 2013, in East London, South Africa. The Forum will facilitate learning, business matchmaking, strategy, and knowledge sharing, with a special focus on the needs of African entrepreneurs and innovators:

Join interactive sessions on mobile innovation, agribusiness, clean technologies, and women's entrepreneurship.

Participate in a business incubation training program just before the Global Forum, an entrepreneurs fair exhibiting SMEs and startups, as well as site visits exploring South Africa's innovation landscape.

Celebrate inspiring entrepreneurs from developing countries at infoDev's Dragons Den pitching competition and meet financiers, business incubator managers, industry leaders, policymakers, members of the media, and donor representatives.

For more information about the Global Forum, key program highlights, registration, and logistics, please visit:


eLearning Africa 2013 - Evénements de préconférence

Participez à l’un des ateliers pré-conférence ou à un séminaire le 29 mai afin d’améliorer vos connaissances pratiques, avoir un aperçu des experts internationaux et nouer des contacts avec d’autres professionnels.

Les ateliers et séminaires comprennent notamment « Pôles de technologies innovantes en Afrique : créer des opportunités pour l'apprentissage via les pairs et l'échange de connaissances » de GIZ qui explorera les meilleures pratiques  en termes de hubs innovants et durables ; « Blogging pratique innovant et collaboration en ligne pour le développement », événement durant lequel les participants apprendront les manières pragmatiques et novatrices de partager des informations en ligne » ainsi que « Conception de l'apprentissage libre : repenser notre enseignement pour les apprenants Africains de demain » où chacun prendra en main les outils et techniques essentiels pour concevoir des cours éducatifs efficaces.

Les places sont strictement limitées. Réservez donc dès aujourd’hui la vôtre afin de vous assurer d’être là. 

eLearning Africa 2013 - Pre-Conference Events

Take part in an optional pre-conference workshop or seminar on 29th May to enhance your practical knowledge, gain insight from leading international experts and network with like-minded professionals. Workshops and seminars include GIZ’s “Technology Innovation Hubs in Africa: Creating Opportunities for Peer Learning and Knowledge Exchange”, which will explore best practice in sustainably creating and expanding innovation hubs; “Practical Innovative Blogging and Online Group Collaboration for Development”, in which participants will learn practical and innovative ways of sharing information online; and “Learning Design in the Open: Rethinking Our Courses for Tomorrow’s African Learners”, where participants will gain key tools and techniques for designing effective and educational courses.

Places are strictly limited, so secure your spot today to ensure you don’t miss out. 

No dumping allowed

IClassroom Get Downn January this year the eLearning Africa news service reported on the progress being made towards the impending Millennium Development Goal (MGD) deadline and highlighted the worrying trend of prioritising quantity over quality in efforts to reach the target of universal primary education by 2015. New eLearning technologies offer the tantalising potential to spread high-quality education across the developing world. This could be an answer to the problem, but it is never a simple case of ‘just add ICT’.

By Alicia Mitchell

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