In the quest to deliver relevant, sustainable and scalable solution so as to promote e-learning in rural Africa through Microsoft's Africa Initiatives, Microsoft co-chaired the EU-Africa Business Forum discussion on the role of Private-Public Partnerships in promoting e-learning across Africa.
The roundtable resulted in the proposal of an EU pan-African solution that will allow schools to have access to devices, connectivity, and e-learning services. The roundtable is one of the key side events at this year's EU-Africa Business Forum.
The discussion was jointly led by Microsoft's Africa Initiatives legal and corporate affairs director, Louis Otieno, alongside SES' VP for institutional relations, Christine Leurquin.
Speaking during the event Louis Otieno said, "The goal of the roundtable is to take away outcomes and solutions that will ultimately help Africa achieve the MDG's agenda for universal education by advocating for connectivity, access and services that are relevant and affordable. Access to capital remains a major obstacle for African businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in and deploy low-cost technologies."
The session gave participants the opportunity to discuss connectivity and affordability challenges in the roll-out of e-schools across the continent. With devices, connectivity and e-learning services identified as some of the key barriers in promoting universal access to education, the forum provided a platform to open up dialogue between European and African public and private actors on how to improve access to the internet, and its related services. Microsoft is already piloting three solar-powered TV white spaces trials on the continent as part of the 4Afrika Initiative. The pilots in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, aim to provide low-cost, broadband access to neighbouring schools and universities.
Specifically, participants addressed the need for infrastructure, resourcing and the related financing required to deploy education solutions. The creation of an enabling policy environment that promotes infrastructure development, access to dynamic spectrum, as well as online safety and cyber security will be critical to meeting this goal.
Last month, Microsoft partnered with Intel East Africa and the Kenya Private Schools Alliance, to launch the 4Afrika Youth Device Program, which provides a bundle of affordable devices, educational applications, online services, data plans and smart financing to Kenyan learning institutions. Other partners include Safaricom, Mitsumi Distribution, Equity Bank and M-Changa, a mobile fund-raising app.
"The collaboration of these partners is key to the success of the 4Afrika Youth Device Program in making it practical and affordable for learners and educators. We are excited to have been able to share our experience and learnings during the roundtable, and look forward to participating in the growth of e-learning on the continent," says Otieno.
The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum is taking place between March 31st and April 1st 2014, attracting over 500 high level participants from the business communities across Europe and Africa. The event is happening back-to-back with the 4th Africa-EU Heads of State Summit in Brussels, Belgium.