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Tanzanians to Follow Education Conference Through Social Media
Source: Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)
Source Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Created: Feb 05, 2013

The 8th eLearning Africa conference (eLearning Africa 2013) will this year be hosted by Namibia's Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Ministry of information communication technology (ICT) from May 29-31.

The conference will be held in Windhoek, Namibia. In 2011, it was hosted by Tanzania. This year's international event will focus on tradition, change and innovation to show how new technologies combined with a pioneering spirit to improve lives are already changing the way people learn, work, and play.

Tanzania Global Learning Agency (Ta- GLA) is one of the organizers of the conference and as it did in previous years, it will link Tanzanians to important sessions of the conference through technologies. The following are some of the key questions to guide discussions at eLearning Africa 2013: How are African youth shaping their identities and navigating different learning spaces with these technologies? Are new technologies fundamentally disruptive to tradition or do they open up space for the digitisation of tradition?

How is innovation in Africa shaping the continent's learning landscape? Over 1,500 decision-makers and practitioners from the education, business and government sectors, with 80 per cent coming from Africa are expected to attend the international conference. A similar event was last year held in Cotonou, Benin, from May 23-25. It provided an opportunity for Tanzanians and other participants to explore and get exposure to best available educational technologies and practices in the world and a platform to profile the country worldwide.

A total of 300 speakers and chairpersons from 50 countries addressed all forms of technology-enhanced learning, including a rich mix of themes, topics and a variety of sessions. Tanzania Global Learning Agency (TaGLA) provided an opportunity in last year's event as it will do this year, to connect Tanzanians through video conferences to selected sessions, inspire Tanzanians to access available conference materials online and engage them through the social media like facebook, twitter and Ta- GLA's website during and after the conference.

More details on this could be sought from Ta- GLA offices in Dar es Salaam. TaGLA Interim Executive Director and Association of African Distance Learning Centre (AADLC) Secretary-General Charles Senkondo was a member of the editorial board of the eLearning Africa 2012 Report, which reflects on perspectives of e-learning professionals and a range of other stakeholders across 41 different countries on the continent.

The eLearning Africa 2012 Report's key findings show that the number one factor constraining the African e-learning sector is lack of bandwidth, the top consideration for African organisations is access to appropriate content, the most important change agent is the government and the top motivation for using information communication technology (ICT) is to improve the quality of teaching. It was also found that 48 per cent of Africans use mobile phones in education, 36 per cent use shared resource computing in education and 74 per cent use ICT for classroom teaching and learning.

The report is a collaborative endeavour to enrich discussions on ICT-enhanced learning and training in Africa. It seeks to inform and inspire, providing thought leadership and shaping policy and practice across the continent. The report says that Africa has two faces: one of rising wealth and optimism, the other of unspeakable poverty and degradation. On the positive side, Africa experiences major changes: innovation, entrepreneurship and a lively, inspiring energy prevails.

Economic growth rates have been increasing amidst a global recession and the rate of foreign investment has soared tenfold in the past decade. There are also more children in primary schools than ever before -- more girls are going to school, fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday due to improved health services and more women who are literate. The World Bank projects growth of more than 5 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 and 2013.

On the negative side, this dynamism co-exists with endemic crises in social service delivery, debilitating poverty, corruption, wars and piracy. "Across sub-Saharan Africa around 10 million children drop out of primary school each year and the average 5-yearold is not in school. More than 300 million people do not have access to clean water and only 36 per cent of the population have adequate sanitation.

Of every 1,000 African children, 118 will die before the age of five. Lower rainfall levels, poor distribution and families displaced due to conflict have left an estimated 13 to 15 million people across Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania with minimal food security (World Bank, 2012)... according to the 2010 Corruption Perception Index, Africa is considered to be the most corrupt region in the world (Transparency International, 2011)," reads part of the report.

Speaking on eLearning Africa 2012, Senkondo said TaGLA was involved in last year's international conference in many ways. "In 2011, TaGLA played a key role as a secretariat to the national organising committee and hosted key parallel sessions during the international conference at TaGLA. This year (2012)'s presentation by TaGLA will be made through a special AADLC/GDLN session. Theophilus Mlaki, who is ICT consultant and national coordinator of Swedish Programme for ICT for Developing Countries (SPIDER) and chairman of the Board of the Dar es Salaam ICT Incubator supported by the World Bank under the InfoDev Programme, has been an active player in ICT and an advocate of using technologies for development, including what TaGLA is doing," he said.

He noted that in addition to Mlaki's key note address, there were several presentations by Tanzanians and a special session jointly organised by AADLC, where TaGLA shared experiences on the use of technologies for training and knowledge sharing in Africa and across the world. He explained that eLearning Africa 2012 was an electronic learning forum using various types of technology supported learning including radio, television, internet, satellite transmission and the most recent-emerging mobile technologies.

"It is through such technologies that knowledge can be captured, stored and disseminated efficiently. Through engagement of ICT tools, Tanzanians are able to capture the vast knowledge existing in villages, towns, colleges and universities in form of documentaries, cultural events, various internet tools disseminated instantly or stored for future use. The challenge is on the limitation that exists on urban-rural diversity of technological availability and affordability.

However, the emergence of mobile, solar and other alternative technologies presents a great opportunity that will see an exponential growth of knowledge accumulation and thereafter its dissemination using technologies, which further e-learning in Tanzania," he said. Previous eLearning Africa conferences' locations and numbers of participants: 2012, Benin: 1.483 participants, 2011, Tanzania: 1.702 participants, 2010, Zambia: 1.778 participants, 2009, Senegal: 1.350 participants, 2008, Ghana: 1.502 participants, 2007 Kenya: 1.406 participants and 2006, Ethiopia: 832 participants.

Geographical representation of eLearning Africa 2012 was as follows: Africa 89 per cent, Europe 6 per cent, US 3 per cent and Asia 2 per cent. Sectoral representation was as follows: academics 42 per cent, corporate 27 per cent, the public sector (government / international organisations) 25 per cent and civil society organisations 6 per cent. It is expected that, this year's international event will focus on pressing issues facing the African continent and how those issues are going to shape or affect Africa and its people.

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