INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN AFRICA: INITIATIVES AND CHALLENGES
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The rapid transformation in the development of technology is quite encouraging. Globalization and information economy has contributed tremendously to the economic, political, social and technical growth of an economy. African countries are not left out in the transformation rocking the Information and Communication Technology scene, though it is an obvious fact that this transformation is relatively slow in developing countries of the world including Africa. Due to this, many studies have been conducted to ensure that African countries are well prepared to tackle the challenges of this information age.
ICT comprises electronic networks-software and hardware with other forms of technical protocols. ICTs are surrounded with networks and services that contribute to the local and global dissemination of private and public information. ICT include internet services, broadcasting, information and technology equipment and other related information and communication activities (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 1994: p48). ICT is a computer-based technology that involves the processing, storing, sending, and retrieving of information.
It is quite obvious that many researchers in Africa are seeking for means of curbing the problems associated with data and factual dissemination of information. Tied to this is the serious problem of ICT funding; agencies and the government should do the needful like making infrastructures that will aid ICT available, alongside training personnel that will manage it. It was observed by The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (2007a) that some governments in Africa have implemented meaningful policies on ICT, and others have not. Still from the report it was mentioned that some African Universities in the partnership are leaders in ICT, but they have not planned towards making ICT nationally viable. If efforts have been made in ICT in African Universities, considering the times that we are in by now all of these universities should have their home pages with every single detail about the school- admission processes, faculties and departments. Some countries were reported in this research to have attained a reasonable height in ICT implementation in their higher universities, there include South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria and Ghana. Ghana for instance commenced the use of ICT in the 90s and ever since then the pace has been slow (The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, 2007b). Slow to the point that as at 2002 public universities in Ghana shared bandwidth for the sake of the internet through Research Education Network (REN). However, due to the discrepancies on the part of REN, many universities became independent as regards internet access and connectivity. In the East Africa Sub-region, countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique have just one out of the many universities they have with internet access. In addition, Mozambique after South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa became the second country to have full internet access.
Stories on internet access in Nigeria right from the 90s have been epileptic. The first trial version on the use of the internet was in the University of Ilorin through the help of McMaster University in Canada. Currently, many members of staff of universities in Nigeria have e-mail accounts and over 60 universities have websites. Some make use of VSAT and others have different educational projects (The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, 2007b). Just recently, the Federal Ministry of Education signed a MOU with a private firm which provided academic staff of universities with computers to aid teaching and learning under the Computerize Nigeria Project CNP) and instigated by former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Moreover, it is pertinent to point out that ICT in higher education in Africa is clouded with many challenges that have hampered its growth. Therefore there is need to assess how far ICT has strived in African countries, what they know, what they do not know and how well to tackle the challenges faced. It is imperative to know the achievements made so far in ICT, bear in mind where we are heading and what should be done.
In the 80s in Nigeria, the educational system was purely manual but in 1989 the National Universities Commission (NUC) introduced the computerized Management Information
System (MIS) to Nigerian Universities (Mac-Ikemanjima, 2005).
This study is meant to examine Information and Communication Technology in Higher Education in Africa: Initiatives and challenges.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is very obvious that ICT in higher education in Africa is faced with many limitations to include:
- The conservative nature of the Africans; this means their difficult attitude towards accepting change. Always sticking to the traditional means of teaching and learning. Due to this, the universities’ administrators in Africa see it as a big deal to provide both students and lecturers with computer facilities (Albirini, 2006).
- Inadequate ICT infrastructure like unstable power supply, high cost of internet bandwidth, etc.
- Untrained ICT personnel have flooded universities in Africa. Many of the lecturers are not trained on the use of ICT in teaching and carrying out their educational duties.
These are some of the problems this study aims at proffering solutions to.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major objective of this study is information and communication technology in higher education in Africa: initiatives and challenges.
Other specific objectives include:
- To examine the relationship between ICT and productivity in higher education in Africa.
- To investigate if ICT makes teaching more accessible for African students.
- To identify solutions to ICT challenges in higher education in Africa.
- To examine how private individuals can contribute towards the use of ICT in African universities.
- To examine the impact of ICT on African economy.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions are generated to guide this study:
- What are the challenges of ICT in higher education in Africa?
- What are the solutions to ICT challenges in higher education in Africa?
- What is the relationship between ICT and productivity in higher education in Africa?
- Does ICT make teaching more accessible for African students?
- Can private individuals contribute towards the use of ICT in African universities?
- What is the impact of ICT on African economy?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: There is no relationship between ICT and productivity in higher education in Africa.
H1: There is a relationship between ICT and productivity in higher education in Africa.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is meant to inform the general public, the government and administrators of higher learning in Africa on initiatives and challenges of Information and Communication Technology in higher education in Africa.
This study aims at informing the government and administrators of higher learning in Africa that there is need to tackle the challenges associated with ICT in African universities.
This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this topic and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other work or study.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study is restricted to Information and Communication Technology in Higher Education in Africa: Initiatives and challenges.
Limitations of study
- 1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
- 2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT): Is an extended term for information technology (IT) which stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.
The term ICT is also used to refer to the convergence of audio-visual and telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system. There are large economic incentives (huge cost savings due to elimination of the telephone network) to merge the telephone network with the computer network system using a single unified system of cabling, signal distribution and management.
HIGHER EDUCATION: Higher education, post-secondary education, or third level education is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after secondary education. Often delivered at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology, higher education is also available through certain college-level institutions, including vocational schools, trade schools, and other career colleges that award academic degrees or professional certifications. Tertiary education at non-degree level is sometimes referred to as further education or continuing education as distinct from higher education.
INITIATIVE: This is the ability to assess and initiate things independently.
CHALLENGE: This is a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength.
Alabi, G. A. 'Case Study Effectiveness of Informatics Policy Instruments in Africa: Nigeria.' United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 1994.
The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (2007a). ICT for teaching learning and research: ICT profiles. Retrieved May 23, 2007 from http://www.foundation partnership.org/pubs/profiles/index.php?chap=chap2
The partnership for Higher Education in Africa (2007b). ICT and internet inmembership countries. Retrieved May 23, 2007 from http://www.foundation partnership.org/pubs/bandwidth/index.php?chap=chap2&sub
Mac-Ikemanjima D (2005). e-Education in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects. Being text of a presentation at the 8th UN ICT Task Force Meeting. Retrieved from http://www.on villagefoundation.org on 21/10/2006.
Albirini A (2006). Cultural Perceptions: The Missing Element in the Implementation of ICT in Developing countries. Int.J.
Educ. Dev. ICT-2(1).