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Africa implored to regulate data pricing to boost education

By , Africa editor
Africa , 29 Jun 2023
Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.
Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.

African governments are being implored to regulate mobile data pricing strategies in a drive to develop digital education.

A white paper by Vodacom released yesterday: “How digital technologies can transform education in sub-Saharan Africa” says digital technology is a game-changer for education on the continent and coherent plans are needed for better outcomes.

The new research by Vodacom Group, Vodafone and Safaricom was launched in Johannesburg yesterday, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The paper, the fifth in Vodacom’s six-part Africa.Connected series, unpacks the current state of education across the continent. It showcases how digital technologies and connectivity, combined with the necessary regulatory frameworks and support from governments, can be leveraged to mitigate barriers to education across the continent.

The research suggests a raft of measures, including controlling the cost of mobile data, opening schools and other learning centres to benefit from new digital innovations.

It says digital technologies and connectivity hold the key to unlocking the true potential of Africa's young people.

“The proliferation of digital devices and mobile network expansion in sub-Saharan Africa should make digital education more readily available to teachers and students in Africa. This is especially true where data and devices are more affordable and easily accessible,” the paper notes.

The white paper makes a case for the importance of connectivity and digital technologies in enhancing the quality of education offered across Africa: “Digital education can transform the classroom environment by providing teachers with new instructional tools and enabling them to better track learner progress. 

"Digital education can also help to overcome various barriers to education – from geographically remote locations to disruptive events like pandemics, civil unrest or natural disasters.

“Digital education can be instrumental in bridging inequalities in access to knowledge, particularly for young girls who are often physically unable to attend school.”

Professor Verne Harris, acting CEO for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, comments: "Access to quality education is critical to combating intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality. Nelson Mandela always stressed how important education is, not only for self-actualisation and individual transformation, but also in shifting the trajectory of society towards equity, justice and a shared dignity.”

For Professor Jonathan Jansen, internationally renowned education expert and one of the authors of the research paper, says stumbling blocks to quality education include everything from lack of reliable electricity and limited technical support to lacklustre internet access.

"Each of these hurdles can be overcome through the right partnerships, interventions and ecosystems. Importantly, addressing these obstacles demands political buy-in and support from governments to ensure that the mechanisms put in place are appropriate in that they meet African learners and educators where they are," says Professor Jansen.

Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO, says with affordable and reliable connectivity, digital tools and technologies, educational opportunities open up for many on the continent.

“We have witnessed this first-hand via our ecosystem of education projects and initiatives, which seek to provide access to quality educational assets, support remote learning and seek to enhance the overall educational experience for teachers and learners in some of Africa's most under-resourced communities," notes Joosub.

"Our Vodacom e-School programme in South Africa is a prime example of this," he adds. “The initiative promotes digital education by providing free access to quality education for primary and high school students (grades R to 12). This includes access to digital learning materials (like interactive textbooks, multimedia content and assessments), other educational resources and support services. The platform is available on mobile and desktop devices, free of charge, for all Vodacom customers.”

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