Technology renders university accessible: the experiences of Congo and Ivory Coast

The two African countries rely on ICT to enhance their university system, also thanks to the collaboration of private partners. The University of Kinshasa is now equipped with the first Digital Center, while the Ivorian government also experiments with distance education for higher education.

The Digital Vodacom Center. “We don’t believe that access to the Internet should be a privilege.” With these words, Murielle Lorilloux, General Director of the African telecommunications company Vodacom Congo, opened the inauguration of the new “Digital Center” at the University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN). The structure, which costs 83 thousand Dollars and is equipped with 100 computers with internet access and just as many tablets, was realized by Vodacom as part of the “Digital Solidarity” programme, through which the company finances projects that provide new technologies to meet pressing social needs. From this point of view, the University of Kinshasa is a real challenge. Established in 1954 by the Belgian government, the university has a significant lack of infrastructures, resulting in an uncomfortable environment for students, professors and researchers: it lacks an adequate library, conference rooms and a computer center. For this reason it was chosen by Vodacom for the new digital center, which will offer fundamental technological support to students enrolled in the course.

Ivory Coast invests in distance education. While Congo equips the University of Kinshasa with advanced infrastructures, in collaboration with Vodacom, Ivory Coast has chosen to “dematerialize” culture and make it digital. Gnamien Konan, the Ivorian Minister of Higher Education, recently announced the launch of the Université Numérique de Côte d’Ivoire (UNCI), an online university. This is the first time that the African country has experimented in “distance education” within a university ambit, made possible thanks to a collaboration with the Agence Universitaire Francophone (AUF). The project is part of a broader strategy that the Ivory Coast government wants to use to strengthen the distance education system, in order to expand the possibilities of access to higher levels of education, currently limited by lack of space and adequate facilities. However, to achieve this goal, as well as increase initiatives like that of the Université Numérique, it is also necessary to seriously invest in the diffusion of ICT equipment among the population; otherwise the computerized content will remain inaccessible. To this end, the government has recently expressed its wish to invest 14 million Dollars to increase the number of digital communication tools to be supplied to students and teachers.

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