Mobile Communications

David Willis (Africa) - How the African Mobile Revolution is Taking Training Online

In developing nations in Africa and elsewhere, mobile internet is enabling increased access to electronic learning. David Willis, Chief Technology Officer at ILX Group plc, examines a technology-driven revolution in skills.

Organisations in developing nations (like those in Africa) have not been able to leverage web-based technologies to train and develop their people to the same extent as those in developed nations. This is because many developing nations suffer from a lack of fast fixed line internet connections and stable electricity supplies that much interactive e-learning relies upon. That isn't to say that computer-based training isn't used in these countries, but such training tends to be offline, delivered via CD or run over corporate networks.

However, that picture is changing because of the increased prevalence of mobile broadband. Research estimates that 90% of all telecoms usage in Africa is mobile and that the mobile telecoms market is growing at 30% per year. And while only 0.2% of Africans have access to fixed line internet, 3.6% of Africans have mobile broadband; there is an increasingly high level of smartphone ownership and usage among white collar workers and university students. China continues to invest heavily in infrastructure projects throughout Africa, including wider access to fast 3G and 3.5G networks. Cumulatively, these factors mean that people in Africa are becoming accustomed to accessing information and services through mobile internet rather than at the desktop.
Unfortunately, there are cost and connectivity issues even for the best "connected". As we all know from personal experience, it is rare to achieve the optimum connection speed and carriers will adopt charging models that will help them recoup the cost of building these new networks. This in itself will impose a constraint on how providers think about delivering mobile-based services in Africa. It is unlikely to be a simple matter of rolling out the same American or European service to the African market.

From ILX's point of view, there will be differences in how people use mobile learning between developed and developing nations. In countries like the UK, longer e-learning and virtual learning courses will continue to be delivered at the desktop; mobile learning will tend to be "bite-sized", just in time nuggets of learning that people need to access quickly. In Africa, people will become accustomed to undertaking much longer learning sessions over their smartphones, simply because that is their fastest and most reliable method of information delivery. We will need to strike a balance between delivering all the content the learner needs - i.e. a full training course - and doing so in a way that is affordable for the user. That might mean delivering a greater number of shorter training sessions, carefully managing the level of multimedia functionality and streamlining the learning content by providing links to further information rather than integrating extra detail into the course.

The demand for best practice training is growing across Africa, partly to help implement these new infrastructure projects, and project managers there are just as keen to obtain PRINCE2® accreditation to help further their careers. It is incumbent upon us as a provider to adapt to the changing technology landscape in Africa in order to provide effective and cost-efficient opportunities for learning and development, across both public and private sectors.


David Willis is Chief Technology Officer for ILX Group plc. ILX provides training and support to organisations who have adopted the use of Best Practice methods including PRINCE2, MSP and ITIL. To date, ILX Group has trained over 500,000 people across 97 countries. For further information visit: www.ilxgroup.com



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