It was great to have hosted the DFID-funded technology for education EdTech Hub three-day Inception Phase consultation retreat from the evening of 29th July through to 1st August at Royal Holloway, University of London. This brought together some 30 members of the core team, funders and partners from the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa, and the World Bank, as well as members of the Intellectual Leadership Team from across the world, and representation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The meeting was designed to set in motion all of the activities and processes for the Inception Phase of the eight-year Hub, focusing especially on
- The Hub’s overall vision
- The work of our three main spheres of activity
- Innovation, and
- Our governance structure
- Our theory of change
- Our ethical and safeguarding frameworks
- Our communication strategy, and
- Our use of Agile and adaptive approaches
The Hub aims to work in partnership to “galvanise a global community in pursuit of catalytic impact, focusing on evidence so we can collectively abandon what does not work and reallocate funding and effort to what does”. Moreover, it is “committed to using rigorous evidence and innovation to improve the lives of the most marginalised”.
Above all, as the pictures below indicate, this meeting formed an essential part in helping to build the trust and good working relationships that are so essential in ensuring that this initiative, launched in June 2019, will achieve the ambitious goals that it has set.
Richard Clarke, Director General for Policy, Research and Humanitarian at the UK’s Department for International Aid (DFID) announced today that a consortium involving Dr. David Hollow and Tim Unwin, both from our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, has been awarded the contract to lead its new £20 m research and innovation hub on technology for education. This will explore how the world’s most marginalised children and young people can learn best through the use of new and innovative technologies. The members of the consortium are the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa. David will serve as Research Co-Director and Tim as Chair of the Intellectual Leadership Group.
The new Hub aims to undertake and promote the highest quality of comparative and longitudinal research at the interface between technology and education, and then share the findings widely so that everyone is better aware about how technology can best serve the learning interests of the poorest and most marginalised. This builds in part on the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s long established experience on technology and learning, dating back to Tim’s leadership of the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo initiative (2001-2004) creating partnerships for IT in education in Africa, our DelPHE and EDULINK funded collaboration with African universities, the wider work of the World Economic Forum and UNESCO Partnership for Education initiative between 2007 and 2011, and the cohort of PhD students doing research at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D on technology and learning in Africa in the latter 2000s , including David Hollow and Marije Geldof.
We are all very excited to be a part of this new initiative, which will be the largest ever education and technology research and innovation programme designed specifically to improve teaching and learning, especially in poorer countries. It is a clear example of the ways through which research undertaken within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is having real global impact, and is the second £20 m grant to have been awarded to consortia that include members of the Chair in the last six months, the other being the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub.
Tim Unwin, our Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, was recently in Macau and Shenzhen, China, in his role as a member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations University Computing and Society Institute. During this visit, colleagues at the Institute had arranged for him to participate in Teledifusão de Macau (TDM)’s prime time Talk Show with Kelsey Wilhelm. This was a great opportunity to share some of his current thinking about the interface between digital technologies and humans!
The show is now available on YouTube, and begins with an overview of the current state of ICT for development, before going on to discuss
- ways through which people with disabilities can be empowered through the use of technology,
- the importance of new technologies being inclusive, because otherwise they lead to new inequalities,
- working “with” the poorest and most marginalised rather than for them,
- the role of new technologies such as AI and blockchain in serving the interests of the rich rather than the poor,
- cyborgs and the creation of machine-humans and human-machines, and finally
- some of the ethical issues that need to be discussed if we are to balance the benefits of new technologies whilst limiting their harm.
We need much wider public debate on these issues!
The Internet Society has just published a new report on Internet Access and Education. This makes interesting reading. In summary it argues that “The Internet has immense potential to improve the quality of education, which is one of the pillars of sustainable development. This … briefing outlines ways in which policymakers can unlock that potential through an enabling framework for access to the Internet. It sets out five priorities for policymakers: infrastructure and access, vision and policy, inclusion, capacity, and content and devices. Together these represent key considerations for unlocking access to the Internet in support of education”.
They will be holding an online seminar on 6th December to discuss these issues, which we be moderated by Ben Petrazzini, IDRC, and will include the following speakers:
- Tomi Dolenc, Academic and Research Network (ARNES), Slovenia
- Miguel Brechner, Ceibal Plan, Uruguay
- Dirk Hastedt, IEA, Netherlands & Germany
- Shireen Yacoub, Edraak.org, Jordan
- Patrick Muinda, Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda
This work follows the Internet Society’s report earlier this year entitled Internet for Education in Africa: Helping policy makers to meet the global education agenda Sustainable development Goal 4