The question of ICT in development

Dr. Jayson Richardson, guest blogging elsewhere, reflects on a conversation we had recently regarding ICT adoption in developing nations and asks:

The question is how will advances in technology such the Nokia N800, a Wi-Fi Internet tablet which includes VoIP support and WiMax which enables long range wireless broadband access change society in less developed nations? Will these tools along with initiatives like the One Laptop per Child change education in less developed nations?

From his experiences in Cambodia, he believes that the rapid adoption of m-learning technologies should be much easier than implementing larger, infrastructure improvement projects, designed to “update” communications infrastructures to standards set long ago. But, what about indigenous technologies?

Using TVU Player, I’ve been watching a bit of Chinese television –and, accompanying advertisements. One advertisement spot featured a mobile learning device that was shown being used in the classroom to facilitate English instruction. The device itself, costing about $100, is specialized for English learning, but also includes functionalities that children would enjoy (i.e., it incorporates an mp3 player).

Now, here’s the kicker: The advertisement showed students using the device to pass tests.

Here’s the second kicker: The pitchman for the product is a white, American-looking guy (I’ve been told he’s actually Canadian). The message the Chinese are sending themselves is that Americans (and Canadians!) are using these technologies in the classrooms, and that they should be using them as well.

On Friday, I’ll depart for Shanghai and Anqing to investigate the use of these technologies in schools. More soon…