Robotics and Programming EducationTyrone van Balla, a young South African entrepreneur, has designed a course for robotics and programming education in order to teach African children more about electronics and technology. His company, RD9 Solutions, provides accessible and affordable EdTech, or educational technology, with their innovative robots. Van Balla, originally from Cape Town, South Africa, grew up with access to a computer and now realizes how important it is for today’s children to be exposed to technology in order to be successful. As the global economy becomes more dependent on tech-savvy employees, it is imperative that Africa’s youth have the opportunity to learn these skills. That is exactly what van Balla and partner Ridhaa Benefeld plan to provide through various technologies at RD9 Solutions.

Access to technology and STEM education in many African countries is limited. In fact, UNESCO reported that only 22 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, let alone any further technology. This is exactly the issue which van Balla and Benefeld plan to address through their company. Additionally, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims to provide full access to education, training, skills and technology for Africa’s youth, which accounts for 19 percent of the global population aged 15-24 years, by 2063. The sheer quantity of young, working-age people in Africa has the potential to yield great economic benefit for the continent. With both the government and companies like RD9 Solutions working towards a common goal, there is the possibility for huge changes in the education sector in Africa.

With the help of MiiA, the robot that the two entrepreneurs created, students can be taught robotics and programming education for other technologies. Programming is one of the most valuable modern skills and MiiA the robot helps these children quickly learn how to be efficient programmers. Students are able to program MiiA robots to do simple actions like drive, dance and play ping-pong or soccer. Once the children learn more about programming, the possibilities with MiiA are limitless, as it can be programmed to do just about anything. A robot like MiiA is so useful in Africa because it operates as a self-teaching tool, so there does not necessarily need to be someone present that knows how to program. This allows children in all parts of the continent to become self-taught programmers.

In the next five years, van Balla envisions the robots being available all throughout Africa. He also plans on this technology having a lasting impact on African youth. With a growing job skills gap, it is necessary that the education systems in African countries capitalize on this opportunity for their young people. In fact, STEM jobs alone have grown over 17 percent in the past few years creating an immediate need for more skilled workers. MiiA robots will allow students to be exposed to educational technology at an early age and develop those skills throughout their time in school. Once they enter the workforce, their programming skills will be extremely valuable to potential employers.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Much has been made of the gains that education has made in the developing world recently. Primary school attendance is up and education parity has been met in many countries. While quality still lags up to 100 years behind the developed world, a new phenomenon could change that.

Technology-aided education, ed tech, has the potential to change the way education is understood and delivered around the world. In a world of exploding high education prices and more technical demands in the working world, especially for skills in programming and developing, ed tech is on the rise.

The spread of the Internet has helped to make this possible. was recently bought by LinkedIn and provides online tutorials and classes on anything from photography to programming. A paid subscription is required to access most of them, but the potential is there to change the way learning is done in the classroom. Another company, Udemy, offers similar classes on Java, Excel and HTML. Fifty percent of the company’s revenue comes from outside of the U.S.

These online courses present easy access to learning opportunities. If governments or schools can provide for subscription costs, they can unlock a huge wealth of knowledge for a great many people.

With the spread of mobile phones throughout the developing world, they too have had a role to play in education. Education can be an equalizer, and with more and more people having access to phones they in turn have more and more access to it.

Different mobile-based services offer a variety of educational opportunities. Dr. Math enables both primary and secondary school students to request help in real-time from volunteer tutors using MXit, a popular platform for social messaging in South Africa. MobiLiteracy aims to improve literacy at home in countries where teachers are often stretched thin in the classroom. A pilot program was kicked off in Uganda last year with help from USAID.

Interestingly, MobiLiteracy targets adults before children. It offers daily reading lessons by SMS or audio. This raises an important point about ed tech: since it is mostly based outside the classroom and accessed either by the Internet or mobile phones, the knowledge is open to anyone. Students can use it to supplement their learning or to help with homework, teachers can use it to their advantage in the classroom and adults can continue their education outside the classroom or even begin an education they never had.

With access to resources like Udemy, people in the developing world can have the chance to get an education that they might not have access to otherwise. In this ever-evolving world where much value has been put on university degrees as prerequisites for employment, the ability to acquire knowledge for less or no fee is valuable. If an individual can perform a certain skill such as program a website, it does not matter as much where that person went to school or how high their GPA was. All that is needed is Internet or a mobile phone, some motivation and a dream. With continued development, ed tech can be the next big thing in global education.

Greg Baker

Sources: Tech Crunch 1, Tech Crunch 2, The Guardian, Brookings
Photo: Newsanywhere