December 2004

Challenges and Opportunity

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Introduction
Most of the developing countries' population is amongst the poorest in the world [Africa had US$766 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person in 2000], with the divide between urban and rural areas being particularly marked. Most services are concentrated in the towns, while the majority of the population resides in smaller communities scattered across the vast rural areas. Irregular or non-existent electricity supplies are common in the developing countries, especially outside major towns. Furthermore, computers and telecommunication infrastructure requirements are still treated as luxury items in many developing countries. Tax and customs are high on those items which makes these imported items all the more expensive.

Education in developing countries is suffering from the low ratio of enrolment to the higher education. For example it is 4.61 per cent in Africa, and a low ratio of the public spending on education as a percentage of the GDP is about 4 per cent in Africa. The ratio of the pupils/teacher ratio in schools is about 41:1 respectively in Africa. (World Bank Knowledge Assessment Methodology [KAM]). In addition, the developing countries are suffering from the brain drain and generally low levels of education and literacy, which have together resulted in a great scarcity of skills and expertise. Rural areas in particular have limited human resources. Establishing new educational institutions in developing countries is hard and costly especially in rural areas, which are in more need for such facilities. Those institutions need investment for the buildings, for the equipments, for the labs, etc.

The e-Learning
e-Learning is a groundbreaking paradigm shift in the field of learning that provides high-speed access to knowledge and information anytime and anywhere. This happens through a wide range of electronic learning solutions such as web-based courseware, discussion groups, live virtual classes, video and audio, web chat, simulations and mentoring. e-Learning encompasses the knowledge management and electronic performance support for the beneficiaries. e-Learning is a solution to many of human development problems. Unfortunately, this solution is not very feasible, as it seems to be. e-Learning is facing lot of obstacles and challenges in developing countries.

e-Learning challenges
In spite of the importance of e-Learning to the African countries as an important tool for the human development in the continent, e-Learning is facing increased challenges in almost all the countries of the continent (except for Egypt and South Africa). Those challenges can be summarised as follows:

ICT infrastructure
The number of main lines in Africa (as an example for the least developing countries) grew about 9 per cent per year between 1995 and 2001, although the overall fixed line tele-density as of 2001 is still only about 1 in 40 inhabitants, and 1 in 130 in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa). The effective annual increase in lines is only 6 per cent Much of the existing infrastructure in Africa is out of the reach of most people 50 per cent of the available lines are in the capital cities, where only about 10 per cent of the population lives. In more than 15 countries in Africa, including C

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