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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

E-learning set to support global renaissance, sustainable future

16th May 2012
E-learning Africa (eLA)

E-learning Africa (eLA) 2012 will take place on May 23-25 in Cotonou, Benin, and will feature 12 pre-conference workshops, about 60 sessions and over 300 speakers from Africa and beyond. eLA is the largest gathering of e-learning and information communication technology (ICT) supported education and training professionals in Africa, enabling participants to develop multinational and cross-industry contacts and partnerships and enhance their knowledge, expertise and abilities.

Registration and other details can be enquired from Tanzania Global Learning Agency (TaGLA) at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) in Dar es Salaam. Speaking about the agency’s role in the forthcoming continental conference recently, TaGLA Interim Executive Director Charles Senkondo said TaGLA would play a key role in the eLA board, sponsoring the conference through the Association of African Learning Centre (AADLC) including script review, linking videoconference sessions and exhibitions.

The conference is a must for anyone involved in ICT for development, education and training in Africa and also for those, who want to find out more about this ever-evolving field.

Focusing on e-learning and sustainability, this year’s conference will explore creative ways in which e-learning can support development and help build a sustainable future. The eLA 2012 call for papers saw an overwhelming response with over 380 proposals received from 70 countries.

Last year, a total of 1, 702 education and training practitioners, experts, researchers, newcomers and providers from 90 countries gathered during the three-day conference at the Mlimani City Conference Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which saw 83 per cent of the participants from African countries.

The eLA 2011 conference featured the work of 322 speakers and chairpersons from 57 countries, addressing all forms of technology-enhanced learning and including a rich mix of themes, topics and a variety of session formats.

Participants from Europe comprised 11 per cent, the US 4 per cent and Asia 2 per cent. Sectoral representation was as follows: academic (education) 41 per cent, the public sector (government/international organisations) 29 per cent, corporate (business) 21 per cent and civil society (associations/NGOs) 9 percent.

Previous event locations and the number of participants show the following pattern: the eLA 2010 hosted by Zambia attracted 1, 778 participants, 2009 Senegal: 1,350 participants, 2008 Ghana: 1,502 participants, 2007 Kenya: 1,406 participants and 2006 Ethiopia: 832 participants. For the past six years, Zambia has so far hosted the largest number of participants followed by Tanzania last year.

“TaGLA will provide an opportunity to connect Tanzanians through videoconferences to selected sessions, inspire Tanzanians to access available conference materials online and engage them through the social media like Facebook, Twitter and TaGLA’s website during and after the conference.  It will also showcase during the AADLC and a special presentation during the eLA conference,” explained Senkondo.

This year’s keynote and debate speakers include Max Ahouêkê, Minister for Communication and Information and Communication Technologies, Benin, Dorcas Muthoni, Chief Executive Officer/Founder of OpenWorld Ltd, Kenya, and Theophilus Mlaki, Consultant, ICT for Development (ICT4D), Tanzania.

Ahouêkê is familiar with ICT issues faced by the Ministry of Communication and Information and Communication Technologies. He is an industrious and an ambitious man, who is open to dialogue and enjoys rising to a challenge. He is also known for his ability to harness resources to make a success of any kind of assignment. He is of the view that communication is a cross-functional sector, which knows no barriers. He is committed to ensuring a smooth transition to digital technology by 2015.

Mlaki holds a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from Loughborough University in UK. He works as a consultant in projects and programmes geared towards the utilisation of ICT for development especially rural development, a senior adviser in Tanzania for Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) of Canada, a 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.

Muthoni, an entrepreneur and computer scientist, is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of OpenWorld Ltd, a leading e-government and Business Technology Solutions firm in the Eastern Africa region. Muthoni is also a member of the council of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa – FOSSFA. She is also a co-founder of the regional organisation LinuxChix Africa, a technical capacity building initiative for women in the region.

For over five years, in Kenya and across other countries, LinuxChix activities have included organising annual Computing Career Conferences with a special emphasis on encouraging the uptake of computing careers amongst young women and high school girls. She seeks to see technology positively transforming the lives of the African
society, governments and enterprises.

“This year, in addition to Mlaki’s keynote address, there will be several presentations by Tanzanians and a special session jointly organised by AADLC, where TaGLA will be featured to share experiences on the use of technologies and for training and knowledge sharing in Africa and across the world,” said the TaGLA Interim Executive Director.

The conference comprises five themes. The first is about sustainable technologies and infrastructure. This theme focuses on the inclusion of sustainability as a factor in the design, production, appropriate use, distribution, maintenance and disposal of technologies and infrastructure.

The second theme is about e-learning and sustainability. This theme addresses concrete experience and grassroots practice in classrooms, learning institutions, farms, hospitals, clinics, villages and communities, both rural and urban. By focusing on e-learning and sustainability, eLA 2012 highlights the importance of developing sustainability lens when conducting e-learning work and explores creative ways in which e-learning can support a global renaissance.

The third theme is about sustainable change management – how e-learning can support the management of change, including rapid and disruptive change, and the role of e-learning policy, planning and partnerships in promoting sustainable change.

By now many African countries have some form of national e-learning policy that guides basic education.  Some countries have e-learning policies for their national higher education. In some countries schools and institutions have developed e-learning policies.

The fourth theme is about e-learning and sustainable resources. At the heart of sustainability challenge are the constraints we face with human, intellectual, educational and financial resources across the world.

There are dynamic shifts happening with educational resources. What sustainable learning platforms, content management systems and open education resources are emerging to advance sustainable education access, equity and quality?
The fifth theme is about sustainable economy, culture and society. Recent research suggests that investment in ICT is beginning to show positive effects on productivity and long-term macro-economic growth. Participants will be invited to discussion the experience and evidence of ICT integration and investment on economic growth in Africa and across the world.

These macro-economic effects are often a feature of the integration of digital technologies and eLearning within an enterprise, whether a local subsistence enterprise, a small or medium-sized enterprise, a multinational corporation, a public sector organisation or a non-governmental organisation (NGO).  How has e-learning enabled improved performance and growth within these sectors? How sustainable is such growth proving to be?

Two of the global challenges to reach the education for all goals by 2015 are focused on expanding access to quality learning for children. This year, eLA 2012 presents research on whether mobile phones can play an enabling role in expanding access to learning opportunities and improving the quality of children’s learning experiences at primary school level and in early childhood development. This topic is closely linked to the effects that digital technologies are having on the sustainability of local culture and cultural change.

There seems to be a stronger focus on the value of adult and youth literacy in the development of sustainable rural communities. Human resource capacity constraints remain one of the most formidable challenges to effective service delivery across many sectors in Africa. Achieving successful learning outcomes is strongly dependent on changing the attitudes, behaviour and practice of teachers in facilitating learning and delivering curricula.

Thus, eLA 2012 shows that, although there are clear advances in mobile learning, as well as early signs of cloud computing and one to one computing models, technology supported learning continues in various other forms in under-resourced conditions.

Meeting the networking needs of the pan-African e-learning and distance education sector, the annual eLA conference is a key networking venue for practitioners and professionals from Africa and all over the world.

TaGLA is there to ensure Tanzanians participate fully in this forthcoming conference and benefit from it by linking them through a videoconference in Dar es Salaam and envisages seeing more Tanzanians become acquainted with e-learning and use it to bring about social development.

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