Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Using ICTs (Educationally) for Development in an African Context: Possibilities and Limitations

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Using ICTs (Educationally) for Development in an African Context: Possibilities and Limitations

Article excerpt


This article is concerned with the increasing prevalence of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and their use in the 21st century, and particularly in educational institutions. Although this article is not based on empirical research we have conducted, we provide an account of research on ICTs and their use, drawing on data from the Pan-African Agenda on using ICTs in pedagogy on the African continent. We also draw on some USA-, UK- and Australia-based research on the use of ICTs in educational institutions, as well as on work done by South Africans on the extent of ICTs use in South African educational institutions.

Our purpose in this article is to outline why ICTs and their use are becoming so prominent currently and their implications for education. We are also concerned about the kind of claims that are being made about what ICTs use can or cannot do in educational institutions. In this regard, we point out that, as much as ICTs use in educational institutions does offer possibilities for improved practices, such ICTs use is also limited. We also intend to show that future research in this area is not only needed but that it also needs to interrogate the taken-for-granted assumptions about ICTs use in teaching and learning. This article points out the lapses and conflations to which such research is prone.

ICTs, development and the global economy

The ravages caused by years of colonial domination of African countries have significantly impacted upon the growth potential of such countries. Despite the achievement of political independence, African countries have remained economically dependent on developed countries and on funding agencies in order to enable economic development within African countries. The material development of African countries has not been easy to realise due to lack of employment opportunities; high levels of malnutrition, starvation and disease; abject poverty; lack of infrastructure, and non-existent or poor social services. Whilst civil strife, war, corruption and general instability have also been evident in some countries on the African continent, the challenges of development have been central to almost all African countries' own country-specific policies and to organisations such as the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The notion of development, however, is one that is debated (see, for example, Gelb, 2006). For the purposes of this article, we use the notion of development as that which is contained in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights:

Convinced that it is henceforth essential to pay particular attention to the right to development and that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic, social and cultural rights in their conception as well as universality and that the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights is a guarantee for the enjoyment of civil and political rights (African Charter on Human and People's Rights, 1981: 2).

The above extract from the preamble of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights indicates that development minimally includes providing for the basic rights of people and allowing for socio-economic and political development. It also includes the importance of ensuring development that would allow people to realise their potential and to live healthy and productive lives. The centrality of development as a right is important to recognise, because it suggests that people's basic rights are inextricably tied to development, without which they may not get to realise their basic human rights.

In 2012, the Minister of Communications, Dina Pule, suggested that access to ICTs should be considered as much a human right as access to education, and that, given that ICTs are increasingly becoming a feature in our everyday lives, access to ICTs is necessary for survival and participation within the current global economy. …

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