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African nations embrace e-learning, says new report

Many countries in Africa including Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and South Africa are running school connectivity projects

Most African countries have embraced technology in education, according to the eLearning Africa 2012 report, the first significant attempt to provide a snapshot of how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and better connectivity are believed to be changing the face of education in Africa.

The report by eLearning Africa, an organization based in Germany, is based on a detailed survey of almost 450 education professionals across the continent. The report, launched by Benin Minister of Communication and Information and Communication Technology Max Ahouéké in Cotonou, Benin, last week at the eLearning Africa conference, shows that 71 percent of those surveyed are now using ICT enhanced learning in their classrooms and 48 percent use mobile phones for education.

Many countries in Africa, including Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and South Africa, are running school connectivity projects in a bid to promote e-learning. Policy makers in many African countries are hoping that ICT will improve the quality of education in the region.

According to Shafika Isaacs, eLearning Africa's program director and co-author of the report, "the aspiration of the eLearning Africa report is to provide regular, yearly snapshots of how perceptions and realities combine and collide over time, with particular reference to the eLearning experience in Africa."

Mwangala Ehueni, chairperson of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), Zambia's telecom sector regulator, said ZICTA is setting up computer laboratories with Internet connectivity in schools across the country to enhance e-learning. Ehueni said ICT played a critical role in education service delivery.

But according to Eric Osiakwan, director at Internet Research in Ghana, the number one factor that is constraining the African e-learning sector is lack of bandwidth.

"Getting broadband into rural areas should be a top priority for Africa as an innovative contribution to solving the illiteracy problem," Osiakwan said.

Since many African schools, especially in remote rural areas, are not connected to the national grid, e-learning should be backed by mechanisms to support rollout of cheap laptops and renewable technology like solar energy, said Airtel Zambia head of corporate affairs Chabuka Kawesha. Airtel Africa is currently helping many African governments to rollout e-learning programs in schools.

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