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ICT for Development in Francophone Africa

Although there is undoubtedly a strong push to grow information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives for development in francophone Africa, the region is still somewhat lagging behind their English-speaking neighbors. The recognition of this lag is discussed by many Francophone bloggers and aggregated at the Franco Techno Gap blog.

The cause of the lag is unclear  but a few reasons are often proposed: 1) broadband internet was made available by governments of English speaking nations such as (South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt) first (fr). Consequently, cost of internet access is on average higher as further explained on l'atelier des medias (RFI) (fr). 2) Related to the previous reason: “English speaking countries seem to be doing better than the French speaking countries” as Miquel points out 3) The English language is still the default language globally when one discusses ICT.

In this post, current grass roots development projects in francophone Africa with an important ICT component will be discussed in further details:

Agriculture

The community blog of the Union des Femmes Rurales Ouest Africaines et du Tchad (UFROAT) ( Union of Rural Women in West Africa and Chad) describes the objectives of the association as follows (fr):

-Promouvoir les échanges entre femmes rurales au niveau national et sous régional,
-Promouvoir la participation et la représentation des femmes rurales dans les instances de décision,
- Promouvoir la commercialisation des produits des femmes rurales

-Promote the exchange between women in rural areas at the national and regional levels.
-Promote women participation and representation in the decision making process
-Promote the commercialization of products generated by rural women.

In the following video, Agnegue Enyo from Togo explains that thanks to a recent workshop on ICT, she learned how to create, format and submit activity reports about her project. She says she used to have to pay someone to scan all the paperwork, archive and send reports for her. Not anymore.

A similar project in Madagascar, Bekoto Paysans, aims to protect the rights of Malagasy farmers, highlights their daily activities and challenges (fr). It is spear headed by renown Malagasy singer Bekoto, a member of the folk group Mahaleo. Bekoto describes why Malagasy bees and the honey they produce have unique properties and in danger of becoming extinct (fr):

L'abeille Malgache possède sa propre spécificité . C'est une espèce endémique considérée comme ” laborieuse et pacifique “. Il fut une époque où Madagascar exportait son miel en Europe et des “tonnes avaient été envoyés à l'extérieur de 1920 à 1940 [..] Depuis les symptômes du Varroa qui frappèrent l'apiculture dans la région d'Analamanga en 2007 , les mêmes signes de maladie avaient été aussi signalés sur la côte Est : ‘ Les essaims s'effondrèrent …les abeilles ne volaient plus et les ruches se vidaient mais des abeilles sauvages résistent

Malagasy bees possess unique properties. It is an endemic species that is described as ” hard working and peaceful”. Madagascar use to export tons of honey to Europe from the 1920′s to the 40s [..] Since then, signs that Varroa disease have plagued the region of Analamanga in 2007, and then on the East coast. Swarms are disappearing, bees were not seen as much anymore and hives are empty except for wild bees.

Education

Djénéba Traoré develops the challenges of integrating ICT with education in sub Saharan Africa in five countries (Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and Senegal). He argues the following (fr):

il ne s'agit plus aujourd'hui de prouver que l'intégration des` TIC peut contribuer à l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation en Afrique mais de déterminer les voies et moyens pouvant pérenniser l'utilisation pédagogique des TIC à l'école, à toutes les écoles. Elle (l'etude) a aussi confirmé que la formation des enseignants aux nouvelles technologies n’est une priorité ni de l’école ni du gouvernement
et que l’utilisation pédagogique des TIC tant par les enseignants que par les élèves reste
faible en Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre.

It is not about proving that integrating ICT into the school curriculum contributes to better quality of education in Africa anymore but to identify the means and ways to sustain the use of ICT at school, every schools. It ( the study) also confirms that training teachers in new media is not a priority for either schools or governments and that the use of ICT at school remains minimal in west and central Africa.

Camedevelop further details Traoré’ s assessment in the case of Cameroon. He points to the fact that l'école Normale supérieure de Yaoundé has stil not completed the training of experts in this field resulting in lack of teachers, lack of electricity in rural areas and the cumbersome process to get computers into schools as the main causes for the delay in adopting ICT at school (fr).

Boukary Konaté offers more optimistic news on ICT and education in Mali. Konaté attended a workshop on ICT in Bamako (Mali) dedicated to school teachers . The following video shows the substantial interest shown for mastering information technology (fr):

Konaté also describes how young college graduates learned more about magnetic dipoles using a simple Google search (fr). The students also mentioned an additional advantage of adopting ICT tools was the ability to share information with all classmates at once and organizing group meetings easily, thus reducing the costs of calling each other.

The effort by French speaking countries to integrate ICT into development projects  is undeniable and not limited to the themes discussed above. However, ICT development faces the same issue as  other development themes when it comes to scaling up the promising first steps. Sustainability and homogeneous development are hard to achieve when infrastructure are still so unequally distributed, especially between urban and rural areas.

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