Tag Archives: communication technologies

African Universities Leaders Forum proceedings now online

A lot of interest was shown among my colleagues in a variety of organisations in the Frontiers of Knowledge Forum hosted by the University of Cape Town last November – another sign of the increased activity in African higher education and the particular interest in the role of ICT in African higher education. The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (PHEA), which sponsored the forum, has now put the Forum documentation online, so that there is a full record available of the proceedings, the papers delivered, and the recommendations of the Forum. The documents also include a commissioned paper by Dick Ng’ambi of the Centre for Educational Technology at UCT on ICT and economic development in Africa; the role of higher education institutions.

This was the inaugural meeting of the African University Leaders Forum at which Vice-Chancellors of fifteen African Universities met in Cape Town to discuss the role of higher education in promoting economic growth in Africa. They focused in particular – to quote the website – ‘on the immense potential of information and communication technologies to transform the teaching, learning, and research environments in African universities, and the capacity of those technologies to stimulate large changes in Africa’s growing economies.’

The Forum took an aggressive line on the need for connectivity and broadband access in African universities as a basic requirement for national advancement – rather than a luxury. There was general agreement on the need to grow the level of African research output and to disseminate it better. In the in the final recommendations, the recommendation for the management of African knowledge contains an implicit endorsement of communication technologies open access:

African higher education institutions can play a leadership role in developing new institutions and business models for knowledge dissemination at the African and global levels. Some of the existing North American and European institutions can act as barriers to realizing the potential of African knowledge, and are under severe pressure themselves from the advance of open source and open access approaches.

Another recommendation was that African universities should ‘also develop new ways to take advantage of the increasing availability and quality of open educational resources at the international level.’

These are the challenges identified by the vice-chancellors at the close of the Forum:

  • Africa’s greatest asset is its human talent
  • Harnessing this talent will require new and large investment at all levels of education
  • Information and knowledge are the greatest contemporary levers of sustainable development
  • This recognition underscores the cardinal role of higher education
  • The
    fullest benefits of higher education will be in greater equitable
    access, high quality teaching and research infrastructure, greater
    institutional autonomy within a framework of public accountability
  • Greater
    economic growth will occur in a more participative human environment
    and in more deregulated economies which allow for greater social
    inventiveness
  • A key historic feature of modern Africa is the emergent and increasingly vibrant African private sector
  • African higher education must engage closely with this emergent sector
  • Working
    with government, the private sector, and civil society, higher
    education must press for a high intensity information and communication
    technology environment across the African continent
  • Networked African universities must consolidate their role at the centre of a new and changing continent