Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

A Needs Assessment to Identify the Reality of Two Rural School Cases in South Africa: Potential for ICT4D or Not?

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

A Needs Assessment to Identify the Reality of Two Rural School Cases in South Africa: Potential for ICT4D or Not?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Understanding the potential or need for ICT support in education within developing countries, requires an in-depth needs assessment to comprehend, elaborate and set the desired priorities of rural schools. A Needs Assessment was conducted as part of an on-going comprehensive evaluation process of an ICT for development project, the Siyakhula Living Lab. The needs assessment focused on an elaboration of a high level need, 'access to education and knowledge', identified in a Baseline Study of the community. The needs identified were based on an understanding of the existing operation of local schools, from the perspectives of local representatives who are more familiar with their environment and its challenges. This paper presents a report on the findings of the Needs Assessment, which include: 1) the elaborated needs and priorities for developing access to education and knowledge in a rural area, and 2) proposed solutions to address these development needs. Examining these elaborated needs indicate that potential solutions to address them are beyond the scope of computer science and information systems, and should also include other development solutions, such as, education, government, sociology, etc. The Siyakhula Living Lab still needs to build on the expertise available, in order to propose diverse solutions that can support the integration of the technology within the schools. A description of the contribution of the needs assessment for subsequent or future evaluations of the Siyakhula Living concludes the report.

Keywords: Needs assessment, rural, evaluation, education, living lab

1. INTRODUCTION

A Needs Assessment for a rural ICT project aims to comprehend, elaborate and set desired priorities of the rural community the project endeavours to support. It also allows for an opening position between the project implementation team actors and the recipient community, hence revealing pre-existing assumptions and aspirations of the project (Harris, 2001). The evaluator works with different groups in the community to assess their needs, especially also considering the unique needs of discriminated groups, such as women and youth (Macóme & Cumbana, 2002). Needs that can be identified in this case relate to livelihood resources essential for rural development, such as economic/financial capital, natural capital, human capital, social capital, and informational capital (the different resources are linked, whereby for instance, the expansion of information capability can have a multiplier effect on other forms of resources) (Gigler 2004; Madon 2004). A Needs Assessment constitutes one of the seven domains of evaluation of the Rural ICT Comprehensive Evaluation Framework developed by Pade-Khene & Sewry (2011). It is conducted during the inception or development phases of the project's life cycle, and is repeated when demand-driven needs emerge in the community, as the technology is gradually integrated into the daily livelihood activities of individuals and groups. For instance, as local teachers use computers and the Internet, they may have a growing interest in how to integrate computer literacy in the school's curriculum, or use Internet resources to enrich the teaching and learning process. This contributes to the introduction and implementation of new ICT solutions to support rural development activities; hence repetitions of subsequent evaluation domains, as ICT sub-projects are added overtime.

An awareness of the elaborated needs of a community positions an ICT project and its stakeholders to propose relevant solutions that aim to address the development challenges highlighted in a Baseline Study of the community (Pade-Khene, Palmer & Kavhai 2010). Therefore, prior to conducting a Needs Assessment, a Baseline Study should be conducted. A Baseline Study is centred on the generation and contribution of knowledge through describing the nature of a project's environment or the socio-economic status of a community, to inform external and local stakeholders. …

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