Using Educational Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Series of Papers

In 1999, CCT helped The World Bank draft a series of papers on using educational technology and distance education programs to address educational challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), recommending approaches to planning and financing, and sharing lessons learned from previous endeavors in the region. The papers -- intended for the Bank's regional staff, educational policymakers and practitioners in SSA, and other multilateral and non-governmental agencies working to implement education technology strategies in the region -- recommend approaches to planning and financing as well as share lessons learned from previous endeavors in the region.

Based on extensive review of the literature and site visits, CCT drafted reports on the prospects and challenges facing the implementation of technology in SSA education systems; summary case studies of four French-speaking countries in SSA; and the Ivory Coast educational television project. These reports focus on the following questions:

  • What resulted from the use of technology in education and training in Africa?
  • How have distance learning and educational technologies been used to address specific problems of access, quality, and efficiency?
  • What technologies - from print to broadcast to computer-mediated applications -- have been used? Which technologies hold the most promise of being affordable and sustainable in Africa over the next ten years?
  • Why have some of these efforts not achieved their potential?
  • How have the nature and context of technology, as relevant to education and training, changed in the last two decades? How have these changes transformed distance education?
  • What are the implications of these changes for costs, learning, and the relationship between education and the workplace?

Today, most African countries have already begun to build major advanced telecommunications infrastructure. In SSA, technology use , broadly defined to include print, radio, television and computers, used to support teaching and learning both inside and outside school settings, has been uneven distributed across various learning objectives and target populations, and fragmented across classroom instruction, educational management, and distance education. The past and present experiences with distance education and education technology in SSA have had little impact on teaching and learning. Teacher education or training has been a central focus but with mixed results.

There has been increased awareness and interest in integrating technology within overall education strategy in SSA. Policy changes increasingly favor making available high-quality, competitively priced technology infrastructure and services to a wider population. The African experience has generally left unanswered, however, the question of whether diverse technology applications can be widely and sustainably deployed to boost educational attainment in Africa.

Technology use has been most effective when it contributes to broadening the world of the learner by creating new links between schools and the outside world as well as by providing resources. Thus the use of multiple media is more likely to be pedagogically effective than use of a single medium such as radio, television, etc. Even when technology and services are fully available, however, these will not by themselves suffice to ensure educational goals of quality and access. The attainment of educational goals will still require an effective integration of the technology system in SSA's predominantly traditional schools.

African governments need to be aware that it takes time to implement technology programs successfully and to develop expertise in the fields of education technology and distance education, especially in the areas of planning, administration, and evaluation. The governments need to provide an autonomous environment to the institutions in charge of these programs, especially in the areas of management and finance.


Harouna Ba (PI)