The first ever African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) was launched and was successfully held from 8-9 May in Kigali, Rwanda in partnership with UNESCO and Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Youth and ICT. The event gathered 161 high level local and foreign experts from various organizations including AFRINIC, WACREN, UBUNTUNET, ASREN, ECOWAS, UNECA, AUC, African Universities etc. it emphasized on SDG 4 on Education at the center of the conversation of the first day of the meeting. Delegates had an opportunity to explore how the Internet can provide quick wins for education, but most importantly come up with real solutions that can be implemented immediately.
But Sub Saharan Africa faces considerable challenges in education, ranging from the absence of quality teachers, outdated or unavailable learning and teaching materials, to inadequate physical space (school infrastructure) for fast-growing learners. Over 110 million school children between 6-18 years of age are out of school in Africa. Thirty-seven million young people require technical and vocational training and/or other forms of education that facilitate paths to their employment. Only about 6 percent of secondary school graduates find places in higher education in sub-Saharan Africa (source: www.internetsociety.org/ridd/africa/2017/news)
The African RIDD is a collaborative initiative of the Internet Society, UNESCO and the Rwandan Government. The dialogue is meant to create a space for multiple stakeholders from across Africa to discuss various opportunities and requirements for entrepreneurship and innovation on the Internet for the socio-economic development of the continent. The Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4) commits countries to addressing challenges and attaining universal pre-primary, primary, and secondary education and gender equity, and promoting youth learning for employability. Such commitments require innovative approaches that go beyond simply building more educational institutions. It involves using educational technology in various ways. As emphasized by Dr. Indrajit Banerjee Director, Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO “without the Internet, the traditional way will take a century”.
The World Bank 2016 report notes that the Internet makes up 1.3% of GDP growth in developing regions (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.55). Of particular importance is to note that 75% of the impact of the Internet on growth is in traditional industries, showing the benefits of the Internet for the entire economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.63). Keeping this in mind, it is important to look at the broader set of policies, ranging from infrastructure investment to e-government services that can facilitate and incentivize businesses to go online.
Africa is also a leader and an inspiration. The innovative startups, and the new businesses that flourish in its path, are all unique and like most innovations, they emerge from a local context to address specific needs. From new solutions to connecting rural areas and providing e-government services in Rwanda to transformative financial services in Kenya (M-PESA). Governments were urged to innovate policies and entrepreneurial visions to keep the ecosystem functional and growing. Africa is already taking leadership that should inspire the rest of the world.
Growing the African Internet economy would require commitments of multiple stakeholders, a clear vision and deliberate policies from Governments to leverage ICTs across all sectors. Institutions of learning especially higher education were identified as catalysts in steering innovation and entrepreneurship growth and that re-thinking education and future of work is critical in growing African economies.
2 Study Papers were launched:
Internet for Education in Africa: Helping Policy Makers to Meet the Global Education Agenda Sustainable Development Goal 4. This report reviews the potential implications of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in general, and the Internet in particular, for education in Africa.
A Case Study in Local Content Hosting: Speed, Visits, and Cost of Access. The availability of locally relevant content is increasingly seen as a limiting factor in the widespread adoption of the Internet in emerging regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.