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Universities to get high speed internet

Efficient connectivity

To improve capacity of NRENs and the Regional Research Education Networks, or RRENs, the World Bank estimated development support of US$518 million in the next five years.

World Bank and Knowledge Consulting Limited in the study regard NRENs and RRENs as the most efficient pathways for the higher education sector in Africa to improve its footprint on access to affordable high-speed internet connectivity which is necessary for continued learning and research.

The World Bank urged African countries to work with development partners and telecommunication companies to see how high-speed internet could be made cheaply available to universities and other higher education institutions in Africa.

Researchers observed that, whereas the cost of bandwidth has come down, internet access in Africa is still much more expensive compared to other regions of the world and often less reliable, especially in rural and peri-urban locations.

According to the Uganda case study, higher education institutions in the country do not have access to adequate bandwidth to meet their research and education needs because the available broadband is expensive and insufficient to address their needs. A similar case was observed in the Cote d’Ivoire.

Institutional impediments

Researchers also highlighted a range of institutional impediments to the integration of ICT in support of learning, research and effective administration in African higher education institutions.

Absence or deficient ICT policies and strategies, as well as limited ICT awareness and ICT literacy among faculty and administrators were common in most countries on the continent.

Issues arise from limited competence of campus ICT personnel, while poor quality of networks design presents a significant challenge because most of the buildings in higher education on the continent were designed for the traditional teaching and learning environment.

The study noted an urgent need for African higher education systems to develop campuses with integrated smart classrooms with different technologies, such as smart-boards, projectors, cameras, audio equipment and lighting.

Shortage of individual owned laptops among students and staff was seen as one of the weakest links in the connectivity value chain, a factor that emerged during the COVID-19 lockdowns and made any physical face-to-face approach to learning difficult.

The feasibility study proposes a cost unit of US$17.3 billion to enable students and academic staff to have individual owned laptops to support reforms in learning and new ways of teaching digital skills to meet the demands of 21st-century jobs.

But, for this to happen, the study suggests the need for African governments, donors and the private sector to work together to push the agenda forward, which demands cost sharing and adhering to the five-year timeline.

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