With school closures due to the Covid-19 global pandemic affecting more than 80 per cent of the student population, including 14.3 million in Kenya, digital learning is growing in the country. One of Africa’s leading technological hubs, Kenya has a mobile internet penetration of 83 per cent and rapidly growing, against 23 per cent for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, industry lobby GSMA figures show.
Ironically, not all Kenyan students have access to digital learning due to reasons such as income inequalities, limited or no access to electricity and other social and cultural factors. Moreover, not all learning institutions are adequately prepared to integrate digital learning tools.
It is encouraging to see the government using technology to facilitate learning with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development broadcasting daily lessons via the State radio, which is more accessible in rural areas and informal urban settlements.
The global e-learning market is growing robustly as more countries digitise their education systems and organisations adopt it to boost the knowledge, capacity and productivity of their teams. The industry is expected to turn over more than $300 billion (Sh30 trillion) yearly by 2025, compared to $190 billion in 2018, according to research firm Global Market Insights reports.
Kenya needs to stay ahead of the curve through investments in ICT infrastructure, digital literacy, digital content and upskilling of teachers and trainers to spur the growth of e-learning, leading to job creation and knowledge transfer.
E-learning will also help Kenya to improve its global competitiveness. It equips learners with timely knowledge, tools and resources needed to compete in a fast-changing technology-driven global economy. Organisations have rolled out collaborative platforms to enable e-learning and, with such efforts from the private sector and continued government support, e-learning could be quite normal.
The country stands to gain tremendously by fully digitising its educational system, now and even after the Covid-19 crisis. Decision-making at the policy-making level will improve significantly, thanks to data analytics. Kenyan learners will also be better equipped to transition into the modern workforce, where familiarity with digital tools is increasingly becoming a key competency that recruiters assess when choosing who to hire or retain.
The switch to e-learning, whose main aim is to keep learners engaged as schools remain closed, thus provides the perfect opportunity to pilot exciting new technological ideas that will transform the country’s education sector and make it more prosperous. E-learning will also present companies with an opportunity to improve productivity at a time when most people are working from home for extended periods for the first time.
It is encouraging that the cost of internet is coming down, thanks to initiatives by the government and some peers in the ICT sector. Electrification rates have improved to over 75 per cent, according to the World Bank, by far the highest in East Africa with Rwanda the closest at 34 per cent.
The digital gateway to East Africa, Kenya is connected to the global digital economy and has access to a global talent pool, hosting world-leading tech multinationals. There is no reason why e-learning cannot be adopted in Kenya at scale.
Mr Mutuma is a partner, A.M Communications Ltd. [email protected].