“Have you wondered how many people will spend 24.44% of their income on 1G of data? Your guess is as good as mine.”
In 2016, the United Nations declared internet access a human right, yet in Africa, in 2023, there remains a significant gap in connectivity. Despite the majority of the world having access to online educational resources, many nations in the Global South struggle with high costs and poor infrastructure, restricting access to education.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) published research in 2021 that showed how expensive the internet is in Africa in comparison to average country incomes. According to the findings of that study, the Central African Republic was the most expensive, with 1 GB of data costing the equivalent of 24.44% of the average income. The other five worst countries were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (20.67%), Togo (15.10%), Chad (14.66%), and Malawi at 14.01%.
The pandemic has further highlighted this issue, as teachers and students are now relying on the internet for instruction. In Africa, internet penetration is at 43%, but usage is low. The gap in connectivity must be closed. But how?
The Kiwx4Schools Program is an initiative organized by Open Foundation West Africa, born out of a pilot project started in 2015 by Felix Nartey at a high school in Wa. Through community-centered approach, the program aims to provide sustainable access to offline educational resources in Ghanaian schools, particularly in regions where internet access is limited or expensive.
The program uses a mini-fund opportunity to reach schools in diverse regions and provide meaningful engagement and skill-building opportunities to community volunteers. It has been running for two years, training about 30 community volunteers, and focusing on Senior High Schools (SHS) as they are more likely to have computer laboratories. Students learn about digital citizenship, and how to navigate the Kiwix software to access resources such as TED conferences, PhET simulations, Wikipedia and the Wiktionary, etc.
What are the learnings?
Through this program, OFWA encountered diverse kinds of challenges – some could be dealt with, some are externalities that will need to be taken into account in future iterations:
- Lack of infrastructure and limitations on computer use: a potential solution could be the use of hotspots, to allow for more people to be able to access content simultaneously;
- Difficulty to obtain local content;
- Challenges in tracking usage, coordinating with volunteers and schools, and implementing the program due to limited resources and lack of acceptance at certain schools.
At the recent Wiki Indaba 2022 conference in Rwanda, OFWA ended up being approached by many community members from other African regions who expressed interest in learning about the project because they saw the need for it. As a consequence OFWA will launch the Offline Kiwix4Schools Regional Mentorship program.
Interested to be a supporting partner for this project? Submit your application here.
Photo credit: CC-by-SA Abdulai Ibrahim