How Technology can Improve Education for the World’s Poorest

Economic growth in any sector is supposed to be an advantage for a population, especially because it often means job creation. Technology makes it possible to improve operations, output, and income. However, these changes tend to leave the poor behind because they are excluded from the use and benefits of the technologies that drive these changes.

Poverty cannot only be seen as a lack of sufficient income, especially when there may be income-earning opportunities that are difficult to access because those affected don’t have the requisite skills. Therefore, to create opportunities for these people who do not have the capacity to take advantage of them, work needs to be done on education, and this education must be tailored to not just local contexts, but also global demand.

Introducing Exponential Technologies

Exponential technologies are exponential because they grow at a rate that aligns with or even surpasses Moore’s law; their power or speed doubles yearly while the cost of the technology reduces by half. They are characterized by relevance, near-immediate impact, scalability, durability, and their ability to shape humanity. These technologies include cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, gene therapy, and 31 others. However, considering the needs and capacities of countries where the bottom billion are located, this paper focuses on four of these technologies which are best-fit; the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data.

These technologies have various applications in the critical areas of poverty reduction, education and healthcare. These three are interrelated spheres which determine the quality of life an individual experiences, as well as their chances of experiencing a better quality than they are used to. IoT enables devices which can talk to each other for remote delivery of services; cloud computing makes IT infrastructure affordable for service providers and allows the storage of massive amounts of information and resources; big data makes it possible to transform the data collected from interactions with technology and people into actionable insights for improvement in these areas, andartificial intelligence replicates and can improve on human intelligence to automate and make different processes in service delivery more effective.

Exponential Technology Solutions for Education

IoT

The Internet of Educational Things (IoET) refers to the application of IoT in education contexts. The term was drawn from a study of the application of tablets in educating students in rural areas of Thailand. IoET involves a range of devices like mobile phones, tablets, computers, and computers. In poorer or developing areas, mobile phones and tablets are more popular because of access and cost. These devices make remote learning possible, by connecting students around the world to classes that they would not ordinarily be able to access without the technology. Mobile phones, because of penetration, ownership, portability, and info deliverability are important in delivering eLearning and remote learning.

Educational apps are being developed by different Edtech companies which are trying to create value by meeting the educational needs of the population they serve. Educational tasks like learning, taking attendance, and even parent-teacher interaction are possible on these apps. The data they also generate are valuable for policy in the educational sector.

Cloud Computing

The delivery of educational content is enabled by the ability to collect and store them on the cloud. The cloud expands access, saves cost (transport, physical materials, processes), secures data storage, scales up and down easily (matching traffic and saving resources), reach and flexibility for learners, and minimal hardware requirements (usable for most devices, even mobile, and no need for external storage devices).

Google Classroom and Coursera are two examples of how cloud technology can facilitate learning. The former allows for the creation of virtual classrooms where different aspects of learning can take place, by replicating classroom activities like lessons, tests, assignments, and interactions.

Coursera on the other hand demonstrates a slightly different but still important application of the cloud for education. It is the largest platform in the world for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and it offers different educational programs, courses, specializations, and even degrees, in partnership with instructors and educational institutions. Coursera, and other platforms like it make it possible for students anywhere in the world to learn almost anything. While its courses are paid for by those who want a certificate, it offers the option to audit courses, as well as financial aid, which is a waiver of the course fee that can be obtained through applications. It is one of many platforms that are making it possible for students to improve their education and learn new skills. Coursera uses AWS cloud services, which allows it to handle half a petabyte of traffic each month and deliver courses to over 21 million learners globally.

The cloud, therefore, makes it possible to store vast amounts of educational content and make it available to users anywhere in the world if they have internet access.

This is an excerpt from our Knowledge Paper — Exponential Technologies for the Bottom Billion. Want to have a full read? Click here.

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