The Partnership for
Higher Education in Africa

ICT Applications

ICT-enabled principles and practices

Beware of becoming irrelevant tinkerers with technology.

“Embarking on ICT-mediated education inherently risky affair. It can be doomed if it is perceived and implemented as traditional residential education which is technologically mediated...Institutions must guard against becoming so enthralled by technology that sight is lost that technology must be easily accessible and affordable to the various target audiences. This is a crucial consideration, especially in the context of Africa where the socio-economic circumstances of the majority of the population are such that inappropriate technology can exclude them from higher education.”

T.J. de Coning, "Embarking on ICT-enabled Learning: Lessons Learnt"

ICT-enabled learning is not about technology per se; moving from “talk n’chalk” to innovative use of technology requires a new approach to teaching and learning, both in a residential setting and for distance education (DE). In his paper and presentation, Tobie de Coning focused on lessons learned at the University of Stellenbosch on appropriate use of ICT for distance education.

The University of Stellenbosch established an E-learning program in 1997. Of the university's 24,000 students, 7,000 of them are enrolled in distance education programs. They never come to campus. All distance education at Stellenbosch is ICT enabled, but it is a mixed mode that uses more than one technological platform. Although interactive video is the main method of course delivery, CD-ROM and the Internet are also used. In addition, students without access to adequate ICT facilities can receive their materials in print form.

The university has decided that ICT should form the basis of both residential and off-campus programs. This decision was driven by two considerations. A well-educated citizenry, familiar with ICT, is essential if South Africa is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Together with this, universities from abroad were entering the higher education market in South Africa with ICT-intensive program, and eroding the dominant position of the country’s own universities and technikons. If students wanted "technology-enabled programs," the University of Stellenbosch wanted to peovide them. Thus, all academic programs began to use technology. The university's economics course, for example, now has only seven contact sessions (down from 20). The rest is student centered and relies on ICT. Thus, for the University of Stellenbosch, the distributed learning paradigm is no longer about physical distance. Distributed learning applies to both residential and distance; ICT is the glue that binds them together.

Developing ICT-enabled course modules was not without its vicissitudes. As is the case everywhere, not every lecturer was equally enthusiastic. The university therefore decided to provide both "intrinsic and extrinsic awards," within a context of rigorous evaluation. It put up seed capital for which academic departments can apply for program planning and development. Applications are judged in part on whether they are needs-driven and whether they are aligned with the mission and vision of the university. In addition, every program is assessed for financial viability.11 Staff receive help in using the technology, curriculum development, and evaluation. All content is owned by those who create it; there is a complicated formula for how profits are shared, which is found in the university's intellectual policy statement.12 When E-learning began in 1997, there were only two programs. Now all of Stellenbosch's faculties are involved.

What about other universities?
The experience of the University of Dar es Salaam

  • A feasibility study is carried out for each program interested in creating E-learning modules.
    • Academics receive payment for their work—for program development, for creation of content, and for evaluation. This payment is in addition to their salaries.
  • UDSM provides the capital costs, which must be repaid from any profits.
  • The university’s Office for Intellectual Capital is responsible for policy development and implementation. Academics working on E-learning activities receive a contract from UDSM.

The Stellenbosch experience with distributed learning can be summarized as follows:

  • Innovative and effective use of ICT requires a different approach to teaching and learning. Even so, it is not wise to wait until new course methodology is entirely in place because competition for students and tuition fees is fierce. Learning by doing should be considered a strategy.
  • DE students are not the same as residential students; distance education requires a different approach to the teaching and learning paradigm and sensitivity to the context in which DE students live.
  • Institutional red tape is the bane of every student’s life. DE students are not on campus; yet they need to handle administrative affairs easily and efficiently. A one-stop service portal can reduce red-tape induced frustration.
  • Adopt an integrated approach to the development of ICT-mediated courses in order to ensure standardization, appropriate training, and appropriate use of funds.
  • Although collaborating with private providers of distance education may seem like a good idea, there are pitfalls attached to these joint ventures, particularly when the philosophy and mission of your institution are not in accord with those of the private vendor.
  • Look for your comparative advantage rather than attempting to be all things to all people. "…Strategic logic dictates a niche approach as a means to sustainable strategic positioning, according to which specific target audiences are carefully selected…"
  • It is essential to establish which activities are necessary for your institution's ICT-mediated program, which ones are important, but not critical, which ones can safely be eliminated from consideration, and which ones should be added to enhance effectiveness. This "value-added chain" is a key instrument in strategic planning.
  • The dynamic of effective ICT utilization requires an awareness of global forces in the development of both content and technology. It also necessitates the need to establish a central unit, which is responsible for working with the institution as a whole, with faculties and departments, and with individual staff members.
  • Faculties, departments, and staff adopt ICT-mediated learning at different speeds. "Success breeds success." Skeptics can be won over if they see their colleagues using ICT effectively.
  • The application of ICT in the teaching and learning paradigm is appropriate for both residential and distance learning. Moreover, the definition of residential education will change as teaching and learning become virtual rather than classroom driven.

ICT-enabled learning
Pilot projects at African universities

The View from the United States
"...ironically, at the most knowledge-based entities of all—our colleges and universities—the pace of transformation has been relatively modest in key areas. Although research has in many ways been transformed by information technology, and it is increasingly used for student and faculty communication, other higher-education functions have remained more or less unchanged. Teaching for example, largely continues to follow a classroom-centered seat-based paradigm. "13

Several of the universities represented at the workshop are beginning to apply ICT for teaching and learning. This is the most complicated piece of the puzzle, for, as the Stellenbosch experience makes clear, it isn’t about “tinkering with technology.” It requires a new way of thinking about what constitutes education. As Derek Keats of the University of the Western Cape said in his presentation, the goal is to move from an instructivist paradigm, “the sage on stage,” to a learning-centered approach. Moreover, as the National Research Council (NRC) report makes clear, this is proving to be as difficult in the United States as it is on the continent.

Four presentations at the workshop focused on different aspects of ICT-enabled learning.14 The University of the Western Cape is pioneering the use of cutting edge software. The University of Namibia (UNAM) is collaborating with Walden University in the United States to train its staff on how to use technology appropriately. UNAM is also using video conferencing to reach satellite campuses and communities far from its main campus in Windhoek. Finally, Tufts University is collaborating with the University of Dar es Salaam and Makerere University to develop and teach a module in international relations.

University of the Western Cape

The University of the Western Cape The University of the Western Cape (UWC) was established in 1960 as a college for “coloured students.”15 In 1972 the university declared itself “non-racial,” and in 1983 it gained independence from direct political control. During the apartheid era UWC was doubly penalized: first because non-white universities routinely received proportionally less funding than did white institutions; and secondly because UWC was at the forefront of the liberation struggle, it was therefore a thorn in the side of the government. Today UWC considers itself in the vanguard within another context—using technology to transform pedagogy.

UWC is grappling with ICT development from two perspectives—experiments with open source software and with open content development. These activities are being undertaken within the context of ICT strategic planning, the university’s Teaching and Learning Technology Unit, and a new center in the computer sciences department. This center is responsible fora range of technology research initiatives, including projects "that bring cutting edge technologies to bear on teaching-and learning…"16

The university's first attempts to use the Internet for teaching and learning took place in 1995 when undergraduate students were provided with a computer room and 25 computers to access course materials on the botany Web server. In 1997 these materials and other Web content were linked together to create an integral learning package. The Internet Biology Education Project started at this time, and included the development of an online biology textbook and an "ecology tree."17 Other units within UWC using ICT intensively to date include the Faculty of Law and an Intercontinental Masters in Adult Learning and Global Change. This latter course was developed in collaboration with universities in Sweden, Canada, and Australia.

Open-source courseware at UWC

KEWL has many of the same features as do commercial courseware packages, but it is free and continues to evolve. You must register to receive a log-in name and password. After logging in, the KEWL introduction links you to numerous options including access to courses. Some instructors, such as those in the conservation evaluation course shown below, make more active use of KEWL than do others.

University of Namibia

Established in 1992, the University of Namibia has four campuses and nine centers spread across the country. (See map below.) One is located in the north-central region, where about 46 percent of the population lives. Inaugurated in 1998, the northern campus at Oshakati was created to provide educational opportunties for students in this region, which is still relatively disadvantaged compared to the rest of Namibia, foster economic development, and encourage community participation. Community involvement is ensured through the work of the Northern Campus Advisory Council, a community committee that is responsible for guiding the development of the whole campus. In additional, annual meetings to review progress bring together local people, university staff, and invited guests.

Lacking the resources to duplicate teaching staff, UNAM needed to find an effective way to offer courses to students on the Northern Campus. The solution was interactive video. UNAM took advantage of the country's good telecommunications infrastructure by purchasing and installing state-of-the-art video equipment on both the Windhoek and northern campus. Lecturers on the Windhoek campus can now teach students on both campuses simultaneously; the 800-kilometer distance between campuses is no longer an issue.

Since the establishment of interactive video on the northern campus, UNAM has installed systems elsewhere, including the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus in Ogongo, which is 50 kilometers from Oshakati and where crop sciences are taught. Teaching staff are able to remain on the campus where they work—either Neudamm or Ogongo—and provide instruction to the other campuses.

Although use of video conferencing has permitted the university to overcome many problems, pedagogical problems remain, and they are similar to those experienced elsewhere—establishing quality control methodologies, promoting "best practices,"moving teachers away from reliance on lecturing, etc. In addition, use of video has created a new set of headaches for UNAM: the university experiences ISDN errors; costs are very high ($2,800 a month plus maintenance); and bridging must be done via South Africa. UNAM is now investigating the possibility of moving from ISDN to IP, which would make the broadband connection for voice, data, and video more cost effective.

Because 60 percent of UNAM's students take courses by distance education, faculty needed a new set of skills to teach effectively in this environment. The UNAM-Walden University partnership was born out of this need. Negotiations and planning lasted about a year; the first project, a course called Teaching in the Online Environment, took place in 2001.

UNAM/Walden Partnership Principles

  • Missions of the partners complement one another.
  • Projects correspond with the nature and substance of the partners.
  • Projects further positive social change.
  • Projects capitalize on the respective and complementary strengths of the partners.
  • All partners benefit.

Facilitated by Walden University in the United States, the course was taught entirely online using Blackboard and lasted for twelve weeks. Seventeen staff from UNAM and the Namibia Polytechnic participated, but there was a fifty percent drop out rate because bandwidth problems resulted in frustratingly slow upload and download times. Course developers used ten measurable outcomes to measure success, ranging from demonstrating an understanding of basic elements of online courses to cognizance of emerging developments affecting online education.

An evaluation was conducted after the course. A large number of students found the technology overwhelming, especially those who were not familiar with the Internet. The terminology used by Walden as well as the course materials were very US-centric; in the future course content should have more African input. In addition, as indicated above, efforts were often frustrated by low bandwidth. Finally, some students were unwilling to comment online about the work of other people, which hampered true interactivity.

UNAM now hopes to work with Walden University on creating its own online training course, which would take into consideration the problems encountered in the first phase. Insufficient funds, however, are hampering UNAM's efforts.

Curriculum co-development with African universities

CCD in a nutshell
CCD bridges the barriers of distance and improves the quality of education in each home site. Knowledge receivers are also knowledge senders and vice-versa. The primary instructor is on the ground with the students. The Web site is used to enhance teaching.

The Curriculum Co-Development (CCD) project got its start in January 2001 when Tufts University, the University of Dar es Salaam, and Makerere University began to collaborate in the development of a metacourse organized around the theme of "Regionalism in Africa." Using Blackboard software as a platform, the universities interacted through two Web sites that connected their respective courses: Regionalism in African International Relations (Tufts), Regional Integration (UDSM), and International Relations (Makerere). The goals were to use the technology to rethink the pedagogy of international studies and to enhance the capacity to create new knowledge.

The project was hampered by large class size and poor infrastructure on the African campuses. At Makerere University, participate out of a total number of 3,000 students taking the course because there were so few computers in the faculty, and even those 25 students were confronted with problems resulting from broken computers. The university tried to compensate by a liberal computer lab access policy—it was open six days a week and until 10:00 pm, Monday-Friday.

Nevertheless, in spite of these problems, enthusiasm was infectious, and other lecturers realized the potential of using CCD techniques. Gabriel Jagwe-Wadda, a sociology instructor, created an E-learning site for his Population and Society class, for which 107 students registered. It was very simple: Word files, links to relevant Web sites, narrative texts, etc. There were no graphic images, no video, and no multimedia. His site had over 36,000 hits over the course of the semester.

Perhaps the splashiest achievement of the year was a virtual chat with Jendayi Frazer, President Bush's White House Advisor for Africa. It resulted from two African foreign policy debates on the UDSM and Makerere sites: one on collective security structures and one on the war against global terrorism.

Technical difficulties notwithstanding, the experiment has been a valuable learning experience and a success. Collaboration among all three institutions strengthened teaching and learning. Students and lecturers alike thought that they had learned valuable lessons in communication and critical thinking and analysis.

CCD at the University of Dar es Salaam

Photos by Pearl Robinson

Although many of the students were uncomfortable with computers at the beginning of the project. they were far more confident by the end of the year. The two female students on the right were practicing using email by sending a message to one of their lecturers, Datius Rweyemamu, who was on study leave at the University of Florida. The student directly above was relaxed and lucky to have access to a working computer—the PCs in the background were all broken. CCD speakers at the workshop emphasized that maintenance problems are not addressed sufficiently.

Who benefits?
The copyright dilemma

Copyright came up on numerous occasions during our discussions about the preparation and utilization of online materials. Does anyone own these course materials? If so, who? Who receives any profits that accrue to selling them? How can intellectual property rights be protected if they are placed on the Web? These intellectual property rights (IPR) difficulties are exacerbated by the fact that national IPR policies for electronic media do not exist uniformly across the continent; nor are there equivalent regulatory frameworks in place. This makes cooperation within Africa difficult and places African universities at a disadvantage when they establish "partnerships" with northern universities, for universities outside of Africa typically have well developed policies and offices to protect intellectual property rights.

Two approaches were brought to the table. The first is that these teaching materials are subject to copyright, in the same way that a textbook is protected. At Stellenbosch and Dar es Salaam, the university IPR office is responsible for multimedia materials. Formal contracts ensure that ownership and payment are agreed to in advance. But many universities do not have offices to deal with copyright. One way to deal with this problem is to restrict access to the sites to students registered for the course.

The University of the Western Cape is taking a different tack. UWC promotes the use of open source software and is a signatory to the Open Content Agreement on free and fair sharing of information, with attribution, of course.18

Working with what we have

Small solutions make a difference too.

"Sometimes we look for big solutions when small ones are in our grasp. In 1993 at Eudardo Mondlane University, we started an Internet-type thing, which was within our mandate. We had a 1,200 bps modem and a 286 computer. After three months we had 300 people connected to our system, using one telephone line. Our success was so great that we managed to push other developments in the country. One year later we had a 9.6 bps leased line. Those small pieces brought us attention. We should act on three levels: small, medium, and large. If we do well with the small things, we will be able to validate our mandate outside the universities.”

Venancio Massingue, Vice Rector, Eduardo Mondalane University

The vision is to develop the capacity to create African-centric materials and to enhance collaboration among African institutions. But what can we do with what we have? This question gave rise to a rich discussion, replete with examples:

  • In the first year of the CCD project at Makerere University, there was only one computer in the library for 25 students. This sorry circumstance didn't stop the students. They went to the Internet café and paid heavily to log on. Now there is a full computer lab, which is open six days a week. Excitement is so great that the Dean is trying to raise funds to build a larger lab.
  • The University of Jos doesn't have sufficient textbooks, but it has a fiber optic network with an Intranet. Staff have downloaded material from the Internet and put it on the Intranet. They are also trying to digitize course materials.
  • The University of Dar es Salaam needed to find a way to provide teaching staff with computers. UDSM purchased 300 PCs at a low cost and lent lecturers the money to buy them. The loans are repayable in 6-12 months.

By way of comparison

The international norm for the provision of computer facilities to students is about nine students to a computer. In some US universities, students are required to have their own laptops. This is true at the Tufts University School of Medicine, for example.

Criteria for evaluating and selecting electronic media

Working from the specific examples and projects that participants described, what are overall criteria for selecting software, whether it is courseware or library materials? This session was organized to take advantage of the experience gathered around the table to outline a criteria checklist.

Computer-assisted course development software

First of all, take into consideration the computers your users have available to them. Ask the following questions: What kind of hard disk capacity, RAM, and processor speed do they have? Do they have multimedia capacity? In addition, think about your server hardware. Is it sufficient to meet the needs of the software that will be installed on it?

Criteria for selecting software include the following considerations:

  • Does the software package have good training materials? Is there a good manual for teachers who want to develop an online course?
  • Content is only a small portion of learning; if content were everything then textbooks would be courses. It is essential to ask whether there are sufficient tools available in addition to content—flexible discussion forums, other interactive facilities, ability for students to work in groups, communication tools, and worksheets. Can you manage essays and other assignments online, etc.? Is the package suitable for the development of pragmatic learning/teaching strategies?
  • If you are purchasing a commercial package, what are the licensing arrangements?
  • Does the software permit importing and exporting files and data?
  • Does the package come with an HTML editor?
  • Are there "cultural quirks," as was discovered at UNAM?
  • Does the package also have student management systems?

Online Courses

Ahmed Bawa, Program Officer, The Ford Foundation
“Quality, human resources, and rewards are critically important components to distance education. As long as DE is at the edge of the university’s perspective, people don’t get involved. Quality must rest in the hands of the departments in the same way that it does for residential courses. African universities have a tremendous opportunity. Every university in the world wants to offer African studies, African political systems, traditional systems, and African languages. Who is better able to do this than we?”
  • The determination of quality rests with the lecturer choosing or building his/her course.
  • It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. An appropriate online course may have been developed elsewhere. The Open University in the UK and the Indira Ghandi National Open University were given as examples of institutions with good DE courses.
  • Producing courses is expensive, but can we establish consortial arrangements and take advantage of expertise at different institutions?

Selecting e-journals

Librarians have considerable expertise in selecting books and journals in print form, but are now confronted with the need to choose electronic media. It is no longer as simple as it used to be. Even the terms have changed, and a glossary of arcane terms that was distributed at the meeting will be found in Appendix Five.

At the University of the Western Cape, where Ellen Tise is University Librarian, there is an electronic resources committee in the library that meets monthly. It organizes trials of electronic resources, during which users complete evaluation forms. Based on costs and user feedback the library then makes subscription decisions. Tise believes that this process is important. As she said during the meeting: “An enormous amount of information is becoming available electronically. We need to change library processes in terms of our functions. We need to examine staff roles. In some cases, someone is appointed to manage electronic resources. Some librarians have not been able to manage the change properly.”

But decision-making can be complicated by the fact that many libraries receive free subscriptions and may not want to look their virtual gift horse in the mouth at the outset, but there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” and when donations end, subscription costs can mount up. The Coalition of South African Libraries (COSALC) has established detailed selection criteria, which are found in Appendix Six.

Major evaluation criteria that the group discussed are summarized below:

  • Is the content suitable to program needs? Selection committees are important; they need to involve all stakeholders.
  • Even if the initial subscription is free, there will still be costs involved. What are they? What are the licensing arrangements?
  • Journals need to be archived on site or on a remote computer. What are the arrangements for backfiles, particularly if you cancel your subscription?
  • Does the package come with access to the most current issue? How quickly are new issues made available?
  • Is the journal mounted electronically exactly as it appears in print, or are there links to other relevant databases?

Working assumptions and small groups

Testing assumptions

"I want to test a couple of assumptions with you. If this meeting is about the effective use of ICT, we need a verb. Is it about advancing, using this technology, or transforming? Why do we use these technologies? Why will we continue working together?”

Katharine Pearson, Representative, The Ford Foundation Office for Eastern Africa

We broke into groups several times, choosing topics that developed organically from presentations and discussion during plenary sessions. The small groups helped us hone in on what we considered important. On the second day, we teased out recurring themes and tested our assumptions on the importance of ICT and possible strategies. On the last day, we drew conclusions on the way forward. Because several topics were discussed several times during these sessions, this section is grouped by theme rather than chronologically. The sections on policy and bandwidth are far longer than the other small groups because we devoted so much attention to these overarching issues during the meeting—both in plenary and in breakout groups.

The group deliberated and agreed upon four assumptions:

  • Participants wanted to continue working together.
  • Participants represented a fount of expertise for further work on ICT at African universities.
  • Time and energy are required if the group is going to continue networking.
  • The Partnership is only one possible support mechanism for program activities.

We then put potential goals to the test and concluded that the goal is to advance, enhance, and transform institutions through the use of ICT.

Having reached consensus on goals, participants selected seven topics on which to work in depth in small groups. Each group was given the task of emerging with a possible action plan, once again taking into account that each participant would have to find support from funders, not necessarily the Partnership.

The group chose the topics below for consideration:

  • Policy
  • Bandwidth
  • E-Learning
  • Libraries
  • Training
  • Using ICT for research
  • Resource sharing and mapping

Four crosscutting issues were identified as relevant to each of the groups: government support, sustainability, the knowledge gap, and gender. We also recognized that libraries impact almost everywhere: on bandwidth, on the availability of research information, on training, etc. Libraries are sometimes left out of the discussion, but they should be at the forefront of ICT decision-making because of their importance to teaching, learning, and research.

Making a place at the table:
The role of universities in ICT policy setting

Where do African universities fit into the ICT scheme of things?

"To what extent will universities become the research and development wings of society? Heretofore universities have been users of ICT. Can they also become producers? We need to think seriously about repositioning universities within the information society. At international conferences we hear that universities are too poor; they don’t have the expertise. We have departments of computer science and information science. What are they doing?”

Aida Opoku-Mensah

The extent of university involvement in national-level policy-making runs the gamut—from Eduardo Mondlane University and Makerere University, which have been heavily involved in drafting their respective country's ICT national policies, to Nigeria, where government sets policy without input from the educational sector. We realized that this is a tricky topic; participants did not represent their universities, their countries, or their regions. They could speak only from their individual experiences.

Nevertheless, the group emerged with a set of common and practical principles:

  • Universities should put their own houses in order. Many universities begin to implement ICT without a policy. Universities should be encouraged to develop ICT policies, learning from the experience of others. They would then be better placed to attempt to influence their governments on national ICT policies and regulation.
  • ICT champions should make use of structures that already exist—the vice chancellor's forum or library associations, for example.
  • Universities are not always good at marketing themselves or ICT. They need to promote the visibility of ICT wherever possible. The UDSM library exhibit at the Tanzania Trade Fair was visible and successful; the presidents of Tanzania and Zanzibar both visited.
  • Make use of regional organizations, such as NEPAD, bearing in mind the limitations attached to each of them.
  • Most governments engage in stakeholder activities. How can universities capitalize on these investments? Makerere University, for instance, considers itself as a national resource; it is interested in ICT from the perspective of both the university and of civil society. Telemedicine, which is being implemented at Makerere, demands an adequate ICT infrastructure and is an example of the juxtaposition between the skills of professionals and service to the community. In South Africa, TENET was able to convince Telkom to give universities preferential rates because they were able to demonstrate that higher education served national needs.
  • Universities should develop ICT research capacity in order to have an impact on policy formulation.

The policy group determined as its objective: fostering an enabling environment for the development of ICT policy within higher education institutions in Africa. Policy was attacked from a number of different angles—why, how, crosscutting issues, and information sharing. Information sharing actually came up in every small-group session.

Why are ICT policies important?

  • They create an enabling environment for implementation.
  • They are required for optimal transformation.
  • They enable the long-term viability and sustainability of ICT use.
  • They raise awareness of ICT use in the institution.

What are the implementation issues?

  • Strategic and operational plans are cyclical and should be considered an ongoing process.
  • Setting realistic priorities is important.
  • ICT policies should be linked to other policies and strategies within the institution, including a change management strategy.
  • Mobilizing sufficient human and financial resources is imperative.
  • Piloting draft policies in advance of final implementation might help bring about consensus.
  • It is essential to have top management actively involved as ICT champions. But establishing an ICT policy should not rely on a top-down approach. If all stakeholders are involved, they will feel a sense of ownership.

The policy breakout group dealt with cross-cutting issues at greater length than other sessions. The group's observations are as relevant for policy as for other issues.


"Engendering ICT policy is an area of great importance, perhaps the most important in securing the benefits of the information age for girls and women. If gender issues are not articulated in ICT policy, it is unlikely that girls and women will reap the benefits of the information age. Decades of experience have shown that without explicit attention to gender in policy, gender issues are not considered in implementation. Despite the views of many...policy makers that a well thought out policy benefits all, there is no such thing as a gender blind or gender-neutral ICT policy.”

ICT has a differential impact on men and women. Girls traditionally are not encouraged to use computers for anything more than word processing. Universities should be sensitive to the needs of female students and ensure equitable use and access for all students. Key points include the following:

  • IT policy should be informed by institutional gender policy.
  • IT policy should include all stakeholders.
  • IT policy should reflect institutional gender goals, which are meant to redress imbalances. When possible go beyond the expectations of institutional policies.


  • ICT resource allocations should be included as part of institutional and departmental budgeting, i.e., as part of the overall strategic plan.
  • Deliberate and sustained approaches to staff development should be taken. This includes designing strategies for retention of ICT staff, and for knowing that those who leave must be replaced. Offering ICT training opportunities is one strategy.
  • Resources must be made available for innovative experiments in curriculum development—with special effort to build the capacity of staff to be creative in this regard.
  • Donor funding for ICT should be in accord with an institution's ability to implement, manage, and sustain these activities.19
  • Investigate generating ICT income, but recognize the risks inherent in commercializing services to the detriment of your user base. In addition, charging for services implies that the customer will receive satisfaction; you should not require students to pay for email or computers if systems don’t function properly.
  • Engage in multi-year budgeting.
  • Make a clear distinction between internal budgeting requirements and external project funding.
  • Several institutions have ICT policies and plans in place, which can be shared among African universities just beginning to carry out ICT planning and implementation. The ICT strategic plans of Eduardo Mondlane, Makerere, and Dar es Salaam are available on their Web sites.
  • Networking is important, both face-to-face and virtual.
  • Building an effective ICT infrastructure does not happen overnight. It is important to share the process as well as the final product.

How much is enough?

The universities at the workshop spend about $4,500 a month to $12,000 on bandwidth, depending on the amount purchased. In general, bandwidth rates are usually ten times higher in Africa than they are in North America and Europe. At the workshop, we asked ourselves what could be done to bring down bandwidth costs and whether establishing national or regional consortia to aggregate bandwidth would be an effective strategy.

Increasing bandwidth across an institution can have a ripple effect. The administration must ensure that the infrastructure is capable of handling it, that sufficient well-trained managers are in place to maintain and troubleshoot the systems, and that appropriate mechanisms are in place to plan for utilization—within the library, for administration, for research, etc. We therefore also addressed training and management in conjunction with cost. The group came up with a set of working hypotheses and questions for attention by a bandwidth task force:20

  • It is difficult to calculate bandwidth needs because limited resources or inadequate infrastructure result in limited use. Furthermore, experience in South Africa is that as additional bandwidth becomes available, the rate of user uptake increases rapidly. Whether the bandwidth is put to good use or not is another matter.
  • Conditions across countries and between institutions vary. In some countries the telecommunications system has been deregulated. In other countries, it is still a government monopoly. Most institutions participating in the meeting are using VSATs for Internet. At Makerere University, however, the university does not use a VSAT because it is not cost-effective. Deregulation has lowered costs considerably—from $20,000 a month for 512Kbps to $3,500 a month. One-stop solutions for bandwidth are not a solution without appropriate research.
  • The universities buying bandwidth for their VSATS are using middlemen and know they are paying too much. Research on the economics and marketing of bandwidth is called for, as is research on the regulatory environment.
  • Excess bandwidth capacity exists in satellites and fiber optic cables. The potential of creating consortia to purchase bandwidth at wholesale prices should be explored. This calls for collaboration between universities and regional bodies.
  • What can be learned from case studies of the South African experience or that of other countries in the developing world? Chile, for example, has been a leader in the introduction of the Internet in South America since the first Web server was set up at the University of Chile in 1993.21


An E-Learning group should include someone familiar with content development, a librarian, regional representation, organizational experience, and marketing know-how. Experience with E-Learning would be a plus, but interested novices would also be welcome.

E-Learning efforts are to be grouped around the following themes:

  • Increasing access to E-Learning on the continent
  • Increasing participation in higher education using E-Learning
  • Increasing collaboration among institutions of higher education
  • Making a meaningful contribution to development using E-Learning

Following the Addis meeting, Derek Keats established an E-LearnAfrica Web site. It is still in the early stages of development, but users are invited to register and contribute to the discussion forums. Registration is free of charge. Go to the E-Learning URL to learn the group's terms of reference and catch up on E-Learning news:


The libraries group made its presentation to the plenary session with recommendations to the Partnership and to the donor community:

  • If the Partnership funds an ICT project, it should ensure that the library within the institution in question conforms meets an agreed minimum standard in ICT use and status.
  • If the Partnership is engaged in a project, then it should ensure that library resources (ICT, information resources, etc.) needed to support the project are included in the project proposal and budget, as library-specific line items.
  • The Partnership should recognize and encourage the perspective that libraries are central to wider institutional ICT development.

A number of networking and institutional recommendations were also made, which included creating a virtual network in order to share information on ICT status, and establishing a checklist for best practices and ICT minimum requirements. On the individual library level, the libraries present agreed to review their use of ICT and ICT policy, including how well library policies fit in with the wider institutional ICT policy; examine the feasibility of national-level consortia development for sustainability, if this is not already being done; lobby for equal weight and participation within institutional management, etc.

Skills sharing, networking and training

The group’s vision is to achieve a measurable increase in effective and appropriate use of ICT within the teaching, learning, research, information management, libraries, and administration processes at tertiary-level institutions in Africa.

Objectives and activities included:

  • Training for ICT users and practitioners
    • Conducting a training needs analysis at each institution
    • Identifying available resources in Africa and overseas
    • Implementing training programs
  • Skills sharing
    • Creating an enabling environment for staff to exchange ideas and experiences about working with staff, students, management, and the community
    • Conducting regular reviews and assessments through virtual and physical meetings
    • Carrying out case studies of best and worst practices
  • Networking
    • Developing an institutional Web site to disseminate information on meetings, training pro grams and materials; setting up discussion groups; and establishing a directory of experts and a useful links page

Skills sharing, networking and training were discussed both separately and also collectively because it is possible to plan inter-connected activities. Examples include organizing ICT fairs and short courses at important meetings, such as the AAU General Conference. This is an excellent way to sensitize senior leaders to the importance of ICT, provide them with hands-on training, and create networking opportunities for African universities committed to ICT.

Using ICT for research

The group identified five areas of engagement:

  • Learning how to use ICT to optimize the creativity of African scientists through participation in international networks and working with datasets.
  • Improving the capacity of African institutions to share datasets and establish research networks.
  • Accessing various kinds of research information, which would necessitate a link to the libraries group.
  • Learning new methods for disseminating knowledge produced in Africa and using them.
  • Optimizing the role of African institutions of higher education vis-à-vis collaboration with civil society.

The group also identified a number of issues that require attention:

  • Infrastructure (bandwidth, technology, equipment, etc.).
  • Policy and regulatory frameworks, particularly intellectual property rights.
  • Training for users of research information. This includes training on accessing full-text literature and also on using and distributing datasets.
  • Delineating the role of universities.
  • Determining minimum requirements for carrying out the above activities.
  • Maximizing the role of African scholars in the diaspora.
  • Optimizing research into ICT in Africa and trying to ensure that universities are linked to ICT research and development, as is the case at the University of the Western Cape.

The intersection between libraries and research capacity

The ability of a library to make its holdings easily accessible to researchers is essential. The UDSM library has an OPAC for its entire system. Work started with the main collection, moving to faculties and departments once users were convinced of its utility and viability. Go to: and click on OPAC.

Wrapping up

What would success look like?
  • ICT would have priority in African universities.
  • African universities would have an ICT policy and plans in place.
  • Bandwidth would be improved.
  • ICT training and support would be budget items.
  • African institutions would be transformed from consumers of knowledge to world-class producers of knowledge.

As a first step in wrapping up, the group made a list of ICT priorities. Bandwidth, training, and policy were deemed most important, followed by libraries and E-Learning. Of these activities, bandwidth and E-Learning, in particular are moving forward, as described in the next chapter.

Each of the groups was charged with writing an action plan and timeline, with the understanding that the participants gathered at the workshop could not necessarily speak for their own institutions, much less for the continent. Moreover, Partnership support could not be guaranteed for any activity. The goal of the exercise would be to bring together a cadre of committed people to propose a work plan and a set of activities, and to obtain funding.

11. The Commonwealth of Learning has good documentation on how to cost E-Learning development:

12.The document is found on the Stellenbosch Web site at:

13. Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University, US National Research Council, 2002, pp 5-6.

14. An annotated list of free materials on online teaching resources was distributed at the workshop. It will be found in Appendix four.

15. Under the apartheid government, South Africa’s population was classified into four racial groups—whites, Africans, coloured (mixed race), and Asians. Each race was educated separately; white schools received a disproptionately large share of the budget.

16. Derek Keats’ paper for the Addis workshop, “Poised for Takeoff: using ICT to trainsform teaching and learning at the University of the Western Cape,” page 7

17. Go to A full list of relevant Web sites at AUWC will be found in Keats' paper.

18. Go to for more information on Open Content principles.

19. See "Rebooting:Recommendations for the Future in Rowing Upstream for a list of ICT recommendations aimed at donors and grantee organizations.

20. The bandwidth task force is discussed in more detail in the following chapter.

21. See "The Internet in Chile: 1999 was a Good Year," by Irit Askira Gelman in e-OTI. Also visit the Web site of the Chilean National University Network.

Back to Profiles | Contents | Ahead to Moving Forward

© 2003 Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Privacy Policy and Terms of Use