learning landscapes in southern africa

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Non-use of Learning Technologies in Africa: Is it lack of the technology or attitudes towards technology?

Maideyi Meck, Department of Geology, University of Zimbabwe
 
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One of the reasons that have been forwarded as affecting development in African countries is lack of access to learning technologies. This has also been observed to have multiple effects on the African continent. It is a fact that the majority of Africans are not using learning technologies. This is a source of worry in view of the fact that these technologies can be a major facilitator to the resolution of major socio-economic problems of the region such as energy, accounting, and environment, among others which are currently rampart in the continent. ANSTI editorial 2005 has noted that the weakness in the technological capability of African countries is one of the factors affecting their ability to harness their abundant natural resources for socio-economic development. Thus in a way all the effort/ strive for capacity building in graduate training and research currently going on may not produce fruitful results if there is no technological capability.

The factors hampering use of learning technologies in Africa may have been discussed on different forums but this paper sets up to explore the contribution of unavailability of technology against the contribution of attitudes. The paper explores the reasons behind non-use of learning technologies in the context of these factors. The question is how much non-use is attributable to lack of the technology and how much to attitudes towards the use of learning technology.

The paper summarizes the known learning technologies available worldwide, the technologies available to most African institutes, how accessible the technologies are and evaluates how these technologies are being used. The appropriateness of the technology to the African context, the availability of human resources required to operate and maintain the technology are also discussed. African tertiary education institutes (in particular Science and Technology training and research institutions in Africa) are used for the analysis. Challenges and opportunities are evaluated in terms of problems associated with harnessing the technology and areas where learning technological advances can be taken advantage of. These include areas such as the World Bank-supported African Virtual University and the various regional and European scientific networks. These are used in evaluating accessibility and availability and use of learning technologies.

Finally the paper tries to answer the question of whether there is a lack of technology in Africa or whether the technology is inaccessible or whether there is a problem of attitudes to technologies that affects our response to learning technology and manifests itself as lack of access to technology.