Sept - Dec 2016
Global Digital Innovation
Edu Tech 


Connecting the unconnected

The ability of broadband to connect the unconnected and improve education and students’ learning experiences is undisputed, says the Broadband Commission in its report released in September 2014.

“Digital inclusion still remains a big challenge, and countries are continuously looking for the best ways in which technology and ICTs can provide solutions to reach the unreached and enhance traditional delivery modes and pedagogies. Some examples can demonstrate how governments are striving to empower learners with technology, often with the contribution of the private sector.

“The Broadband for All Initiative in South Africa is one example of a PPP between government, non- governmental organizations and industry, designed to address digital inclusion by narrowing the divide between the connected and unconnected. The project aims to build a novel ecosystem using wireless mesh networks for delivering broadband infrastructure in underserved areas."

“South Africa has around 26,500 primary and secondary schools, of which at least 17,000 are in remote rural villages without Internet connectivity. Providing broadband access to these schools could enhance education quality and reduce inequalities."

The commission says that today’s learners live in a knowledge-based and globally interconnected society, largely driven by digital technologies. “To acquire 21st century skills, students should be empowered as self- directed learners, critical thinkers, problem-solvers and independent lifelong learners. To achieve this vision, many countries, including developing countries, have initiated learner-centred programmes to motivate youth to learn and perform at school, and are introducing new literacy concepts such as media and information literacy.”

To reap the benefits of broadband in education, it is important that governments put in place consistent policies for education and technology, as well as sustained financial investments. For example, says the commission, Rwanda’s government has begun efforts to reform its education system to develop 21st century learning skills and to provide each of its 2.5 million children in primary schools with his or her own laptop.

“In the framework of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, by the end of 2012, 210,000 laptops were deployed to 217 schools across the country. Capacity-building for heads of schools, teachers and local technicians has been the crucial priority for the OLPC Rwanda. Training of 981 teachers from 150 schools has been conducted in the initial phase.

“Another example is Zambia, which, like other developing countries, faces significant challenges with delivering education. These include shortages of teachers, books and learning material, large class sizes and a continuing dependence on rote learning. The iSchool Zambia project , a multi-stakeholder initiative between the Ministry of Education, Intel, Cambridge University and the University of Zambia, takes advantage of the rapid spread and growing use of Internet technologies to deliver education services.”

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Creator Spaces   Designing Innovation Economics


Ayesha Dawood

I liked this when I came across it “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking" says Jessie Shefrin former Provost of The Rhode Island School of Design and past Dean of Graduate Studies of The Rhode Island School of Design.

I like this too, alot 'design thinking ... is the expression of communication – the form itself...' that is the response I got when I asked John Maeda, at a talk at MIT this year what design thinking is -- Is it the form, is it the way it is presented .. and how does it impact international affairs? His response has got me mulling on innovation economics – and a very 21st century focus. The innovation economics idea was introduced to me by Professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property. And so Professor Fisher I take the liberty to propel this idea to designing innovation economics in the 21st century. So here I am positing Creator Spaces as innovation economics in action. And yes, Prof Fisher, Intellectual Property is important and as you say, only and only if it creatively engages with culture. So I take the creative engaging with the culture of a people, the culture of counties ... to a culture of creation. So, I am building and creating and designing too. Is this Ronald Dworkin`s chain novel theory playing itself out – a step by step building of things.

In particular I focus on Creator and Maker spaces which I call Creator Spaces. It is a movement rapidly gaining traction – and pioneering new pedagogies – tinkering, creator and playful learning pedagogies. No doubt this is influencing and will continue to improve a whole new wave – tinkering, playful learning and learning through play and exploration heralding novel creations as well as iterations in the new edu- tech era.

This is innovation economics birthed. A world of tinkering, software and hardware creation including an immersive engagement with technology and with materials –that is what empowers us to be courageous and creative. To make, to create – the art of playful learning and innovator spirit is boldly borne.

In seeing what we create – both online with immersive engaging of technology to building with our minds and hands to creating with materials to embracing the realm of possibilities and yes frameworks ( the lawyer in me screams legal frameworks as much computational thinking calls for system frameworks ). That is the power of Creator Space. They energise, motivate, uplift and propel growth in ones own sense of self, in creativity, in making, in building, in designing and cognition and critical thinking. And this is why it makes sense – it is innovation economics in both the digital and physical – a new form of a connected world – a world of immersive technology made simple – a world of creative making and a world of design and designing new things – software, new hardware, new things and while the search for new hardware forms and hardware materials is increasingly opening up new possibilities in materials.... Creator Spaces are about working with what is available as well making new from afresh and in that process new forms are birthed – New software creation is Creator Space and open source learning and remixing also lend impetus to this. See what amazing creations Scratch, an open source computer programme inspiring community learning and inspiring kids to create stories, animations and games - initiated at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group - is doing for kids globally here

Designing Creator Spaces is about inspiring people to take charge of their minds and ideas. I marvelled at watching the excitement and agility of the kids at MIT `s Scratch Day this May. Boundless enthusiasm and fun creations – and such confidence.

A new creator pedagogy in the making – yes – but maybe not so new in Africa and emerging economies where creator crafts and tinkering necessities were birthed. It is this staple that will take the shift to tinkering and artful play in emerging economies to levels unparalleled and a boon for innovation economics. Now that is design thinking innovation economics.  Creator Spaces is innovation economics. And yes, Intellectual Property matters.

Ayesha Dawood is a lawyer, writer and artist and educator. She is a Harvard and South African educated lawyer (@ConsultAyesha) She has an LL.M from Harvard Law School and is a recent Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.