Microsoft Seeks Backing of Kenyan Government in Zero-rating Data used for E-learning

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Affordable Internet Initiative Fund
Satya Nadella visits a high school in Kenya that has Internet service provide by TV White Spaces.
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Satya Nadella visits a high school in Kenya that has Internet service provide by TV White Spaces.

Technology giant Microsoft is urging the Kenyan government to consider zero-rating data used in e-learning and delivery of e-learning content.  In an op-ed published in today’s Standard, the company says the move will reduce cost of accessing educational content. The company noted that while access to devices could be raised, the cost of data in Africa remained prohibitively high for students.

The firm further urged the government to seek public private partnerships in the scaling up of digital education, with the view of reaching more users. In the article, Microsoft cited information published from a survey in this year’s Innovation Africa Summit held in September at Safari Park Hotel Nairobi. The survey stated that less than 30% of schools in Africa have implemented e-learning, and those which have done so, have found great difficulty.

This is despite 92% of government decision makers in the field of education across Africa believing that e-learning was important in improving education. While Africa’s e-learning market doubled between 2011 and 2016 to reach USD 513m, African ministers cited challenges such as limited funding for devices and a lack of stakeholder and teacher support. The firm further called for collaboration between various players in the development of content to be accessed using e-learning devices. The government was further urged to  take up the role of educating teachers  on the value of e-learning as well as seeking the best model for the delivery of e-learning content.

Microsoft has been using white spaces seeking to deliver internet access to the under served places in Kenya.  In the article, the firm cited the case of Limpopo in South Africa, where government support has allowed the firm serve rural students.  TV white spaces offer immense advantages in that signals can travel longer distances and in less developed areas. It also allows for the underutilized spectrum to be put to good use as a low-cost alternative for broadband.

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