Special Reports – Africa Edition
Into a Digital Future

Universities can unleash the power of the digital economy

Africa’s youthful population is ready to spearhead a digital revolution in the frontier areas of data science and artificial intelligence. Virtual libraries, digital libraries and open-source learning materials are some of the initiatives supporting universities across the continent to grow these scarce skills. But institutions, still grappling with COVID-19 disruptions, rely on governments to provide the data infrastructure to take Africa into a digital future.
PHOTO The COVID-19 pandemic has had particularly adverse repercussions for Africa’s education sector. Despite the preparedness of some institutions to implement blended learning, for many the sudden onset of a period of remote emergency teaching also necessitated continued awareness of the need for a humanising approach to learning and teaching.
PHOTO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has provided digital libraries to the University of Juba and the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative Community Learning Centre in South Sudan to bring online educational materials to students with limited or no internet access and power.
Digital technology could transform the capacity of universities to serve the ‘public good’ mission in an era of massive, long-term increases in inequality, mobility, displacement and health and environmental crises. But without addressing some of the systemic practices that pose a persistent barrier to a deeper and more productive engagement with digitalisation, universities in Africa will not be able to realise the potential of the digital university.
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