Microsoft suggested this at roundtable it is co-chairing at the 5th EU-Africa Business Forum with representatives of African governments and their respective ministries of education, multilaterals, ICT specialists, financial institutions and other private sector players. The group discussed connectivity and affordability challenges in the roll-out of e-schools across the continent.
According to Louis Onyango Otieno, Microsoft Africa Initiatives Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, ” The goal of the roundtable is to take away outcomes and solutions that will ultimately help Africa achieve the MDG’s agenda for universal education by advocating for connectivity, access and services that are relevant and affordable. Access to capital remains a major obstacle for African businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in and deploy low-cost technologies.”
Otieno was accompanied by SES’ Vice President for Institutional Relations, Christine Leurquin, among others who identified devices, connectivity and e-learning services as some of the key barriers in promoting universal access to education and wanted to see how the European and African public and private actors could improve access to the internet, and its related services.
The forum proposed an EU pan-African solution that will allow school to have access to devices, connectivity, and e-learning services. The forum also discussed the need for private and public partnerships (PPPs) to deliver relevant, sustainable and scalable solutions that will promote e-learning in Africa. It also addressed the need for infrastructure, resourcing and the related financing required to deploy education solutions and the creation of an enabling policy environment that promotes infrastructure development, access to dynamic spectrum, as well as online safety and cyber security will be critical to meeting this goal.
Microsoft is already piloting three solar-powered TV white spaces trials on the continent as part of the 4Afrika Initiative. The pilots in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, aim to provide low-cost, broadband access to neighbouring schools and universities.
Last month, Microsoft partnered with Intel East Africa and the Kenya Private Schools Alliance, to launch the 4Afrika Youth Device Program, which provides a bundle of affordable devices, educational applications, online services, data plans and smart financing to Kenyan learning institutions. Other partners include Safaricom, Mitsumi Distribution, Equity Bank and M-Changa, a mobile fund-raising app.
“The collaboration of these partners is key to the success of the 4Afrika Youth Device Program in making it practical and affordable for learners and educators. We are excited to have been able to share our experience and learnings during the roundtable, and look forward to participating in the growth of e-learning on the continent,” says Otieno.
The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum has brought over 500 high level participants from the business communities across Europe and Africa and is happening back-to-back with the 4th Africa-EU Heads of State Summit in Brussels, Belgium.