In sub-Saharan Africa, technology may have become a solution to the region’s unique challenges — especially with regard to educational challenges. While primary school enrollment rose from 59 percent to 77 percent between 1999 and 2010, the goal is to give all children the opportunity to complete a full cycle of primary education by 2015.

 

Regardless of the successes thus far, some challenges remain; quality of education is sometimes sacrificed for quantity. The following policy brief from the Brooking Institution, for instance, highlights several concrete issues in sub-Saharan education:

“In Kenya, 14 percent of grade 3 students were non-readers in English. In two regions in Uganda, 70 percent of grade 2 students could not read a single word in English and over 80 percent could not read in Lango. Roughly half of these grade 3 students in Uganda were unable to read one word in their respective languages.”

 

These statistics are manifestations of a larger issue. However, a new strategy to combat these issues in sub-Saharan education has been effective in recent years: the use of technology.

 

Mobile technology in sub-Saharan classrooms has greatly improved the region's quality of education.

Mobile technology in sub-Saharan classrooms has greatly improved the region’s quality of education.

Though videos have already been implemented as educational tools across Africa, schools in sub-Saharan countries have started to use mobile phones as a way to quickly download and present videos to classrooms. This mobile technology bypasses the need to have videos physically delivered and more effectively store and manage video content.

 

BridgeIT is a nonprofit that was originally launched in the Philippines in 2003 and now serves many sub-Saharan countries. Funded by Nokia and the Pearson Foundation, “educational content in the form of video, audio, and text files are developed and stored on BridgeIT’s server, organized by topic and grade level.”

 

Mobile technology works well as an educational tool because it does not require internet access, which is sparse across sub-Saharan regions. Pretoria University in South Africa has been working to more firmly establish the use of e-learning in classrooms through mobile technology.

 

Pretoria University’s head of e-learning Dolf Jordaan said that mobile technology is important because “technological profiling showed that less than one per cent of students had regular access to the internet, whereas 99 percent out of students had mobile phones.”

 

The benefits of technology in sub-Saharan Africa extend beyond education. The Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Division of the World Bank Institute, for instance, has been working to understand the “determinants of growth and economic development” in sub-Saharan regions. In a paper released in 2008, Hippolye Fofack wrote about the reach of benefits offered by technology:

“… if countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were using the same level of technology enjoyed by industrialized countries income levels in Sub-Saharan Africa would be significantly higher… Overcoming the technology trap in Sub-Saharan Africa may therefore be essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and evolving toward global convergence in the process of economic development.”

 

Increased attempts to incorporate sub-Saharan Africa into the rapid spread of digital technology across the world will help to alleviate issues that these countries face. So far, technology has been especially effective at tackling issues in the educational system. However, technology’s success need not stop here.

 

How else do you think that technology can help to tackle problems faced by sub-Saharan Africa? Share your ideas below in the comments, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness