Digital Literacy Will Spur Innovation
By Jessica Anjalo
| October 5th 2016
There are a few things
that set us apart are as a country. Never mind a majority of us not being good
long-distance runners; we get to bask in the glorious legacy that our athletes
have built in marathons. Another thing that sets us apart is our technological
In fact, a global
Business news site (Bloomberg) reported that Kenya has become the tech hub
of Africa, a niche with an estimated worth of more than one billion dollars in
the next three years. Our agile mobile money platform alone is on everyone’s
mouth worldwide. Despite the ease with which we transact on mobile money
platforms, it’s still a myth to the world apparently.
Economic development and
technological innovation are inseparable twins, as history shows. Look at the
printing press, which sparked the Renaissance in Europe, Newcomen’s steam
engine, the vanguard of the industrial revolution, or even semiconductor
electronics and microchips from the last century, which laid the physical
foundation for the virtual world. All our achievements in the ICT sector,
however many, were kick started by a few individuals who first saw a computer
either in high School or after high school. And even then, they were learning
just the basics and getting wowed by a
search engine that had answers to all their questions. It sparked their
curiosity, and years on, innovation was born.
Last week, Information,
Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru launched the Digital
Literacy Program and distributed tablets to Ortum Boys Boarding Primary School
in West Pokot County.
The faces of the few
pupils who were lined up to receive the tablets on behalf of the school, spoke
excitement, disbelief, and hope. More so they could not believe that in their
hands was a device they had not believed existed, or even if it did exist,
would be touched by any of them. Politics aside, the launch of the digital
literacy program has more merits and points at a brighter future for our
economy. For one, ask yourself… What if the guy who invented M-pesa started learning
digital skills from class one? How soon would it have come? If using digital
technology for such a short time sparked such a mountain innovation, what more
would we get with more experience?
In today's world,
college/university graduates come into contact with a fast-evolving range of
technologies and have access to a wealth of information. Students can be more
successful after graduation if they are digitally literate—having learned how
to identify and create digital solutions, adapt to new tools, and discover more
effective and efficient ways of doing things in their fields. The use of
technology has transformed every discipline and career, from engineers to
doctors to politicians. Yet the traditional academic experience does not
prepare many students for the challenges they'll face in these professions
today. In fact, traditional definitions of literacy have focused on skills
relating to numeracy, listening, speaking, reading, writing and critical
thinking, with the end goal being developing active thinkers and learners who
are able to engage the society in effective and meaningful ways. In today’s
world however, these skills are only part of a larger set of skills and
competencies that are required.
Judging from the
positives of technological innovation locally, there has always been a need
to rethink not just how we teach our students but what we
teach our students. And the introduction of the digital literacy program is a
big leap in the right direction. Having set ourselves apart as Africa’s Silicon
Valley, there is the need to prepare students from a tender age on not only
being consumers, but creators of digital content.
In an article by CS
Mucheru, he mentioned how the launch of the Smart Africa Initiative during the
Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in October 2013 had set a renewed
pace for the realization of Africa’s development aspirations. Through Smart
Africa, a single digital and knowledge-driven economy will emerge and push the
continent’s global competitiveness to higher levels. The Digital Literacy
Programme is a key step taken by the government fulfilling the promise of
developing innovative skills for a globally competitive knowledge economy.
Integrating ICT into teaching and learning for primary schools will create a
future with ICT-grounded citizens capable of turning around Kenya’s development
It is by no means a show
of poor prioritization by the government. Yes there is the question of basic
infrastructure like desks and classrooms, but this touches more into innovation
and the style of learning than the place. The secondary benefits of the same is
that the government and stakeholders will have to take electricity to those
schools, which a little bird whispered to me has been quietly happening through
the last mile connectivity program.
I am looking forward to
the future, because it is bright. You should too.
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