Thumbs up for e- & m-education

First thing first - getting online

Nairobi day 2: First things first. Getting online. Airtime from corner shop, Roselyne’s Safaricom USB stick, figuring out how to load Safaricom Kenyan airtime onto my Ugandan MTN line. The trick is roaming, aha. All set, start calling and texting.

Met David Owino, Executive Director at Bandwidth and Cloud Services (BCS) Group , co-funder of Human IPO , former head of Safaricom Business and a whole lot of other things. Owino has just been in meeting with the PS, Dr. Bitange Ndemo. He cannot hide his excitement when he explains that the PS has an incredibly promising model in his office of “Africa’s Silicon Savanah” – the new IT City of Kenya – KONZA

If we can pull that one off Kenya is set, Owino says.

He goes on to talk about the three main “events” that made digital Kenya take off

  • Affordable mobile phones and rates = 20 million Kenyans are connected
  • M-pesa which 13 million uses – and an infrastructure which makes it possible to pay instantly
  •  The East African Marine System which made e-commerce a reality – and not some kind of  (im)possible future dream.

While the Kenyan Government made a bold step with the sea cable, private sector including international giants like Nokia, Google and Samsung played a role in pushing IT-talents and creative geek minds ahead. The three giants have invested in both setting up labs for developers and in international competitions were developers could share, get exposure and win prices to move them forward.

Owino sees education and entertainment as future major sectors for digital development. Kenya has 4 edu systems. The 844 – UPE and private, the British System ending with A levels and the International system ending with an IB.

Resources are in the British, the international and the private 844 system. The public UPE 844 suffers with a bad cocktail of insufficiently qualified teachers and lack of teaching material. This is where e-learning comes in, according to Owino. With more and more people, including teachers and parents purchasing the more and more affordable smart phones Owino sees space for e-learning at primary and secondary level.

We move on to speaking business and while we are browsing through various e-commerce sites already up-and-running Eat Out , Rupo, Zetu Owino also shows me some mock-up sites for e-learning. It does look promising; as a business and as a system which could be useful for an otherwise sad education situation for too many kids.

I can not help thinking about Ayila Primary School  in Amuru, Northern Uganda set up by parents after they returned in 2008-9 to their original land from the IDP camps and 23 years of civil war.

Ayila = no permanent building structures, secondary school drop-outs as teachers, no teaching materials – and so far away from the smart board equipped modern school one can imagine.  Konza or no Konza, these kids deserve something better than silly political strategies, which they never benefit from anyway because the funding is too limited and/or disappears in fraud and corruption and there is total lack of proper implementation and true political will.

Maybe e-learning in some form could be a solution.

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