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New online marketplace opens for education in Africa

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eLearnAfrica this week launched a new online marketplace for education, making it easier for students to search for and enrol in online courses, online degrees, and professional certifications from some of the best universities in the world. 

As the furore around #feesmustfall and free education continues, one social enterprise has come to the fore with a promising solution.  eLearnAfrica this week launched its new online marketplace for education, making it easier for students throughout Africa to search for and enrol in hundreds of online courses, online degrees, and professional certifications from some of the best universities in the world.

eLearnAfrica is a social enterprise committed to increasing and expanding educational and employment opportunities throughout Africa through an innovative web portal that connects users of all educational levels to trusted third-party and collaboratively created content.  eLearnAfrica’s mission is to make learning opportunities available to everyone through an easy-to-use website and mobile app. In addition, eLearnAfrica is highly intuitive with a content discovery solution that delivers personalized recommendations tailored to each user’s preferences.

eLearnAfrica has partnered with some of the leading online course providers to make available courses from some of the best universities in the world.  These courses use video and other online resources, and students take a short test to progress to the next class.  Most of these courses can be taken for free, and some courses also offer a verified certificate of completion (with a modest administration fee).

eLearnAfrica works with both edX and FutureLearn to offer a huge variety of courses to its primarily African audience. EdX, the nonprofit online learning destination founded by Harvard University and MIT, offers hundreds of courses from the world’s top institutions, such as top-ranked Wharton Business School, the University of California, Berkeley and more.

“We are delighted to collaborate with eLearnAfrica,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “We are deeply committed to edX learners on the continent and have a partnership with The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), a first of its kind collaboration between a major MOOC provider and an African university. Our work with eLearnAfrica will help further the edX mission to increase access to high-quality education for learners in Africa and around the world.”

FutureLearn, the social learning platform wholly owned by the Open University, offers over 4.5 million learners access to free online courses from world-leading UK and international universities, centres of research excellence and specialist education providers like the British Council, Creative Skillset, and European Space Agency.

Nigel Smith, Head of Content at FutureLearn, commented on the partnership: “We’re very pleased to be one of the launch partners for eLearnAfrica. Although we are UK-based, 70% of our learners are based in countries outside the UK and with our mission to pioneer the best social learning experience for everyone, anywhere, eLearnAfrica is a great partner for us.”

He continued, “With 8% of our current learners based in Africa, there is clearly an existing appetite for free, high quality education from reliable and trustworthy sources but also huge potential for growth. We offer a vast array of professional development courses that can increase employability or help learners to start their own businesses, while our general interest courses provide something for everyone with lifelong learning ambitions. And of course, through our social learning platform, all our courses offer an element of experience of studying abroad with different cultures without the expense of leaving the country. We have no doubt that eLearnAfrica will be both popular and successful and we look forward to working with their team to reach more learners on the African continent.”

To make sure that Africans can take video-based professional certification programs, eLearnAfrica has joined hands with industry leader itSM Mentor, which has over 1400 classes in close to 175 specialized areas.  Students can quickly become certified by mastering Microsoft Office, learn accounting, project management, or information technologies.

Students interested in earning a degree online, can find Associates and Bachelors programmes in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science and even a Masters programme in Business Administration from the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, US-accredited online university, University of the People (UoPeople).

CEO of eLearnAfrica, Brook Negussie, said the portal is set to become Africa’s trusted source for open education.  Negussie, who is known for his work in providing internet access for schoolchildren across Africa, added: “As an educational platform, eLearnAfrica offers opportunities to African students at every stage of higher education and career development, with courses from the world’s best universities, including full degrees, vocational training, and industry-standard professional certifications.  We set out to combine local knowledge with long-term global expertise through partnerships and academic excellence, to bring the best in the world to Africa in one easily accessible marketplace.”

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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