Technology in Africa

In some African countries, printed textbooks are being replaced by tablets and mobile phones as education materials are now posted online where students can access whenever they want. A government officer told the newspapers: “As our continent is connected, we can reach students in rural areas and even in remote villages to provide education that never existed before. We can educate a new generation of students who few years ago could never dream of going to school. Instead of building more schools in rural areas where it is difficult to hire teachers to live there, we are using our budget to buy tablets and smartphones for students and put everything online. E-learning is cheaper, better and more effective.”

To a continent where a majority of people still live in remote villages deep in the jungle, e-learning is the best solution. A teacher explains: “Printed books and traditional classrooms did not work well. By the time textbooks arrive in remote villages, most were lost or being used for other purposes because many young people cannot even read. However, with e-learning, classroom materials can be interactive with real teachers who teach from a distance and materials can be updated quickly. In the old day, it took several months to print and distributed textbooks, now you can put materials online and let students download to their tablets and it only takes a few minutes. As the price of smartphones and tablets continue to decline, it is possible to buy every student these devices since they cost less than the building of one school.”

A teacher who taught in the e-learning program said: “Young students love technology. They often spend more time on their tablets than books. I visited a school in remote village last week to see how young students were doing. I was surprised to see elementary students responded so positively in e-learning using tablets. They were excited to see me and said: “You are the teacher inside our tablets.” it was wonderful to see significant impact of technology, especially in small rural schools.”

The benefit of applying information technology is more than just education. A government officer predicts: “As more people are using information technology, it can trigger an e-commerce revolution in Africa. In the future we may have “African Google or African” of our own. There will be more online businesses that sell products all over the world and bringing more money to our people. There will be major change in education as more Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are available to the poorest students. Someday children all over Africa can connect with other children in Europe, Asia, and America and learn with them. Technology will make it possible for poorest children to gain the same knowledge as the rich children anywhere in the world. Cheap tablets are opening opportunities to health care and farming too. There are apps for every task that our farmers need and they will have the latest information on which crops to grow as well as the market prices. Imagine remote village farmers emailing their customers pictures of their produces and accepting orders over the Internet. I believe with technology, the most beneficial will be the poor because they will find better uses of the technology and it will change their lives.”

An educator concluded: “We believe technology can help the continent of Africa to educate its youth more effectively. Today the world look at Africa continent as a place with a lot of uneducated and poor people but with e-learning and information technology, we can change that. I believe technology can help push education to all people and help us to achieve many things.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University