Education Technology in Nigeria – Why staying on the cutting edge will make you bleed – By Chizaram Ucheaga
I read an interesting article recently. It was titled “How tech-adapted classrooms answer the future of work question” https://techcabal.com/2019/11/21/how-tech-adapted-classrooms-answer-the-future-of-work-question/. You don’t need to read the whole thing though. I will give you the gist about what caught my attention. The section reads “State governments will not do it alone, try as they may. Investments in education technology require commitments by the federal government to upgrade power and telecommunications infrastructure to global standards. With a national grid that collapses frequently and regulatory challenges that encumber innovation in internet access, all the best intentions by private and state education actors will be regularly undercut.”
Power and telecommunications infrastructure are areas that one needs to consider when developing education technology solutions. Among our team at Mavis Computel (http://maviseducation.com/), we have four members with degrees in Electrical and Electronics Engineering (with specialization in telecommunications). We also have domain expertise in advanced software development – amongst other things. When we set out to fix the challenges in basic education in Nigeria (and eventually across Africa), we knew (through the Lord’s leading and from our background) that fancy tablet/smartphone and computer-based solutions just won’t work in Nigeria. They use a lot of power (smartphones and tablets ~= 10 – 20 Watts; laptops ~= 60 – 90 Watts), require the Internet to work (downloading lessons, etc.) and need the user (teachers and pupils) to be tech savvy to use them.
There’s a saying, “You don’t sell technology, you sell service.” Another saying in the tech world is that “If you stay on the cutting edge of technology, you will bleed.” These sayings ring true – especially in a country like Nigeria. Any education technology solution, or any business really, has to be locally relevant. That was our thinking that resulted in the Mavis Talking Books approach – a digital pen + paper solution. All the user needs to do is turn on the Mavis Pen and tap on the pages of the book – everything works offline (no Internet required). The “navigation” is just turning the pages of the book. (https://youtu.be/Hl0TB8MfjJ0) The user doesn’t need to be tech savvy or literate. Anyone can learn to use it in less than 5 minutes. It is also a low-power device – uses about 2.5Watts (over 4x less power than a tablet/smartphone and 24x less power than a laptop). That is why we can easily power it with small, portable solar kits when do deployments in rural areas. By solving the power and telecommunications infrastructure challenges early on when designing our education technology solution (#MavisTalkingBooks) through the Lord’s leading, we have seen impressive adoption by many users – development partners, governments, NGOs, the military, schools, individuals, etc.
So. What next? When people ask you (our informed reader/partner), “This Talking Book thing is nice o, but why didn’t they do it as an app for a tablet/smartphone?”, I believe you’re better equipped to answer their question. One more thing, when last did you pay for an app on your smartphone/tablet? Well, that’s the subject of another post (Unit Economics of the #MavisTalkingBooks versus smartphone/tablet solutions). See you next time.
Need help designing an impactful education intervention for your NGO or as your corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, feel free to email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.