Increasing access to education using mobile technology can contribute to economic development in emerging markets by enabling interactive learning even in remote areas

Education – Our approach

We are exploring ways to use communications technology to extend access to education and offer a positive and interactive learning environment for children and adults studying remotely.

Education is critical to people’s future prospects, yet many people living in rural areas of emerging markets never even enter the education system.

Our focus on mobile education is still in its early stages but we see significant potential for communications technology to improve people’s learning prospects and teacher–student engagement in emerging markets. As well as providing opportunities for our business, this is one of the ways Vodafone can contribute to the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Our mobile education solutions combine the power of Vodafone technology with the know-how and support of local organisations. In 2013/14, we partnered with specialist education organisations to expand new learning solutions and address illiteracy in several emerging markets. Read on to find out more about our approach and our performance in 2013/14.

Improving classroom learning and efficiency

In India, our biggest market, a third of children never attend school, one in four adults are illiterate and most qualified teachers are concentrated in urban areas. Almost one in five people in India access the internet via a Vodafone mobile connection, so we are well-positioned to improve access to education in this way.

Our Learn out of the box programme, being implemented by the Vodafone Foundation in India in partnership with Pratham Education Foundation, aims to improve the standard of education at 1,000 low income schools, targeting 50,000 underprivileged children in India over three years. The service uses innovative software and the mobile internet to train teachers and help them engage students with interactive learning materials and multi-media content. The service makes education more accessible to students whether they are using mobile phones, tablets or the Vodafone WebBox (a low-cost internet-enabled device that connects to a television). Together with Pratham Education Foundation, we provide all the necessary equipment and learning materials and train teachers to use the service. As of March 2014, a total of 948 schools are fully operational.

In Focus: The first Instant Network School in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In 2013, the Vodafone Foundation, in partnership with Italian NGO, Don Bosco and the Qatar Foundation’s Educate a Child programme, opened the first Instant Network School in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The school, in Goma, is enabling 400–500 children aged 7–17 to access online educational content via tablets provided through the Instant Networks mobile education programme. Following the success of this pilot, plans are underway to open additional schools that will benefit more children living in refugee camps in Africa.

Promoting reading and language skills

Communications technology is being used to tackle illiteracy in Egypt, where 17 million adults are unable to read and write. The Vodafone Egypt Foundation, in partnership with Egypt’s General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education and local NGOs, is using classroom and mobile learning to improve lives through their Knowledge is Power project. A free Vodafone Literacy App is a key component of the project, enabling people to learn when and where they want, using pictures and a talkback function to make learning easier and more accessible. More than 187,000 people have enrolled in Knowledge is Power classes, with over 94,000 having already graduated from the programme, which is supported by Vodafone’s technology and 12,000 youth worker volunteers. Four million people found out about the programme via the Vodafone Egypt Facebook page. The classes are now being rolled out to an additional 120,000 people by the end of 2014.

In South Africa, Vodacom partnered with Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Mindset Learn and the Department of Basic Education to establish the Vodacom Mobile Education Programme. This programme is a nationwide teacher development initiative aimed at improving the quality of instruction in all subjects at every level, with particular emphasis on mathematics, mathematical literacy and physical science, in Grades 10 to 12. The professional development teacher training courses focus on ICT Literacy, as well as the effective use and integration of digital content in the classroom. To support the training, educators are provided with the necessary ICT infrastructure and tools.

The programme has provided continuous training, equipment, digital content and connectivity to 890 schools and nine teacher centres. Since its inception, the Vodacom Mobile Education programme has trained 10,000 teachers to use information and communications technology (ICT), has improved teaching methods in maths and science, has provided computers, laptops and e-readers, and established an online information library, educational content (including curriculum content) and teaching aids, via cloud computing.

In 2013, in partnership with Read A Book SA, the largest book club in South Africa, Vodacom also launched an e-reader programme, and installed an e-reader app on 45 tablets which are freely available at the nine Vodacom ICT Resource Centres. The app will enable learners and community members to read e-books at the centres, as access to reading material is otherwise limited.

In focus: First Arabic e-reader app unleashes learning potential

In 2013/14, Vodafone Egypt, together with Intertrust Technologies Corporation, Kotobi, the first dedicated Arabic online bookstore and mobile app. Kotobi aims to make Arabic language e-books more accessible, as reading is a key ingredient to help raise literacy levels. Vodafone’s Kotobi (which means ‘my books’ in Arabic) is a significant step forward in providing electronic books for the Arab market and also gives readers across the world the opportunity to consume e-books in Arabic on tablets and smartphones seamlessly. The app is part of Vodafone’s ongoing efforts to promote literacy in Egypt. So far, Kotobi offers e-books, periodicals and a wide variety of free titles, as well as translations of well-known classics from authors such as Aldous Huxley and Charles Dickens.

As well as helping improve reading and writing skills in Egypt and South Africa, we also deliver educational programmes to improve language and professional skills in Albania and Ghana.

In Albania, we are promoting English-language apps, developed by the British Council, to spread the message that mobile technology can be a learning tool and offer convenient and affordable access to education. In Ghana, more than 1,000 people have subscribed to practical e-learning courses provided via our 3G broadband. These range from IT management, sales, and customer service to health and social issues, and are offered in English and African languages.