Much has been written about the gender gap in mobile phone usage, specifically on why women are less likely to have access to this technology than men; why women are less likely to be technically literate than men; and why women are less likely to be aware of the many potential benefits of a mobile phone. We recognize that there is a gender gap, as high as 38 percent in South Asia. Within the development community, there is no disagreement that this digital gender divide needs to be addressed in order to drive women’s economic empowerment and ensure a more equitable future. However, there are varying points of view on how to close this gap.
Technology improves early grade reading in Rwanda by connecting teachers, mentors and education partnersAn Interview with
Chantal Uwiragiye, Literacy Specialist, FHI 360
To support ongoing efforts to improve education in Rwanda, the Mentorship Community of Practice project launched in 2013. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by FHI 360, this project developed an online community of practice that promotes peer learning and sharing of resources; provides access to education resources through an e-library; and helps mentors get support from each other, the Rwanda Education Board and other education programs.
As a result of the project’s success, USAID decided to expand access to teachers in the Rwanda Education Board’s school-based mentor initiative and to focus on early grade reading in a new program called the Teachers Community of Practice (TCOP), which will be introduced as part of USAID’s Early Grade Reading project launch in February 2017.
Literacy expert Chantal Uwiragiye talks about the program’s innovations, successes and key learnings.
Hellen Mary Akiror’s livelihood relies on the right amount of rainfall coming at the right time.
A farmer in Uganda’s Soroti district, Hellen lives with her husband and seven children. Growing millet, groundnuts, sorghum, cassava and potatoes on her four acres, she is dependent on rain-fed agriculture for her survival. Yet, she said, “Rainfall comes at the wrong time, in huge quantities, and stops when we need it most.”
Hellen’s story is all too common. In 2014, I met Mukasa, an elderly Ugandan farmer grappling with the fact that his village was facing unpredictable rainfall and temperatures higher than any in living memory. At the same focus group discussion where I met Mukasa, I also met Father Philippe, the pastor of Mukasa’s parish. Father Philippe said, “We have sinned and the lack of rain and excess heat are the wrath of God.” Another parish member said, “We destroyed the trees and we are facing the consequences.”
While the villagers’ explanations vary, all agree on one point — rainfall in the country is becoming scarce and unpredictable, and extreme heat is increasing in intensity and frequency. During the 80 years between 1911 and 1990, only eight droughts occurred, while in the 10 years between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced seven droughts. As in other sub-Saharan countries, higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods in Uganda diminish food security, decrease the quantity and quality of water, and deteriorate natural resources.
The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change.
This week CHAI won the UNFCCC 2015 Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities Award for innovative and transformative solutions addressing climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.
Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.
One effective way of improving the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries is to invest in information and communications technology (ICT).
Providing schools with internet access and computer hardware opens doors to an abundance of information that teachers and students can use to make lessons more relevant and effective. Teachers can use online portals to connect with each other and to share lesson plans and best practices, while students can use ICT to access online libraries and to master new technologies.
Many of FHI 360’s education projects use ICT as a tool to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, encourage community participation in education and increase school access. Bringing ICT to middle school classrooms in Senegal was a critical part of FHI 360’s Education de Base project. This project, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and reached more than 93,000 students and 4,500 teachers in Senegal, won the Innovating Secondary Education Skills Enhancement Prize from the group Results for Development. The prize was awarded, in large part, because of its effective use of ICT.
Recently, representatives from development organizations, government agencies, private technology companies and the media gathered to share and learn at the 5th Annual Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) Conference held by Catholic Relief Services in Accra, Ghana. The conference — which was co-sponsored by FHI 360 through the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — focused on “Mobile Services that Empower Vulnerable Communities.” While mobile services have been used for a while in the development world, the meeting showcased some exciting new ideas and provided those in attendance with the opportunity to learn about what other organizations are doing and where ICT4D is headed. Below are some of the noteworthy presentations.
Knowledge+ App: Agricultural information through mobile phones
The Knowledge+ App, a new agricultural information application scheduled for release this summer from the Ghanaian firm Esoko, will enable farmers and extension workers to receive agricultural tips and watch extension videos over their mobile phones. Until recently, development organizations had to send staff and computers to communities to share multimedia content. Now, they can share content directly, greatly increasing reach and lowering costs. The Knowledge+ App takes advantage of the proliferation of smartphones and better mobile access to target rural populations.
Kosovo teachers Shkëndije Nagavci and Laura Pruthi were among 24 educators recognized for their innovative use of education technology at this year’s Microsoft Partners in Learning (PiL) European Forum held March 19-22 in Lisbon, Portugal. The teachers joined more than 250 educators from 40 European countries to showcase their work and exchange ideas about the effective use of technology to enhance 21st century teaching and learning. With this honor, Nagavci and Pruthi have earned the opportunity to join colleagues from around the world in the Global PiL Forum to be held this November in Athens, Greece.
The pair qualified for the European Forum by placing first in a national competition organized by USAID’s Basic Education Program (BEP), a project managed by FHI 360, Microsoft Partners in Learning and Kosovo’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The competition is part of BEP’s efforts to encourage educators to integrate technology in to teaching and learning practices. According to Arsim Ilazi, BEP Education Technology Coordinator, a number of information sessions were held across Kosovo encouraging teachers to participate.
“One of BEP’s primary goals is to deliver quality professional development across a number of strategic content areas,” Ilazi said. “Effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning is embedded across each of our accredited professional development courses, even the English language course. Kosovo teachers were eager to participate in this competition and appreciated the opportunity presented by Microsoft to demonstrate their knowledge and ideas in a broader forum.”
Nagavci and Pruthi’s project, “Fractions Everywhere,” enlisted a range of engaging activities designed to provide a better understanding of a mathematical concept many students find challenging to master. Ilazi added that in developing their approach the teachers noticed measurable improvement in their students’ mathematical knowledge and skills. “Besides that, they also found that mathematics can be fun!”
“Dr. Keith Prenton, BEP Chief of Party added, “Developing teacher capacity in the effective use of technology is one of the key areas identified by USAID and the Government of Kosovo to strengthen education reform efforts in Kosovo. BEP’s Professional Development activities, together with its components focused on School Management and Assessment will provide Kosovo with many of the critical elements needed to build a 21st century education system.” Prenton is no stranger to modernizing education systems in the Balkan region. Prior to assuming the lead at BEP, he managed a similar large-scale transformation effort for FHI 360 in Macedonia, Kosovo’s southern neighbor. In fact, after a similar success at last year’s PiL European Forum, a team of Macedonian teachers qualified for the PiL Global Forum held in Washington, DC last November and placed second in the “Educator’s Choice” category. “We invited the Macedonian team to the national competition here in Kosovo this year. Their success on the European and global stage served as a great source of inspiration for the teachers here in Kosovo.”