The Cambridge Dictionary defines mobile technology as “electronic equipment such as mobile phones or small computers that you can use in different places, and the technology connected with them.” Going with this broad definition, mobile technology incorporates smartphones, tablets, laptops, with the list expected to grow shortly.
In Africa communication technologies have been used in education since late 1960, it is no doubt that most governments in the continent have been trying not only to improve the quantity of education but also the quality of education.
According to the African Union, literacy levels in Africa still lags at 70% compared to the world average of 90%. A statistic that was released following a continental meeting that aimed at improving the culture of reading in Africa, held in Addis Abba, in May 2019.
This only vindicated the well-known fact that Africa still has a long way to go before achieving the goal of education. Prompting the cogitate of whether the incorporation of technology offers the opportunity for attaining the promise of a better education? This article seeks to give a brief overview of the impact of mobile technology in the region.
The future of mobile technology in Africa can no longer be looked down upon. In a TEDx talk Jasper Grosskurth, A specialist of African markets laments of how technology is articulated by stereotypes about Africa.
He notes that almost two-thirds of all articles about mobile phones in Africa are illustrated with either a Zulu, a Dogo, or a Masai in the savannah with a mobile phone. Sub-Saharan Africa home to over 1.08 billion people, is estimated by the Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA) that about 80.3% have SIM connection a statistic that is stipulated to increase to 84% by the year 2025.
Though this does not translate to phone ownership, its an indication of a growing interest in mobile phone technology. An article published by the Conservation that suggests there are “650 million mobile phone owners on the continent (more than the US and Europe combined)”. GeoPoll highlighted that it can be observed that internet connectivity is yet sporadic, meaning there are populations with more penetration than others.
A demonstration of this can be seen by comparing Kenya whose penetration stands at 87% being the highest in the region, to Western Sahara with 4.7% as the lowest.
As the world is more globalized than ever, students are enabled to enjoy world-class education from renown universities and colleges. Thank to distance learning and availability of internet connection in parts of the continent.
This privilege should not be undermined, as it can be agreed that not all colleges are “equal” as some, of course, are better than others. The increase of mobile technology in the continent has also encouraged the development of other skills aside from those which one earns from a lesson in class.
One can argue that interaction on the internet has enabled individuals to advance in their career pursuits, as well as venture into new careers. In an article published by the NairobiWire titled, ‘Meet the 22-year Old Forex Trading Expert Running a Multi-million Shilling Empire.’ Sean Macharia narrates how though he being a computer science student at Daystar university an earlier interaction on the internet with online forex trading blossomed as a passion.
Now thanks to the mobile technology in the region he enjoys a position of envy as the managing director of a company worth millions of dollars.
An inquest was undertaken by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Orange and Unesco concluded that among the benefits that can be achieved by the mobile learning is access to cheaper teaching resources. This was in harmony with a report released by the Horizon Report 2011 that sought to “identify and describe how emerging technologies are likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative expression within education around the globe.”
The leading emerging trend was the abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging for educators to revisit their roles. But the integration of technology should not be a course of worry. As George Couros observed that “technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.”
The digital revolution currently taking place in Africa has not only led to a different approach of teaching but also has called upon educators to transform their method of interacting with students. One example of this is the growth of distance learning being introduced, often giving room for flexible learning. This can also be associated with an increase to the number of degree holders, as fees have often been a challenge for most people, flexibility in learning has enabled students to work to support their studies and continue with their studies. Many students do appreciate the fact they can carry all they need for their studies in a small portal device, like a 5.5 inches smartphone, the idea that they do not need to carry their books to study is still a fascination to many.
Even as the agitation towards taking advantage of what technology has to offer for the education system in Africa grows, it’s cons should not be dismissed. One of the downsides of technology is that it is often associated with the rich. It is often agreed that not everyone, can afford to use it.
While this prejudice may be true, it remains a subject of criticism, since if governments wholeheartedly agreed that technology in learning institutions should not be taken as a privilege but as a right, then most if not all would “afford” it. Afterall if the cost is made affordable almost everyone will want to take advantage of technology. As seen in data that shows telephone use has dramatically increased from 5% in 2003 to 73% in 2014.
This increase is mostly attributed to the reduction of mobile phone costs. According to a FuturetoWorking article that discussed the advantages and disadvantages of technology in education, mobile technology can facilitate cheating in exams and assignments.
As some of the old tricks that were often dramatized in movies of how a student sneaked into a teacher’s office to “…steal the answer key to a test, and then write down everything on their wrist, shoe, or a slip of paper.” are no longer necessary. One only needs to send a text from one side of the conspiracy and reach the other in matters of milliseconds. Thus, it calls upon players in the system to find ways of curbing such fiascos.
The role that technology plays in the society should not be underrated instead all spheres of society should work towards integrating it into their day to day activities. And as Bill Gates ones said that “technology must be implemented as part of a thoughtful, holistic approach to education transformation that includes teacher training, relevant curricula, parental involvement, and programs for children that fill unmet needs for basics like nutrition and healthcare.” African’s education system should work towards implementing the emerging trends with a focus by mobile technology, to ensure effectively and efficiency is achieved as demonstrated in this piece.