Microsoft, Intel, World Bank team on Africa project

Computing

The rollout of a regional e-learning program and the need for IT supplies in African schools has led Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and the World Bank Institute to form a consortium that will help build capacity for the governance and integration of ICT across African schools.

The formation of the consortium comes in the wake of African governments' increased investment in the e-learning program being rolled out in thousands of schools across the region.

Many African governments are now moving fast to establish e-learning projects in both primary and secondary schools. Initiated by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) seven years ago, the program had not gained much ground because most African countries were reluctant to implement the projects due to insufficient bandwidth. The rollout of the e-learning projects is now moving faster because Africa is experiencing increased bandwidth due to a number of undersea cables that are now servicing the region.

The formation of a consortium is likely to result in stiff competition by international companies providing computers and software in Africa's education system in order to provide critical thinking and innovations in the region.

The organizations said that there is still a significant lack of guidance, professional development opportunities and regional best-practices sharing available to the administrators responsible for making ICT investment a success for local schools. The organizations have further designed a blended learning program, called the "Certificate in ICT in Education for Policy Implementers," for officials and professionals involved in the rollout.

The program is aimed at strengthening the field of ICT governance in education in Africa and to strengthen African governments' capacity in the integration of ICT in schools.

"Localization of content is vital for such a project to be successful. On such projects, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work," said Thabani Khupe, Intel director of the Corporate Affairs Group.

During the eLearning Africa Conference in Lusaka, Zambia, last week, Intel announced the release of the Intel-powered Convertible Classmate PC, which offers improved performance with energy efficiency. Africa and world ICT experts meeting at the eLearning Africa Conference debated how to develop and quickly roll out much-needed educational content, software and hardware in African schools. More than 16,000 schools in Africa are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2015 for the e-learning program, which aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning.