Originally published in: Grimus, M. & Ebner, M. (2013). M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about. In
Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
(pp. 2028-2033).Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Perspectives of Mobile Phone Usage for Education in SSA
Using mobile devices to enhance the learning process as well as the learning outcomes is one of the commonrecommendations to approach the EFA and Millennium Goals. The cell-phone has been argued to be an appropriatedevice for educational delivery in the developing world; mobile learning methods hold great promise for both -formal and informal learning.‘m-learning has the potential to transform the face of education inAfrica’. (Motlik,2008) It is the information and communication technology of the masses due to the fact that amongst the youth of South Africa more than 90% own a mobile phone. Other technology options that might deliver learning are practically non-existent in SSA ‘The cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development’(Sachs, 2009). Learners must be able to gain knowledge whenever and wherever they want to and mobile learningtakes place when learners are motivated. “Learning can unfold in a variety of ways: people can use mobile devicesto access educational resources, connect with others, and create content, both inside and outside classrooms”(PGML 2012, p.2)Traxler draws attention to the contrast of ‘the near-universal ownership and access to simple mobile phones,comprehensive, energetic and competitive mobile networks and poor infrastructure, including unstable mainselectricity and poor broadband connectivity...’ that there is not
single point of view on learning and education.We have also to think on different impacts on communities, informal learning, mother tongues and indigenousknowledge (Traxler, 2011).
Impact of General Issues
After studying a number of different scientific publications and reports the following categories can be carried out.Each research work was put into exactly one category to prepare a short overview about the main issues.
Mobile Networks and Subscribers in SSA
The first category is about the infrastructure. Publications are pointing to an occurring dynamism in emergingeconomies, where infrastructure largely didn't exist, especially outside urban centers, which is different from what people may find in Europe and North America (Trucano, 2012b).Over the past ten years, the number of mobile connections in Africa has grown an average of 30% per year (GSMA2011). In Africa at the moment there live more users of mobile phones than in the USA. It has become a big business for mobile network operators (MNOs), who expect a billion subscribers in Africa in the nearest future.Subscribers might also represent a market for educational content, which forces interest in using mobiles to supportand deliver learning in Africa amongst a wider world of agencies, corporate and ministries (Traxler, 2011). Lack of access to electricity has been overcome by many Africans, who charge their phones using generators available inlocal shops as well as solar panels and car batteries.Fierce competition in SSA has driven down prices and increased penetration
Operators have reduced their prices onan average of 18% between 2010 and 2011, making mobile connectivity more broadly affordable to the masses.96% of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services, however the uptake of data services is increasing rapidly.Internet access has been significantly boosted by improved mobile coverage and the launch of GPRS, EDGE and 3Gtechnologies (GSMA 2011).The increasing availability of network access means that the growing capabilities of mobiles are available to moreand more students in even more locations. In SSA it is common to own multiple SIM cards and swap them in andout of their phones as necessary to take advantage of favorable in-network and off-peak pricing structures.In opposite barriers are still the lack of electricity, illiteracy, language, privacy issues, gender, and concerns aboutsecurity (e.g. phone theft).
Policies and Strategies in an Increasing Digital Age
The second category is deadline with policies and strategies. Especially education has become one of the biggest public enterprises in many countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), where the rate of population growth is higher than that of rate of educated teachers or distributed educational resources.
In the light of the discussions about 21
century skills emphasis is laid on and can be figured out in national strategies and curricula, highlighting the role of digital skills and the role of ICT in learning and teaching.