Tapping into the Potential of Mobile Gadgets in Sub-Saharan Africa
A report published last year by Afrobarometer Findings concluded that seven out of ten adults owned a mobile phone in Africa. In countries such as Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire… more than 90% of the population was reported to own mobile phones. If the same research were to be conducted again at the end of this year, the numbers would be on the higher side. Such is the amazing potential of Africa, a continent with a thriving economy driven by its energy and natural resources.
Unfortunately, despite Africa’s mineral resources, new oil fields, unique flora and fauna, inexhaustible energy among other resources, most African countries are still lagging behind the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty and incurable diseases such as AIDS and EBOLA are still ravaging our population!
The question is what are we not doing right? Some writers and scholars have brought forward the argument that Africa is “just” recovering from colonization and that it needs time to adapt. Haven’t we had enough time to adapt already? Some Asian countries like Singapore declared their independence from England the same period as most African countries. Today Singapore is an Asian economic tiger, how do we explain that we are way behind Singapore when it comes to development? May be it’s high time we went back to the drawing board: think how we can optimize our resources to improve our living standards and put our continent on the right path. This is where mobile phones come in, a reliable game changer and a tool whose inherent attributes need to be exploited as soon as yesterday.
In a little over a decade the African continent has become the second largest and fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. Companies and entrepreneurs who saw the opportunity and exploited the potential of mobile phones have contributed massively to the global economy. A case in point would be Mpesa a mobile banking concept born in Kenya, which has completely innovated the banking sector not only in Africa but also in North America and Europe. What if we went a step further and did something similar with our health and education sector? We usually use mobile phones for communication or to surf the Internet and for a couple of years now we have proudly extended this innovative product to the banking sector. How about going a step further to tap into the potential of this growing number of mobile phones to change the way things are done?
Curiosity and desire to discover the ICT world led me to an educational apps developing company, eduPad. I have been working in the marketing department of this company for a few months now and after interacting with parents and teachers in Europe and North America who have been using eduPad’s, iTooch learning apps, I am more than convinced that we need to integrate learning apps in our classes and at home to complement our overworked teachers.
Most African countries have attained the universal primary enrollment for children in schools but the quality of education in public schools is still wanting. Overcrowded classes and overworked teachers are the order of the day in most public schools. We need an overhaul of the education sector if we want to produce an employable population in the near future. This is a changing world and technology whether we want it or not will be an essential tool to face the job market.
We should start by tapping into the growing numbers of smartphones phones to disrupt the potential of learning in Africa through m-Education. By improving our education system we will be sure to produce employable people. In other parts of the world, teachers and parents are already using learning apps to teach in an intuitive and fun way. We should ultimately head their way, to narrow the global digital divide.
Lucy is currently studying a masters program in International Studies at The Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. She loves French and Kenyan cuisine, long walks in Paris and road trips to the Kenyan coast. She is also an ardent fan of African and English Literature.