The EdTech Monday episode of May 2023 is coming with a focus on digital literacy as a crucial component of 21st Century Skills answering some of the big questions around the status of investment, access and usability of tech driven education tools.
The show, sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation center and Rwanda’s Private Sector Chamber of ICT, will air live on both KT Radio and Kigali Today YouTube Channel with three (3) panelists to discuss the topic “Widening Access to ICT Infrastructure and Connectivity in education”
EdTech Monday airs on KT Radio every last Monday of the month and simultaneously goes live on Kigali Today Youtube channel from 6PM to 7PM.
So far this year, the EdTech Mondays series of discussions have looked for ways to mainstream hybrid models of learning, how EdTech can enhance fundamental literacy and numeracy, and more recently, how digital literacy plays a critical role in developing 21st century skills.
However, the absence of infrastructure to support the last mile adoption of EdTech solutions in Africa has been a persistent issue throughout all EdTech Mondays discussions.
Education Technology Background
The One Laptop Per Child strategy advocated in the last Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP), which included a large investment in access to ICT, is a key aspect of the Rwandan environment.
To its credit, however, the Government of Rwanda understands that providing basic infrastructure and educating students on how to utilize ICT as a learning tool, in addition to having access to technology, are necessary to improve learning outcomes.
Hence, only 19% of secondary schools have an internet connection, according to data from 2016, while only 32% of primary and 51% of secondary schools are linked to the electrical grid, and only 19% of secondary schools have an internet connection.
By requiring “smart classrooms” with laptops, a projector, digital material, and internet access in primary and secondary schools, the current ESSP seeks to expand on the One Laptop Per Child strategy.
Along with providing digital material for pre-primary, primary, and secondary education and fostering teachers’ use of ICT as a tool for learning, the plan aims to support many modes of instruction, such as online and remote learning.
However, it is crucial that investments in ICT do not unintentionally create inequality given that technology has the greatest influence on learning outcomes in schools with competent instructors and decent infrastructure.
While it may be most cost-effective to concentrate technology investments, particularly planned hardware investments, on schools that are most suited to use them successfully, doing so alone runs the danger of escalating educational inequality in Rwanda.
It is crucial to invest in basic infrastructure in schools without it as well as bringing technology to those with existing infrastructure so that everyone may benefit from educational technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the significance of connectivity and access to ICT infrastructure.
However, many people still cannot afford the expense of connecting to infrastructure like the internet.
This has resulted in millions of young students and educational institutions being excluded from the advantages of technology-based education, such as Open Educational Resources, hybrid learning models like distance learning, e-learning, and other resources designed to increase access to education and reduce inequality.
The given state of affairs calls for adequate foundational ICT infrastructure to be established in order to foster the optimal use of all ICT devices and technologies and subsequently leverage the consumption of EdTech in Rwanda.
Big Questions at Hand
This month’s EdTech Monday will feature Gilbert N. Kayinamura Chief Commercial Officer at Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC), Audrey Umutesi Marketing Officer eShuri Ltd and Lambert Ntagwabira. the Ministry of ICT and Innovation Digital Readiness Senior Technologist, and hosted Ines Ghislaine Nyinawumuntu.
The team will look at how Rwanda can widen access to ICT Infrastructure and connectivity to support education technology and some of the questions to reflect on if access and connectivity as solely the responsibility of governments alone or can the private sector and other key stakeholders equally play a role?
They will also look at what needs working on 13+ years after the fiber optic landed in Africa, broadband access today which is still unevenly distributed and a regulatory framework that stimulates competition and lowers connectivity prices.
What ICT investments have been made by the government of Rwanda particularly to pave the way for education, and the kind of support needed to increase investment in ICT infrastructure to lay the foundation for access to technology backed education? What unique challenges do we face in Rwanda?
How innovative have technology companies like Intel been in investing in solutions that have directly had an impact on scaling Education Technology in Africa? Share some examples, if any?
They will advise on what to be done to ensure inclusion and equity especially for rural Africa as broadband and ICT infrastructure is essential if learners and institutions are to make full use of what the Internet can offer yet many rural areas in developing countries still lack broadband networks or affordable connectivity.
The team will touch on the role of partnerships and private investments by stakeholders in widening access and connectivity to enable technology backed education for all and discuss policy inclusion to ensure last mile access in existing disparities ICT infrastructure.