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[KAMPALA] The information and communication technology (ICT) device with greatest potential for education and training is laptop, whereas Facebook is the most popular social media, according to a new survey of e-learning professionals in Africa.

Researchers from Integrated Communications, Worldwide Events (ICWE) in Germany surveyed 1,444 e-learning professionals from 55 countries in Africa through e-mail between March and May this year.
Harold Elletson, the study’s lead researcher and an ICWE consultant, tells SciDev.Net that the survey gives a snapshot of the opinions and activities of African e-learning professionals from a range of sectors such as government, teaching, health and agriculture influenced by educational technology.

“Looking into the future, we need to focus on equitable distribution of the Internet and thus e-learning in all areas of Africa.”
Gilbert Egwel, Kubere Information Centre, Uganda.

The study’s findings were released as part of the eLearning Africa Report 2014 at the 9th eLearning Africa Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, last month (28-30 May).
According to the survey, 29 per cent of the respondents indicated laptops as having greatest potential in education and training in Africa whereas 18 per cent, 17 per cent and 16 per cent said so for tablets, smartphones and basic mobile phones respectively.
The researchers say governments should do more to increase Internet connectivity in Africa.

“We found that African governments are the most influential in the advancement of e-learning in Africa, for they fund and formulate most policies,” Elletson explains.
The study identifies digital divide between e-learning professionals working in rural and urban Africa. “People in urban areas are over twice as likely to use ICTs to communicate mostly with people from other African countries,” says the report.
According to the study, 82 per cent of the respondents indicated that they use Facebook, while 70 per cent indicated using Skype or LinkedIn and 50 per cent said they use WhatsApp. “Most people use social media for educational purposes,” Elletson notes.
Rebecca Stromeyer, the managing director and founder of ICWE, says the e-learning situation in Africa is diverse, for there are gaps in infrastructure, political will, funding, teacher capacity and graduate skills. “However, none of these gaps are insurmountable and that is what e-learning Africa is all about – finding the most appropriate and lasting ways to fill in these gaps,” Stromeyer tells SciDev.Net.
Gilbert Egwel, project officer at the Kubere Information Centre, Uganda, tells SciDev.Net that the report identifies serious gaps, especially in ICTs across the continent that should be addressed to realise the best out of e-learning.
Egwel adds: “Looking into the future, we need to focus on equitable distribution of the Internet and thus e-learning in all areas of Africa,” noting that this will enrich the continent’s education sector.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.