Thursday 29 May 2014

The Future of Learning in Africa

The eLearning Africa Report 2014 is published today.  You can get a free copy here. Find out how technology and new ideas are helping to shape learning for the next generation of Africans.

Alongside features from Binyavanga Wainaina and Paul Boateng there’s a piece by me on the potential for Africa’s creative industries :

Hooray for Nollywood: opening up Africa’s creative frontiers

Zanzibar columnist and TV producer Adam Salkeld looks at how Africa’s creative economy can deliver a richer and brighter future.
Creative thinking is the lifeblood of our time. Our futures will be defined by how well we unleash and exploit our creativity. Nowhere is this more apt than on the continent of Africa. In recent years Africa’s economic growth has been driven by extracting energy or minerals. Looking ahead, the challenge will be to mine minds, to release the greatest natural resource of all, Africa’s creativity. 
The “creative economy” often seems a nebulous concept compared to more traditional industries. After all we can easily define a product like a motor car and it is not too difficult to count them as they come off a production line. Measuring a sector that covers everything from fashion to film, software to soft furnishings or advertising to app design is more complex. But even if definitions vary, the global creative economy is still measured in hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars annually and all the sources agree, it is growing year on year.  
Big numbers aside, there are other reasons to promote creative industries, particularly within the context of developing economies. Jobs in the creative sector tend to be of higher value, more rewarding and more sustainable. Entry barriers to the creative industries are lower, so the sector encourages a high rate of startups and smaller enterprise. Digital technology has made local creative industries global. Growth in the creative sector is only bounded by the imagination and quality of ideas, not by finite reserves or international commodity prices. Champions of the creative sector also point out that it bypasses many of the negative side-effects of traditional industry, such as heavy pollution, big carbon footprints or industrial diseases.
The United Nations goes further and points to a range of non-monetary social and development benefits from the creative economy. A series of studies commissioned by UNESCO and UNDP have shown that creative industries can drive the very best types of development that are inclusive for women, indigenous peoples and youth. The UN argues that creative expression empowers individuals and groups and creates well being in all societies. In other words, we all benefit from a strong creative economy, even if we are not directly involved ourselves. To this end, the promotion of culture and creativity has earned its place in the new post-2015 global development agenda.
Nollywood, Bongo Films and Ugawood
So how does this all relate to Africa? Firstly, all over the continent there are signs of a vibrant creative sector. Booming film industries, for example, like Nollywood in Nigeria, Dar es Salaam’s Bongo Films and Uganda’s Ugawood have created a market worth millions and employment for tens of thousands. Using streaming technology they have also built an export market, distributing their films to diaspora communities around the globe. Besides making money, these films have entertained many and created an entirely indigenous showbiz industry.
Elsewhere, only this month, a Kenyan company, Well Told Story, won its second International Emmy, one of the most prestigious awards in the global creative industries. The Digital Emmy  recognised the company's groundbreaking multi-platform work with Shujaaz, a story-based informal learning project for young people in Kenya. It combines cartoons, FM radio, video and social media and has already reached millions.
I could just as easily mention the waves being made by West African fashion designers, the thriving North African festival circuit, or the technology incubators and hubs up and down the continent that are using African creativity to solve African problems. But for me the most positive indicators of Africa’s creative future are on a micro scale and they are everywhere. Yes, everywhere – on an urban street corner, or in a remote village – people solve problems in creative ways, entrepreneurs spot new opportunities, communities collaborate to make things better. These exhibit the practical everyday creativity that is the bedrock of a successful creative economy.
Creation Spaces
So has Africa something it can share with the rest of the world? Building “creation spaces” is one of the hot topics of the moment. All over the globe governments, corporations and academics are looking at how we can better encourage ideas and creativity. To foster the best ideas, we need to create environments where emotional responses, rich experiences and social learning are at the forefront.
That sounds a lot like a traditional African community. Jay Cross, the man who originally coined the term “eLearning” and a leading thinker on how we learn, agrees and says Africa has something precious, “Africa should probably worry more about not destroying the creation spaces it already has than about creating new ones.” 
Educators need to consider whether they are allowing their learners to develop creative thinking skills. The question of whether you can “teach” creativity is a vexed one, Jay Cross says, “Maybe so, maybe not, but creativity can certainly be nurtured. Giving people the freedom to think broadly, providing examples of the creativity of others, encouraging innovation and experimentation, all these stoke our creative fires.” And he argues that the conventional school is not achieving it, “John Medina, author of Brain Rules, has written that if you set out to design an environment that stifles learning and creativity, you'd end up with something like the modern Western classroom: a closed box, cut off from the outdoors and lined with rows of chairs.”
Virtual Thinkspace

The virtual world offers unlimited space for sharing, comparing, inspiration and support, indeed all the tools for creativity. Wonderful ideas and products are coming out of Africa’s creative industries – software, apps and innovative ways of learning. We need to think how we can build new creation spaces, blending the African spark with the freedom and opportunities of the digital universe.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

More big numbers...

You can read the African Big Tech Numbers story again here at The New Africa 

Monday 12 May 2014

Big Numbers about Africa and Technology

eLearning Africa 2014 in Kampala is coming up. Here's a short piece I wrote about the numbers that make the conference themes and topics so important. Original here.

The big five – your survival guide to the numbers behind the stories

Do you feel bombarded by big data? Or floored by forecasts? Here are eLearning Africa 2014’s Top 5 vital statistics and trend predications. They are the essential background to some of hottest topics we will be discussing in Kampala.
Have we got it right? Let us know what we might have missed – or have you got a killer stat you’d like to share? Comment below!
by Adam Salkeld
1.    Growth in Consumer Internet Traffic in Africa
So much of what we do and hope to do in eLearning is driven by the Internet. Africa will continue to see very strong growth in traffic. If you like big numbers here are some:
2012:  410 Petabytes/Month – That’s 410,000,000,000,000,000 bytes
2017:  2.4 Exabytes/Month – That’s 2,400,000,000,000,000,000 bytes
In case you got lost counting zeros that’s a sixfold increase.
2. Going Mobile
How we access the Internet is changing and increasingly it is via a mobile connection. If you need convincing that mobile learning has potential, look at these latest projections for the spectacular growth of mobile data in Africa. For educators it may well be a case of “follow the user”.
Subscriptions chart Adam
3. Smartphones
Until now smartphone use in Africa has been lower than in other parts of the world. That is changing.  Nearly half a billion African smartphone subscriptions are forecast by 2018. This rise will be driven by better data networks, economic growth and new hardware, such as Microsoft’s 4Afrika handset.
Smartphone Adam
 4. Video
As you will see at eLA 2014, video is one of the most exciting new languages of learning.
The YouTube Generation is alive and kicking in Africa and it is getting stronger all the time. If we look at the projected growth of video traffic on Africa’s Internet, it is huge. Get ready for some more seriously big numbers.
Video Adam
If you prefer, that’s a growth from 230 Petabytes per month to 1.8 Exabytes per month.
5. Youth
Finally, as you arrive in Uganda for eLA 2014 you will be coming to a country with the second youngest population in the world. Only Niger has a more youthful population profile. The average age in Uganda is 15.5 and a staggering 78%of the population is under 30.
Welcome to the Future.
Informa Telecoms and Media
Cisco VNI
CIA World Factbook
Note: Forecasts 1 and 4 represent MEA region

Sunday 4 May 2014

Ganswein lives...

I am not much of a Vatican watcher but I have to admit I was a little worried about what had happened to our Georg after Pope Benedict's resignation. Thankfully this excellent piece from The Atlantic clears things up. Gorgeous Georg is now "helping" both Popes.

The Future of News

Here's a piece I wrote for The New Africa on the recent Future News 2014 event in Glasgow. It was really great to be there. Two years ago I had the original idea and rallied a group of stakeholders to get it off the ground. Events intervened and I was unable to continue my involvement through to the end. I really appreciated it that the other partners didn't forget me and invited me to be there. Future News 2014 was a seriously impressive operation and deserves to become a regular fixture on the calendar.

Reporting Africa’s Future

Ten aspiring journalists from Africa travelled to Glasgow to take part in the prestigious Future News event. They joined a hundred other young people from the Commonwealth for an intensive programme of news training and networking.

“The future of Young Africa is to reclaim the dignity and glory of Africa. As journalists we will have the job of showing that our continent is not a place for pity, but a place of empowerment.”

So said Baxolise Mfidi, a 19 year-old student journalist from South Africa, as he completed the Future News programme in Glasgow. Mfidi was one of a 100 young reporters from the across the Commonwealth who took part in this unique event. 

Future News 2014 is part of the cultural programme for this year’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Participants aged between 16 and 19 have been busy on a packed schedule of lectures, workshops, visits to media houses and the sporting venues for the Commonwealth Games. Every delegate was given their own tablet computer so that they could begin their digital reporting immediately.

The African participants come from Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Mauritius and Zambia. They won their places in competitions organised by the British Council in their home countries. 

The delegates had lots of opportunities for networking. They heard from industry heavyweights such as Reuters Managing Editor Paul Ingrassia, BBC anchor James Naughtie, Chris Roper editor of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, as well as a range of editors and correspondents from newspapers, radio, television and online news services. Kelebogile Mojanaga from South Africa said:

“The quality of the speakers was so high. They not only knew what they were talking about but they had real passion. It was inspiring for us to see successful people in the industry with such commitment to the values of journalism.”

The participants were encouraged to ask questions and promote lively discussions on all aspects of journalism including ethics and press freedom. RogĂ©rio Marques Benedito Junior from Mozambique said: 

 “My entire perspective on journalism has changed. It made me realise that journalists have a much bigger role and can really benefit society as a whole.”

The group visited the BBC Scotland studios, Scottish TV, Capital Radio and the Herald printing plant. They were also treated to insider tours of the Chris Hoy Velodrome and Celtic Park which will   be centrepieces of this summer’s Commonwealth Games. All through the activities the delegates filed reports, pictures and footage for the Future News website. 

A poll of delegates confirmed that the vast majority are now even more passionate about following a career in journalism. Tiyah Chirwa from Malawi is returning with a renewed mission:

“In Malawi journalists are badly paid and not respected. This week has empowered us. We have learned that there is a lot more to journalism than people see.”

Future News is a continuing project. After leaving Glasgow the delegates will continue reporting on the Future News website and will be able to call upon professional mentoring online. When the Commonwealth Games begin in July there will be a dedicated young people’s newsroom in Glasgow and a series of virtual newsrooms across the Commonwealth. The delegates will be able to practise their reporting live with access to all the news feeds from the Games.

Future News is a collaboration between Glasgow Life, Glasgow City Council, The Herald and Times Group, The British Council, Thomson Reuters and Tinopolis Interactive.

The students’ work can be seen on the Future News portal here at 

You can see a short video about the virtual newsroom here at

The Other Great Byron

I am re-reading The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. It's the sort of book you should keep beside your lavatory, and then every few years devote some proper time to reading at length.  Lots of sensible people think it is the finest travel book ever written - Bruce Chatwin described it as "a sacred text, beyond criticism".  The majority cite it as a seminal influence on all the good travel writing that followed.

Byron published Oxiana in 1937, just four years later he died when the ship he was travelling in was torpedoed off the north of Scotland. He was only 35.  But he had lived through amazing times -- far enough away from the age of tourism to be able to travel in the old style; but also in the midst of the great historical upheavals of the 20th Century. He was a sharp observer. He spotted Stalin's monstrosity while H.G.Wells, Sidney Webb and others were returning from the USSR starry eyed. He also saw the writing on the Red Fort Wall about the future of British India.

Yesterday I pondered on this section from Oxiana where Byron, en route to Central Asia, is in Tel Aviv and meets a leading Zionist. Byron is impressed with how the settlement has developed but asks a simple question. He receives a dismissive answer:

"I asked if it might not pay the Jews to placate the Arabs, even at inconvenience to themselves, with a view to peace in the future. Mr Gordon said no...'If the country is to be developed, the Arabs must suffer, because they don't like development. And that's the end of it.'"

The young Englishman's question could still be asked 80 years later.

PS. One more thing about Byron that strikes me in 2014. How would he use his conversational, immediate writing style, which is energetic and often hilarious, if he was writing now? Would he tweet instead of publishing on paper? The answer is possibly no. He worked painstakingly hard on his words - it took him 2 years to finish Oxiana after he got home - to give the impression of "dashed off" diary entries.