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E-learning will not erode African knowledge

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There should be a drive across Africa to invest in e-learning, as has been seen in similar economies like Latin America and India.

Most African countries have progressive policies related to e-learning, and have embraced it in theory. However, at the practice level, a lot still remains to be done, especially by those who must share this information: educators.

At the same time, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that it is used without being perceived to undermine African people’s efforts, knowledge and cultures.

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An important social innovation

Those who criticise e-learning because of its perceived threat to African cultural identities clearly see globalisation — and the resulting spread of technology and innovation — as a danger that aggravates the disparities between the western world and African countries.

But e-learning is both a technological and a social innovation. At its best, it can address problems within a particular social context. For instance, my colleagues and I have used e-learning to complement our teaching in a master’s programme in health information management in Kenya, Tanzania and SA. This has saved money since students and staff did not have to travel. It’s also been an opportunity for invaluable cross-cultural learning.

African cultural identities will not be eroded by e-learning. On the contrary, the sort of cross-cultural experiences found in my example help to strengthen the continent’s cultural identity. At the same time, they are a way to better understand and accommodate diversity.

Critics also suggest that e-learning is an example of forcing technology on African people. This idea arises because of the power and economic disparities between the West and Africa. But it lacks a proper understanding of the problems the technologies are meant to solve.

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