Posts

Economic and Educational Disparity
As economic vulnerability is an important risk factor for HIV, economic empowerment projects are becoming an increasingly common measure for HIV prevention and mitigation. Stakeholders are primarily concerned with the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. However, concerted efforts have begun to improve their living conditions by finding sustainable ways to remove economic and educational disparity and improve their economic status.

Connections between economic and educational disparity and HIV status remain complicated. Few studies have linked involvement in economic empowerment methods and HIV outcomes for young women. Therefore, the exploration of effective interventions must go beyond the healthcare sector to further address the linkage between HIV risks and economic and social factors.

Furthermore, strong stigmatization of the disease persists in sub-Saharan Africa in addition to poor awareness of HIV transmission and preventive initiatives. This increases the need to improve HIV-related knowledge in the region for future prevention strategies. Thus far, initiatives to improve HIV-related awareness in sub-Saharan Africa have included a broad range of information-dissemination methods, including the use of means that can easily reach the vulnerable populations, such as mass media or community-based social cohesion methods.

The significant social determinants of HIV require more comprehensive educational interventions. These interventions became designed in light of social- and gender-inequity-based theories. These include social norms theory, the social constructivist theory of gender and the theory of gender and power. Furthermore, approaches focused on behavior theories have undergone wide use in interventions aimed at improving HIV-related knowledge, as experts have found that HIV-education interventions, when combined with behavioral change components, correlate with a higher probability of eventual implementation of preventive behaviors.

The Current Landscape

Implementation issues in HIV-education interventions became neglected. The sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from a lack of HIV education because this region has the highest rates of education exclusion and the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups in the world. A disproportionate number of young children attend school for a short while and quickly drop out. Around 20% of children from 6 to 11 years old are out of school in addition to 34% of children between 12 and 14 years old. According to UIS, 60% of teenagers from 15 to 17 years old remain unenrolled in school.

These statistics show that HIV-education interventions do not always have wide distribution. This results in few youths receiving education from these programs. Thus, how to deliver effective HIV/AIDS education in sub-Saharan Africa is worth discussing.

Current trends in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that digital education is getting traction even though technological barriers persist. Many perceive digital education as not only a better form of learning but also as a cost-effective way to broaden educational opportunities. The rapidly growing population is exploding with demands for education. Countries are increasingly embracing digital tools to increase access to education and improve educational and social equity.

According to World Bank Education, the learning crisis, which resulted from learning poverty, started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19, 1.6 billion children and youth are out of school. Thus, it has become more and more urgent to prepare students in low-resource areas for digital learning. This is so they have an opportunity to gain healthcare knowledge, especially the knowledge of COVID-19 treatment and HIV prevention.

Educational Radio Programmes

Educational radio programming can be an excellent tool to keep children from disadvantaged areas engaged in HIV-knowledge acquisition. It enables disadvantaged populations to access the information they need to achieve sustainable development. Many of these radio programs aim to improve regional development. Community radio platforms became promoted to encourage local development. Many villages have limited access to information about education and nutrition. Radio programs allow them to study and improve their living conditions.

UNESCO, which set up multi-collaborations with low-resource countries, stated that these countries rely heavily on the radio (93%) and “the use of radio and television broadcasts as distance learning solutions is a powerful way to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and reach the most marginalized learners.” Previous research and studies have focused on how the radio programs have developed in recent years, but these studies have neglected the application of radio and have rarely directly studied how people use the radio, and specifically how radio platforms can be effective educational tools.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa seek to develop into emerging nations by 2035 and are setting policies and goals. For example, in Cameroon, the government has prioritized Information Communication Technologies (ICT) development in the economic, culture and education domains in all state sectors, with a specific focus on ICT in the education domain. It encouraged programs consisting of agriculture, health and rural and urban development content for a mass audience. Many see radio programming as a way for Cameroon to achieve overall development.

Educational Equity and Digital Learning

Still, a portion of the population in the rural areas – for example, 42% of the population of Cameroon – cannot receive national radio services. Young adolescents in these rural areas are still in a more disadvantaged position than those in urban districts because they are unable to receive important information.

Therefore, policymakers ought to develop a short- or long-term digital learning arrangement and evaluate their systems’ capability to support a digital learning paradigm that incorporates a mixture of technologies and delivery mechanisms. It is also critical for policymakers to collaborate with outside stakeholders such as EdTech companies, local broadcast centers and private radio stations to ensure the accelerated growth of the designated digital learning modality. Dispersing economic and educational disparity should always be the priority among all planning efforts.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Equal Food Distribution
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is the lack of equal food distribution. According to the World Economic Forum, Americans spend 6.4 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, households in impoverished countries can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. These numbers show a clear uneven trend in distributing food to people in need. Equal food distribution is also at risk from another influencer on poverty: population growth. Even in developed countries, the current rate of food distribution will eventually be unable to keep up with population growth. Distributing food to people in need will soon become an issue for not just underdeveloped countries, but for developed countries as well. 

One way of solving the growing issue of food distribution is through the utilization of new technologies. A combination of developing technologies, new economic models and support from global leaders could lead to curbing the problems behind food distribution for both the developing and underdeveloped world.

Text Message-based Farmer Assistance

In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, farmers have access to a service that functions through text messages. Provided by CGIAR, an organization focused on water, land and ecosystems, farmers can send a message through SMS (short message service) to request updates on the best way to grow their crops. People know this service as ICT, or Information and Communication Technology. According to CGIAR, farmers send one message code when they want to see an update on their crop growth and water-use efficiency compared to other farmers using the service. Based on this data, experts monitoring the farming data can identify irregularities and alert the farmer. One issue that CGIAR sees going forward is funding. Maintaining its database would require more funding than what farmers or smallholders have already offered. However, this service would be able to help farmers, in areas of need, increase the amount their farms produce.

Using ICTs to help feed people in need has shown promising results. An ICT service will help improve irrigation and water drainage in Egypt. This service has seen a 25 percent increase in crop yields during its first phase of implementation. Magrabi Farms has also implemented ICT to allow the proper irrigation of over 8,000 acres of land.

Farming and Machine Learning

Increasing farm production is a common method of tackling the issue of distributing food to people in need. Sciforce says that almost every step of farm production uses machine learning. Machine learning, according to Sciforce, is “the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed.” Farmers can use machine learning to:

  • Find which genes would help a crop survive in adverse weather conditions.

  • Manage the soil and help farmers understand the ecosystem they are growing in.

  • Manage water and allow farmers to be more efficient with their irrigation systems.

  • Improve the prediction of crop yield.

  • Fight disease and weeds by using a calculated distribution of agrochemicals that only target specific plants.

Machine learning accomplishes all of this by analyzing decades of farming records. It uses a combination of algorithms and scientific models to best apply the trends from decades of farming data.

NBC News reported that Carnegie Mellon University roboticist George Kantor claimed that machine learning could increase the variety of grain sorghum from 100 different variants to 1,000. Machine learning could do this by examining the crop’s genetic code.

Weather Forecasts

Another way to ensure that countries are able to distribute food to people in need is by improving distribution itself. The Weather Company’s Agricultural Head, Carrie Gillespie, stated that “A lot of food waste happens during distribution…” Suppliers often use weather forecasts when distributing food to people in need. Due to distribution including the harvesting process, these weather reports can help farmers know when the soil is at its best for harvesting.

3D Printing

While this may seem like an idea from a sci-fi movie, 3D printing is a technology that may soon allow food printing. Jordan French, CEO at a 3D food printing startup called BeeHex, explains that 3D food printing could allow for customization of food products based on the certain wants and needs of the consumer. This could include developing food with certain nutrients that an impoverished community may be lacking, much like the recently FDA-approved golden rice, which emerged to treat a global vitamin A deficiency.

Jordan French also theorizes that 3D printing food could eliminate the need for distribution altogether, as it would create a bridge between the producer and the consumer.

The market for 3D-printed food is rising in profits by 46 percent each year until 2023. Mark Crawford of ASME.org alludes that this is due to how the technology could provide a solution to distributing food to people in need.

These technologies aim to tackle the challenges of distributing food to the impoverished for the sake of equal food distribution. Improving farming quality through databases and machine learning, watching the weather to allow for better distribution and even bypassing the need for food production are just some developing technologies that have the potential to assist the world’s hungry.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: United Nations

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

VOD Education in Kenya
Kenya has seen remarkable growth in education in the last few years. Between 2012 and 2013 student enrollment increased by 20 percent, and the number of college graduates in Kenya is expected to exceed those without any formal education by 2020.

However, university resources aren’t keeping up with the rapid increase in student enrollment. According to Finance Minister Njeru Githae’s 2012 policy budget statement, “The sector’s biggest challenges include inadequate infrastructure and staffing, a slow pace of ICT integration and dealing with accelerated admissions to universities.”

Video on Demand or VOD education in Kenya has yet to blossom, but it has the potential to ease the pressures that Githae mentioned. Africa’s market is perfect for the system’s development and integration into school systems due to the country’s high population and extensive internet penetration.

The system allows students to select and watch video content of their choice via either their televisions or computers. VOD allows teachers to customize and live to stream their own content to give students in remote areas access to the most effective lectures.

When used as a supplement to traditional teaching methods, it reinforces students’ understanding of content. Students have the option to stop or replay parts of lectures as many times as needed, while advanced learners can use the system to explore more material. Students can also use the system to catch up on missed lectures.

VOD education in Kenya could give the country an advantage with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) competitiveness and innovation. The system will familiarize students with technology and prepare them for entrance into a modern workforce that highly values technological literacy.

The system also contributes to student empowerment, active engagement, leadership and collaboration. Educators who use VOD encourage students to collaborate with each other — even peers from other universities — to create their own material.

VOD generates revenue through subscriptions, sponsorship, and advertising models, which could be used to fund education and reduce the cost of tuition. Students can access the system for free with university hotspots.

VOD education thus far has been shown to enhance student performance and academic development. Not only does it have the potential to become a useful enhancement to 21st century teaching methods, but it also is compatible with Kenya’s goal of becoming a globally competitive and prosperous nation.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

NGOs
Information and Communications Technology, or ICT for short, is the way of the future for non-government organizations (NGOs). By effectively using new ICT, all types of NGOs are becoming more efficient in how they track and record data, as well as plan for future projects.

This new technology breaks down the complexity of information that NGOs handle on a daily basis and helps format it in a way that makes it simpler for these groups to utilize in their future endeavors.

Information and Communications Technology encompasses all sorts of specific fields. It covers things such as radio, television, cellular phones, and computer technology.

By using ICT, NGOs can spread their messages more efficiently through a wider array of platforms, develop better on-site technologies in third-world countries, and establish long-term methods to record information on poverty levels around the world.

An article by the Dhaka Tribune delved into the many benefits that ICT brings with it for non-government organizations. An excerpt from this article, published on July 31, 2015, reads, “Using ICT for social development helps NGOs to have accessible, timely, relevant, and updated information to make on-time decisions and improve social policy.”

The article goes on to pose a scenario in which an NGO makes monthly visits to an area to provide villagers with resources and other aid.

The scenario focuses on two children who received inadequate amounts of milk based on their growth in between visits from the NGO. When ICT is instituted into this scenario, the NGO workers can enter into their phones the exact height, weight, and age of the children each visit in order to chart growth and provide the necessary amount of food and aid.

Today’s society is all about maximizing efficiency. Technology has evolved faster in this period of time than at any other point in history. With this evolution comes the betterment of all mankind. By using technology as a means to maximize the eradication of poverty, people all over the world can begin to feel hopeful that their lives are about to change.

Diego Catala

Sources: Dhaka Tribune, Tech Target
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

ict
In partnership, AccessKenya, the Rockefeller Foundation and Atlanta-based nonprofit inABLE have launched a “Computer Labs for the Blind” initiative. Thus far, nearly 1,700 Kenyan students are benefiting from the program, which is intended to teach visually impaired learners basic information and communication technology (ICT) aptitude, allowing them to access educational content online and develop employable skills.

True to its name, Computer Labs for the Blind provides assistive technology computer labs and ICT education. The initiative trains visually impaired students and their instructors to use multiple computer and computational device types, including iPads. It also facilitates peer-to-peer training camps that allow advanced students to teach computer skills to the visually impaired.

In order to understand the importance of the Computer Labs for the Blind program, it is necessary to examine the hindrances non-sighted students otherwise experience. Blind and visually impaired students in Kenya face a variety of challenges to their education, including logistical issues, lack of facilities and insufficient teaching resources.

Not the least of these obstacles is the exorbitant cost of materials. In Kenya, braille textbooks can cost nearly nine times as much as ordinary textbooks, a price that most Kenyans are unable to afford. Consequently, four or more visually impaired students are compelled to share each book, limiting individual access and making it more difficult for students to acquire knowledge.

Other materials critical to blind students’ education, such as braille notepaper, are also far more expensive than standard supplies. For this reason, visually impaired and blind students find themselves unable to take notes in class the way their sighted peers do. However, they are still required to sit for the same exams as sighted students, regardless of their disadvantage in preparing for tests.

Additionally, the courses of study open to visually impaired students are limited. For example, at the high school level, students who are not sighted are unable to pursue chemistry and physics. The Kenyan education system does not equip teachers to educate visually impaired students in these subjects because it does not see them as feasible participants.

Even those students who are able to acquire braille skills and graduate high school find their employment prospects severely limited. Few industries accommodate braille skills and many employers are unfamiliar with braille. Continuing education is also rarely an option for visually impaired students in developing countries like Kenya.

Faced with this lack of economic options, many visually impaired and blind Kenyans must turn to begging or prostitution in order to survive. For this reason, access to technology and the development of ICT skills offer blind and visually impaired students a chance to improve their quality of life and offer a degree of financial independence and academic development that would have been previously out of reach.

The Computer Labs for the Blind initiative will help open the futures of blind and visually impaired Kenyan students. However, inABLE founder Irene Mbari-Kirika has hopes for a wider impact.

“inABLE envisions a day when blind and visually impaired students – all over Africa and beyond – have convenient access to life-changing computer-based educational tools,” Mbari-Kirika stated just before beginning inABLE’s first Computer Labs for the Blind project in a Kenyan school. With at least four more Kenyan schools lined up to benefit from the initiative, inABLE and its partner organizations are taking concrete steps toward their goal.

– Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: Inable Africa, IT News Africa
Photo: Global Giving