AI Tutoring in Africa
With AI technology exploding as a form of aid and disaster relief in developing countries, innovative ways to de-escalate education poverty are underway in Africa’s most vulnerable regions. One of the most prominent issues affecting impoverished African societies is a lack of education. In 2014, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a report stating that “more than 7 in 10 African countries don’t have enough teachers.”Accompanied by a rising population of children who need schooling, Africa as a whole has an 86.1 pupil to qualified teacher ratio. With poverty rife throughout the continent and education prioritized for young children, Africa will require an estimated 17 million teachers by 2030, yet the means to find and educate qualified adults to teach is lacking. So where does AI technology come into play? Two major companies, Daptio and Eneza, are closing the gaps with computer programs and adaptive learning to make AI tutoring in Africa a widespread resource.


After realizing that the University of South Africa only had a 15% annual pass rate, Daptio founder Tabitha Bailey saw a need for full-scale reform. With no human teachers available, Bailey looked to “cloud-based adaptive learning,” an AI classroom software that adapts to the needs of an individual student – almost like the Khan Academy of Africa.

Bailey launched Daptio in 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Described by its founder as “the first content agnostic adaptive learning platform in Africa,” Daptio is also unique in its partnerships with content creators that provide the learning tools for South African students. Daptio is not just an online learning platform; rather, the software learns the education level and knowledge of the student and gathers content from various creators to best accommodate the student.

The platform is largely structured on video learning, with individual sections for students, teachers and content creators. It also adapts to students who do not have access to stable data connectivity to watch videos.

Eneza and TeachMobile

Based out of Ghana, AI tutoring software Eneza Education has developed a web-based education program that provides on-call teachers for students online. Individual teachers operate TeachMobile but receive aid from AI in similarly assessment-based computer programming. The software is complete with learning materials and lessons for any teachers to access, and the platform similarly assesses a student’s abilities so that it can tailor coursework to their needs.

TeachMobile is also unique in its availability to students. With only one physical teacher available for approximately 86 African students, on-call virtual teachers are available via chat through an Ask-A-Teacher setting. The software is also useful for teachers to connect and share resources with each other via social messaging.

After laying its footing in Ghana, Eneza and TechMobile have expanded to Kenya and the Ivory Coast with plans to keep growing. Over 6 million people have used Eneza since its beginnings, and Eneza’s programs have shown a “23 percent improvement in academic performance after learning with Eneza Education for nine months.”

Effectiveness and Future Plans

Extensive research and study of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs) and AI tutoring at the University of Michigan have shown that computer-based, adaptive learning is highly effective. With more patience and time than a normal human teacher, the ITSs can be beneficial to both students and teachers and can more accurately gauge a student’s individual needs.

For now, AI tutoring in Africa is still in its infancy. However, with the beneficial track record of web-based learning laying the foundation for children across the continent, AI tutoring in Africa can hopefully assist in bringing advanced education to impoverished communities across the continent.

– Grace Ganz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Mobile Phones in Sub-Saharan AfricaIn the rural farmlands of Tanzania, a woman is preparing to plant her crops for the season. She is part of the more than 50 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans who use agriculture to survive and feed their families. Her knowledge stems only from experience and word of mouth. In a constantly changing climate, inevitable questions arise. How much fertilizer does she need? She can either waste time walking to find an expert or an agricultural extension officer, or she can go on her mobile phone. 500 miles away, a family in Kenya is terrified that their crops may succumb to the dryness of the land and die, leaving them with nothing to sell or eat. Their mobile phone allows them to research the weather, giving them peace of mind when it says that the rain is coming, or allowing them to plan ahead when it is not. Mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa are already showing their potential.

For these people, a cell phone can mean a world of difference, and it doesn’t end with just agriculture. From education to banking to health, mobile phones opened up to a whole new realm of possibilities for the citizens of developing countries.

The GMSA Mobile Economy 2017 report predicts that mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa will reach half a billion users by 2020. This is more than double the number at the end of 2016, making it the fastest growing region in the world. The report attests the climb in numbers to the increased affordability of mobile devices and the improved market for used devices. In addition to the accessibility of information generated by mobile, the economy benefited as well, supplementing 3.5 million jobs in 2016. Tech start-ups are thriving in a mobile Africa as well. According to GMSA, “some 77 tech start-ups across the region raised just over $366.8 million in funding in 2016, growth of 33 percent compared to the previous year.” The opportunities that mobile platforms allow are attracting both talent and investment, according to GMSA.

Sub-Saharan Africa had 140 mobile money services in 39 countries as of December 2016, giving more and more users easy access to paying their bills online and sending/receiving money between friends and businesses. Zazu is Africa’s first digital-only bank, providing users with a debit card, a point-and-pay feature that utilizes the phone to scan payments with participating merchants and a mobile app to access transactions.

The mobile community provides impoverished people the chance to access financial services to make investments, save money and manage expenses. M-Pesa, for example, is a widely-used money-transferring mobile platform that recently added a savings and credit feature. According to GMSA, the platform lifted 194,000 Kenyan households out of poverty since 2006.

The report notes that there are more than 1,000 mobile health services that target families in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa makes up 25 percent of the global “disease burdened” population but only accounts for three percent of health workers. Living Goods supports health needs in Sub-Saharan Africa via a mobile platform run by trained health professional agents, focusing on child deaths with simple and affordable solutions. The agents use the mobile platform to identify diseases such as malaria and send automatic SMS reminders to the patient ensuring that they complete the whole course of treatment. Pregnant women can sign up to receive weekly messages with advice on maternal health and nutrition according to where they are at in their pregnancy. Living Goods even sells its own brand of food with nutrients and vitamins, often too difficult for people in developing African countries to access.

Mobile technology also allows those in poverty to receive better educations. Eneza Education is a learning platform utilizing mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa, enabling users to communicate with teachers and lesson programs via SMS, the web and Android. Students of all levels can take courses in any subject and interact instantly with teachers via their tablet, computer, or mobile phone. They also offer small business courses and teacher refreshment courses (which is hugely important, considering only about one-quarter of pre-primary teachers are trained in Sub-Saharan Africa). Eneza already has over two million subscribers across Africa and over 300,000 questions have been answered by their live ask-a-teacher feature.

Kytabu, out of Nairobi, allows users to essentially lease required learning and teaching materials (such as textbooks) online through their mobile device. The application provides exams, educational videos, group-chat classrooms, audiobooks and learning games.

Although accessibility to mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa is relatively new, the innovations made so far are a great testament to the technology’s potential. Clearly, the simplest technologies have the power to improve developing countries and make strides towards the elimination of poverty. In a modern world where phones have become grouped with simple technology, they are becoming as much of a right as water filters and electricity.

The things which we take for granted every day hold so much power. Think of what a cell phone can do.

Katherine Gallagher

Photo: Flickr

mobile tech
As mobile technology continues to rise and expand across our nation, it has also begun to play an important role in poorer, less fortunate countries as well. Mobile tech is becoming a crucial part in alleviating poverty, helping both the individual and the community of these areas in need. Here are five ways that mobile tech is improving lives.


While mobile tech has been increasingly implemented into curriculums in the United States to increase efficiency, so it has been in poorer countries as well. One educational, nonprofit company named Eneza Education has been participating in this effort. The mobile platform has over 100,000 students in 400 schools all over Kenya, and aims to increase enrollment to over 200,000.


According to The World Bank, some 2.5 billion people — half of the adult population — do not have a bank account. As a result, it is harder for individuals to accumulate wealth or save for the future. However, mobile banking is allowing more and more people around the world to have access to an electronic money saving system. Individuals are now able to take out insurance policies, set up loans and transfer money to one another. By allowing poverty-stricken individuals to save, overseas markets are being strengthened.


Tracking, by means of mobile technology, is something of a double-edged sword, but many analysts agree that the pros outweigh the cons. One major drawback is that mobile tech is a powerful tool in organizing human trafficking. Traffickers have the ability to streamline, organize and, yes, even advertise their exploits through this technology. Despite this unfortunate use of tracking, officials are becoming increasingly able to crack these codes to bust traffickers. In fact, The Polaris Project has been able to harness data analysis to ensure the safety of people who have been kidnapped.

Health care

Without access to health care, it is nearly impossible to alleviate poverty in some regions of the world. Mobile tech is helping improve the quality of health care at a rapid pace. “Malaria No More” is an example of one NGO using mobile tech to improve health care conditions. One of “Malaria No More’s” campaigns has soccer star Didier Drogba dispatch a text message to millions of Kenyans that asks, “Are you and your family sleeping under your nets tonight?” Safety sleeping nets are an incredible way to reduce the contraction of malaria. The NGO reports that this campaign has increased the number of individuals sleeping under tents by 12 percent.


Mobile tech is at it’s best when it is transferring small amounts of data quickly between individuals and groups. This is proving invaluable to farmers. Take the Kenyan mobile platform SokoniSMS64 for example. The program uses SMS text messages to unload details about the wholesale price of crops to farmers. In turn, farmers communicate among one another and with traders to negotiate fair pricing. There are also services such as “iCow from M-Farm” that assists farmers who have livestock. The app can set schedules, helps organize feeding routines and even has a built in weather app, so that farmers can adequately prepare for upcoming days

– Andrew Rywak

Photo: Scribe