Africa Can Leapfrog Educational Development

It is a tired, old myth that developing nations require decades to catch up to the West. Nowhere is this pernicious myth more true than in Africa, a continent that has leapfrogged nearly a century of land line telephone technology, skipping right to cellular systems. Reflecting on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where leaders from 50 African countries convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss joint-investment in the next generation, it’s time to ask if the same leapfrogging can be done in education. We think the answer is yes. Consider the following innovations:

  1. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are among the most disruptive tools in extending literacy and learning resources worldwide. MOOCs still have room for improvement, but further investment in this capability will provide unprecedented access to educational resources. Because they are designed to provide large-scale access to education, they are inherently scalable.
  1. Access to technology can also increase through programs like One Laptop Per Child, which has already provided 2.4 million children and teachers with XO laptops. These types of programs tie together technology and real-time access to education resources. Further investment will increase these programs’ reach and provide more children—especially those in rural and underdeveloped urban areas—with technology they need.
  1. Finally, investing in analytics and data technology can help tailor educational experiences to specific student needs, to provide them with what they need to know about their local economy and future employment opportunities. Using metrics-based curriculums can improve digital education and in-classroom experiences by taking into account applicable trends and patterns.

Technology on its own is not a cure-all. But children who have access to it? Our bet is on them.