CyberSmart Africa

90 million children in Africa go to schools that lack electricity. CyberSmart Africa harnesses technology in Sub-Saharan African classrooms in order to educate the world’s poor.

CyberSmart Africa, founded by Jim Teicher in 2007, is a social enterprise that provides educational technology specifically designed to meet the needs of schools in developing nations. In 2016, 12,500 students will have access to this technology.

In 2006 Jim Teicher visited Senegal, a country on Africa’s West Coast, and was concerned by the unequal distribution of technology across communities. There was a discrepancy between accessibility of technology in cities and youth in schools.

This observation led to the creation of CyberSmart Africa in 2007. The technology works exclusively in classrooms that have poor physical infrastructure, including those with little or no electricity. In addition to addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development goals, this digital learning platform reaches 250 students in Africa per day. It operates on less than $1.00/student/month.

Most schools in developing nations lack electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four primary schools do not have electricity. According to the World Bank, educational technology is expensive and it is difficult to train teachers in highly technical equipment.

The CyberSmart device uses solar technology, an energy-efficient projector, an interactive whiteboard, speakers, cooling fans and a dust filtration system. Teachers can easily adapt to the simplified technology with the help of directions received through SMS mobile text as well as through video tutorials.

Michael Trucano, a World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, wrote a blog post commenting on CyberSmart Africa’s initiatives. Noting that there are not enough computers for the amount of students in schools, Trucano commends this technology as it allows for an entire classroom to access information at one time, increasing student engagement.

Senegalese schools have had great successes with this technology. CyberSmart Africa has allowed for students to create videos, with the support of parents and the community and post them on the Internet. These videos are meant to bring traditional storytelling of everyday Senegalese life into a digital realm.

Some of CyberSmart Africa’s partners include USAID, Senegalese Ministry of Education, Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations Development Programme.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Yaya Touré, who plays midfielder for the UK club football team Manchester City, is used to scoring goals on the pitch. Now he is instead talking about scoring big goals for humanity by working to end extreme poverty.

Touré, who has partnered with the One Campaign, an international non-profit agency which works to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases in Africa, recently stated in a self-written article regarding development efforts in Africa, “If we work together and play by the rules, humanity can score the great global goals of ending hunger and extreme poverty and building sustainable communities. “

He has also expressed his hopes that Africa can one day become, “The young, dynamic and driving continent it should be, no longer relegated to the subs bench – and help make a better world for us all,” and that he believes, “There has never been more to play for.”

Tourè, who is a citizen of the Ivory Coast and was raised in this sub-Saharan nation, recalls how he channeled all of his energy into education and sport as a young child. His knowledge and personal experiences within a developing region has provided him with a unique perspective about which methods of development will prove most effective within Africa.

He argues that for example, governments within Africa must give women who are smallholder farmers the ability to receive bank loans and property rights. This advancement would not only further promote gender equality, but would also help over 100 million people out of extreme poverty and hunger. Touré also believes that both boys and girls must have equal access to primary and secondary education facilities, which must provide opportunities to learn numeracy, literacy, and IT skills.

With 70% of African workers earning a living from agricultural practices, he argues that the governments of Africa must invest within the agriculture industry in order to both produce larger quantities of food resources and encourage sustainable practices. Touré, who also serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environmental Protection Agency, has joined many other African celebrities in calling upon African leaders and the international community to invest more resources across the continent to smallholder farmers.

He explains in his article that a youth football team requires potential and resources; even if you have the best talent available, they will not develop without the necessary support, training, and resources. Touré compares this situation to the youth of Africa; there is a capacity to build a team with unlimited capacity. He wishes, “For all the young men and women of Africa to have a decent chance of meeting their potential in life. But, for them to be the engine of global progress, they themselves need fuel: for their stomachs, and for their minds.

Touré argues that the rapid growth of Africa’s population, which is estimated to reach two billion people by 2040, must be met with strong efforts by the international community to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty. He has expressed his faith in the potential of the youth of Africa, and believes that, “Unleashed and supported in the right way, these young people could act like rocket fuel to turbocharge African and global prosperity.

James Thornton

Sources: The Guardian, Malawi Nyasa Times, Think Eat Save
Photo: Flickr

Wananchi Group, the leading organization in terms of providing connectivity for the middle class in East Africa, is helping to install high-speed Internet at schools in Kenya.

Partnering with the Kenya Education Network, or KENET, and the County Government of Nairobi, the group is helping to give over 2,700 schools in Nairobi County unlimited access to the outside world at no cost.

The 15-month pilot program began in April 2014, with 245 schools receiving access to the network. Wananchi Group used the first three months to install the high-speed Internet at schools in Kenya, with the next 12 months being used to evaluate the progress of the program.

The group invested $2 million to provide Internet to the schools, most of which are private. The expectation is that students will be able to use the network to retrieve information from different parts of the world.

Wananchi Group will also provide a digital set top box to each school, which can be connected to a television that can deliver audio content to students. Pre-primary kindergartens will also be provided with a television to go with the digital set top box.

The initiative came after the Kenyan Government launched the National Broadband Strategy with the hope of making a “digital Kenya.” The strategy is helping to create a knowledge-based economy in the East African nation.

Matt Wotus

Sources: IT News Africa, Wananchi Group
Photo: OPIC


Though millions of African children still attend school in run-down, shack-like buildings, rising income across the continent of Africa has created a new consumer class— one that is willing to pay for a better education.

Sub-Saharan African countries consistently rank among the lowest in the world for the overall quality of their education system, according to the World Economic Forum. Though increasing numbers of children are attending school, the lackluster curriculums leave many prepared for little more than manual labor.

But as incomes rise, more and more African families are willing to pay, sometimes thousands of dollars, for their children to receive a high quality education at a private school.

According to Reuters, the private education sector in Africa has advanced at breakneck speeds over the last two decades, with some investors more than tripling their initial investments. Private schools can range in cost anywhere from $2,000 to $16,000 annually, says Reuters.

A report by South Africa’s Centre for Development and Enterprise released last month found that over the last 15 years, private or independent school attendance in South Africa has doubled. Though the price tag is high, the dramatic increase shows a demand for better education in Africa.

The booming private sector has drawn the attention of foreign investors from around the globe, including Britain-based Pearson and Dubai-based Gems Education. With so many of the schools already in place and pulling in large profits, Gems Education said they plan to open additional low-cost schools in an interview with The Guardian.

Private schools help meet the educational demands when the governments of impoverished regions cannot afford the investment. Though the overall school attendance in Sub-Saharan Africa is among the lowest in the world, in the last two decades, even the most impoverished regions have seen school attendance nearly triple, according to The World Bank’s “world development indicators.”

However, the boom isn’t restricted to the education sector. As more and more young Africans are receiving higher education, the demand for better paying jobs is on the rise and the growing availability of skilled laborers leaves the door open for investors interested in expanding into new regions. For example, Facebook recently announced it will be opening an office in South Africa this year. In this way, the education boom is sparking an economic boom in Africa.

Gina Lehner

Sources: Reuters, The Guardian, The World Bank
Photo: The Guardian