The following are the tools and techniques which will facilitate diffusion of technology in Africa as discussed in yesterday’s blog.
Internet Virtual Classroom (IVC)
This is a ‘classroom’ on the Internet where instructors and students interact via computers. Besides lecture notes, VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone, live-chats and online-conferencing are vital components of this classroom resources. The motivation is to create a virtual traditional classroom on the web and educate students separated by physical distance from the instructors. Many European and US universities use IVC to coordinate their satellite campuses and distance education programs. It offers to Africa a framework through which they can tap the pool of their experts in Diaspora, which increasingly prefer to live in the developed nations.
The Telepresence technologies, like the ones offered by Cisco and Digital Video Enterprises, would become one of the most important ways to connect students and instructors in developed nations and Africa. With a high-speed technology that provides high bandwidth, these technologies can help leverage the skills of experts in developed nations to advance technical education in Africa. It also offers a good platform to link citizens of developing nations in Diasporas to make contributions in their native nations. These citizens can live in their adopted nations while assisting their native ones. Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location other than their true location.
Telepresence offers some advantages in terms of virtual reality, which cannot be easily produced in IVC. Telepresence offers ‘live’ classroom despite the small latency and can be a very effective two-way communication between the experts in developed nation and students in Africa working in labs or classrooms. With it, direct supervision of experiments or homework is possible.
The availability of experts who can teach the students is not enough, the students must actually have to practically learn and design. Through this process, they will have improvements in skills, develop competence and can potentially graduate to establish small and medium enterprises which will help in the diffusion process. One way of realizing this practical exposure is to have a continental level fabrication service similar to MOSIS of USA, Europractice of Western Europe and CMC of Canada. With this progress, students will have the opportunity to design, fabricate and test their systems. This is one area African Union NEPAD can help to assist technical education in Africa. They can fund or subsidize these programs for African universities.
Enabling Environments for SME
Africa was able to diffuse information technology consumption through a business-center model where small and medium enterprises (SME) educated and trained clients for small fees. Governments must provide the enabling environments in the forms of electricity, telecommunication, and other infrastructures.
Open Design Academic Program
The big divide between the technical education in developing nations and developed ones will require a coordinated program to bridge it. We propose formation of Emerging Technology Academic Network in each African nation. This will offer the schools the platform to seek for discounts from CAD manufacturers, multi-platform foundries and efficiently share and collaborate on designkits and techfiles as the license owners provide them. This will become a hi-tech equivalent of open source software development, but within a national level. A coordinated continental program will only focus on fabrication, which is very expensive owing to the equipment requirement.
Education Package for Diffusion
Emerging technology is vast; accordingly, efforts must be made to develop the right format as African students are being engaged. There should be scholarships supported by NEPAD to send African students for trainings on these emerging technology areas.
In summary, the 21st century is a knowledge century and knowledge will rule modern man. A bottom-up creative technology programs are necessary in Africa towards sustainable transformations into knowledge economy, especially with Africa’s plan for a common currency with potentials of delivering larger market. Due to the high-specialized skills and capital-intensive nature of many new technologies, good technical education is a prerequisite for sustainable adoption and diffusion of technology across Africa. New applications like IVC and Telepresence could be vital along with a coordinated and planned academic network designed and implemented at both national and continental levels.
There is need for more economic, social and industrial coordination in the continent. Africa must reform various sectors in accordance with industry trends. Education, especially technical education, must be supported. Efforts must be geared in adapting modern technology as they offer to stimulate the integration dynamics by delivering knowledge products which are homogenous and hence can mitigate impacts of trade shocks across regions.