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Education in South Africa must be digital-driven

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In an era driven and dominated by technology, PIERRE AUREL, Strategic Project Manager at e4, believes we are not leveraging the potential of technology to address the many education issues we face.

South Africa’s ongoing education crisis, specifically access to schooling and learning material has been well publicised. Government has responded with subsidy offers, but simply providing financial aid does not solve the crisis that South Africa faces. Compounding the issue is the fact that universities are at capacity, with no new plans to build more facilities. This is not a scalable solution and South Africa is limiting itself to brick and mortar – as the rest of the world enters the fourth industrial revolution.

In an era driven and dominated by technology, we are not leveraging the potential of technology to address these issues. Digital content solves not only an access issue but will also power new content that can future-proof our people, while enabling them to succeed.

Digital education is vital to the country’s future, we cannot succeed by clinging to an outdated and broken educational system. It’s time to adapt and rethink how we share knowledge, learn and teach in the digital era. Technology is almost inseparable from our daily lives, it has changed the world and will continue to evolve. However, the critical skills needed now and well into the future are not being developed and taught, leaving the youth with a challenging and questionable future.

The World Economic Forum reports that by 2020 there will be more than 1,5 million new digital jobs globally. In a world characterised by technologies that blur the lines between digital, physical and biological, education needs to evolve rapidly to meet the demands for a new type of knowledge worker. We need a stronger plan to prepare the youth for the digital economy and to play productive roles within the digital revolution.

There is already a great choice of digital learning platforms, and better use of these could effectively prepare the future generation. The World Bank says that supporting access to education is one of the most certain ways to end poverty. Platforms such as Udemy, Khan Academy and LinkedIn Learning already provide excellent opportunities to further your education. Closer to home, South African EdTech companies like GetSmarter, Obami and Suits & Sneakers University are working to provide modern course content. South Africa needs to look at more collaborative content initiatives and broader access to technology and free Internet access.

Given the scale of South Africa’s education challenge, embracing a digital mindset and collaborating with strategic partners to address access and content, education could dramatically improve, the possibilities are endless as technology has made learning even more possible. In a country that cannot build new universities to scale with population growth, alternative education formats need to become the default option, with short courses, certifications and online training becoming more common place. Industry recognition of these alternative education options is also important as not every student will want, or be able to, complete a traditional four-year degree.

What the fourth industrial revolution has to offer is infinite. Students are no longer restricted to desks, textbooks and school programmes. The future student has access to countless videos, podcasts, learning models, apps and digital communities – all this is possible with access to the Internet and more so if the content is affordable.

The future of education is technology-driven. Digital teaching and learning platforms will play a critical role in making education not only a success, but more widespread and effective. Government should start collaborating with EdTech companies from the private sector to equip our nation with critical skills.

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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