In global education, there is the constant talk of technology as “leveling the playing field.” The instant access to thousands of resources and relatively cheap costs are often cited by NGOs, the private sector and governments as reasons why technology could be the game changer for developing countries. Kenya, already East Africa’s largest economy and as part of its efforts to become a middle income country by 2030, is fast becoming an edtech hub. Innovators and startups in Nairobi, its bustling capital city, are developing apps and technologies to ensure that Kenya’s students are not left behind their counterparts in the West. To date, startups have created apps that wirelessly charges tablets (to resolve the energy issue) and digitizing reading content to make it available to the masses.
One of the biggest issues facing Kenya (and most developing countries) is a shortage of teachers. In Kenya, there is one primary teacher for every 47 students. As a result, the edtech companies in Nairobi are putting teacher training at the forefront of their products. This also helps the companies gain new clients as educators are more likely to recommend their products to colleagues. The jury is still out on the impact of this movement. As we’ve seen with programs such as One Laptop Per Child, success (i.e. test scores) is not always forthcoming. As the companies in Kenya highlight, technology alone cannot teach students the skills and creative thinking ability for success in today’s world. Teacher training, access to technology (new and cutting edge ones), and proper metrics to track student progress through the years are all essentials in truly leveraging technology for students in developing countries.