The question of 'Sustained Access' and 'Use'

The question of 'Sustained Access' and 'Use'

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  • Elizabeth


    At the end of the presentation Alice posed two questions – how to facilitate: 1. Sustained access; and 2. Use.

    I’ll start by sharing two quotes whose source I cannot remember but that I have found very useful to me. “…technology is a tool or a means to an end goal – it is not the end in itself”; and “Leadership is the single most important factor affecting the successful integration of technology”.

    I also share that my understanding of the process would go something like this:
    1. Make technology available – which seems to be going very well
    2. Make technology accessible – relates to Alice’s question on sustained access
    2. Integrate technology – relates to her question on use. She picked out one stakeholder (educators) but I wonder if the other stakeholders (learners and community members) are using the technology.

    I would suggest that Alice needs to comprehensively look into three key aspects: vision, access, and integration.

    Vision focuses on what is expected from the technology overall. (It is not and end goal in itself). The integration of technology should result in improved productivity and practice in the environment in which it is introduced. This vision needs to be defined, to have buy in from the stakeholders, and to have a leader who takes responsibility for ensuring it is achieved.

    Access is concerned with the acquisition, deployment and availability of the technology to the target audiences. This covers a number of aspects- finance, equipment and infrastructure, applications and content, maintenance and development, and professional development.

    Integration would be the development and implementation of strategies that make technology useful and capable of accomplishing the vision. Integration is inherently an unreachable goal – technologies change and develop, students and teachers come and go, things change over time. It is therefore a process of continuous change, learning and improvement.

    One other thing I would ask Alice to take into consideration is the element of change – technology results in change – different teacher student relationships are fostered , different learning styles are supported, different skill acquisition processes are utilized. As a change facilitator, one of the principles that has served me well is the maxim: people are not afraid of change, they are afraid of the impact the change will have in them. To successfully engage the stakeholders and improve use of technology (integration) a facilitated navigation of the transition is needed.

    I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks.

    Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you for this very comprehensive response. You zoned in very well and I agree entirely with what you are saying. Because of time constraints and the very integrated nature of what the Trust actually does in the communities I wasn’t able to paint as detailed a picture as I would have liked as I focused mainly on this one aspect which actually is interlinked to various extents to other Trust facilitated community interventions including health, cattle farming, enterprise development, food security, conservation etc. These interventions involve various financial (mainly corporates and donor agencies) and implementing partners and other forms of collaboration. We take a participatory approach in our dealings with stakeholders in the communities working with local tribal authorities, government departments and other NGOs. However the central pillar to what we do is the education of the various stakeholders we work with as we seek to:

    1. Provide a good learning environment for children and youth.
    2. Increase workplace skills and capacity among communities.
    3. Stimulate employment opportunities between communities and private nature reserves.
    4. Improve the livelihoods of communities who are most directly dependent on natural resources through community based environmental management.
    5. Develop cohesion and leadership within existing community structures to establish networks for collaboration and improved resilience.

    We recognize ICT as one of the tools we aim to use in a relevant fashion to help fulfil these goals and the Trust’s vision. We need to look at sustainability within a wider context

    At the moment in terms of the targetted schools the technology is available and is accessible by educators, learners and some other community stakeholders (trainee entrepreneurs and learners from other schools) – its just that the extent to which it is accessed especially by the learners and educators in the schools needs to increase – access is however growing slowly but surely and should increase significantly when all the school-based ICT monitors are manning the labs each day. I received news this morning that monitors are helping some of the schools develop timetables for access.

    Internal and external support for maintenance of the resources is now in place and functioning fairly smoothly however, the schools themselves need to take charge of this aspect and budget for the various aspects. My team and I are working with the Principals’ forum and the associated school governing bodies to achieve this – each school also has an ICT team of 2 or 3 individuals that are users that are to become an integral part of future decision making in this regard. This process is still in the early stages but is ongoing. I am hopeful that this will contribute to mitigating the ownership issues.

    In terms of facilitating integration the following is planned after discussions with principals and some educators:

    • Relevant school based ICT training and support programme in place and implemented to further develop educator/school management team/SGB ICT literacy skills that will make management and running of the schools more effective because:
    • Educators, SMTs and SGBs are able to use relevant mobile communication applications for sharing and dissemination of information e.g. email, skype, instant messaging, Google drive, Dropbox and SMS.
    • All school staff are able to capture, store and disseminate school related data and information using relevant applications including the SAMS

    Eventually we hope the confidence and interest will be developed that will enable:
    • Educators to participate in ICT integration training activities that will generate continuing professional development points (now a national requirement) and contribute to the development of an e-portfolio that can be accessed to generate these points (an incentive) NB: This possibly could be incorporated with the whole learn as you earn concept going forward. However we still need to take a closer look at what the real barriers these educators face and find innovative ways to get them to adopt and use technology more in the classroom.

    One of the messages that has consistently come out of our conversations with stakeholders is the need to access up to date information – a real challenge in their context. So another alternative solution we are looking at is to get the communities free access (via wi-fi and own mobile devices) to relevant up-to-date information offline using a relatively inexpensive satellite-based application offered by Outernet ( We have determined that some of the equipment required could actually be manufactured in the community (presenting a potential entrepreneurial opportunity).

    What has become very clear however is that in order for the technology to be life-changing, solutions have to come from within the communities themselves. In a resource poor environment this will require development of innovative, relevant and cost-effective solutions. This possibly can be achieved by developing a localized community of practice of which the ICT support network (local ICT Monitors and IT experts) we are building can be seen as a start. A group of people that confidently use ICT and can support and encourage others to use technology in an appropriate and relevant fashion to help achieve their goals.

    All of this will take time and resources but the Trust is committed to working in these communities (its been there over 10 years already) and is continually sourcing donors, as well as establishing strategic partnerships and collaborations that where possible leverage the synergies and value addition required to support and implement their initiatives.

    There is still so much to be done but like Irene said to me this morning – need to eat the elephant one bite at a time. I add to that – eat the elephant one


    bite at a time 🙂

    Warm regards




    That is indeed eye opening. I would think of this at two levels:
    1. How does technology enable the trust (and the community) to achieve it’s goals
    2. How can specific challenges be addressed.
    Let me expand a bit further.

    Taking each of the 5 goals you outlined you can then review the solution you are providing and see if there are specific things you can do to leverage technology as a tool to meet the objective.
    1. Provide a good learning environment for children and youth- you could somehow link the schools so that children in poorly equipped schools have access via ICT to resources in resource rich schools – labs and experiments via video link (you tube also works); library materials (could even link with a university library or other rich resource pool); language classes (with the likely level of tourism it probably means speaking a foreign language increases marketability) etc. You might even want to think a step further and remember radio education in Australia that enabled children in areas where there were no schools to have class every day – could you for example have online education for the pupils of the school that you mentioned is always threatened with closure so that even without a physical space they have an education?
    2. Increase workplace skills and capacity among communities – one of the big challenges of education is the disconnect between what is taught at school and what the work environment needs. You could use ICT to build a better understanding of the work available within the industry close to the community – get the nature reserves to give insights as to their tasks, the qualifications needed to do various jobs (e.g. wildlife vet), the practical skills needed to work on a reserve e.g. survival, tracking etc.
    You could do the same for each goal – and you probably don’t have to develop the content yourselves, it probably exists already somewhere, all you need to do is find out where and offer linkage to the resource.

    Specific challenges
    Increase access especially by learners and educators:
    What is in it for them? Can the content enable them to perform better in the matriculation examination? Does it make preparation of lessons or tracking of student progress easier? Can it be used to ease communication between students and teachers (or parents and teachers)? If the technology makes their work easier rather than gives them more work to do they will be quick to take it up.
    Capacity of schools to take charge of maintaining the technology and budgeting for this aspect – this might mean enabling them to seek resources from beyond traditional school funding… do they know how to write proposals, how to manage funds received from a grant, who to approach for funding, how to partner with private sector…
    Address real barriers educators face – you gave the example of lack of up to date information- I am not so sure what they Mena by this but maybe the linkage to a serious library would help, or access to education materials suitable for their classes, or access to applications (apps) that make management of communication, assignments and scores easier etc. Linking the computers to mobile phones – e.g. enabling them to send sums as reminder to parents about what homework their children have etc. is a possible way. Another way would be to get content that is up to date tailormade for them – e.g. in one of my projects we got state the of art information on commercial potato farming and made it available via an app to farmers in diverse rural areas. So maybe the reserves could prepare material on feeding wildlife, or caring for them, or commercially managing a game ranch etc.
    Have solutions from within the community – one of the ways to enrich this is to. make use of the diaspora (members of the community who have moved out and have different skills and exposure) to enrich the discussions within the community- and icy is really suited to this. Have forums that are accessible via computer or cell phone (I believe you can sms to twitter for example) and ask them to invite family from outside the geographical reach to join their conversation. In one of our projects the community discussion evolved from lobbying a dairy to provide better prices for milk to having the community set up a mini dairy (small cooling plant at the collection point and a contract with a retailer in an urban slum) that improved the income for the farmers, reduced cost of milk for the urban dwellers and reduced the demands from the rural community for support to their urban compatriots.

    Hope this helps.

    Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you for this detailed response and the excellent examples for the specific challenges you have given – the majority of which are quite doable and extremely relevant in our context. I am smiling as I read it and will be sharing both your messages with their recommendations with my colleagues at the Trust who will be thrilled to hear from someone neutral who is confirming the type of thinking that we included in a large funding proposal we have recently submitted. The planned community-based human rights project will revolve around education as the pillar and ICT as one of the main tools and aims to target a wide cross-section of community stakeholders at all levels including children, OOSY, educators, various community stakeholders, traditional authorities and Departmental officials.

    The issue regarding lack of up to date information was one signalled by the community members outside the schools especially the out of school youth who said they did not get to hear about opportunities regarding jobs or even educational ones etc. The cattle farmers and small businesses also need to access market related info but also market themselves.

    As for localised school content (e-books, printable pdfs, maths, science, reading programmes, audio-visual aids, youtube videos etc) there is plenty available that has started to be identified, collected and stored in such a way that it is available offline where possible. Implementing initiatives like Outernet will also allow the generation of electronic village and even school libraries and access to market and other related news that the communities wish to receive. It will also allow for wide dissemination of locally generated content – such as that from lodges and game reserves as you mentioned as well as that generated within the communities too.

    My personal observation is that moving forward we should probably focus on the use of mobile technologies as a means of getting people more involved in integrating ICT into their livelihood and educational strategies as many people own cell phones and are also starting to own tablets too. However cell phone service in some areas is dodgy at best and data is still very expensive here but people really try to stay connected. I am linked to a number of community members via Whatsapp and even Facebook. I also am leaning heavily towards the Learn as you earn concept as an incentive not only for the schools but also in the communities – funds and strategic partners dealing in ICT would obviously need to be pulled on board to facilitate this – however it is in my opinion entirely doable.

    Hoping you will be able to join us online tomorrow to take these and any other ideas further.

    Have a good night.


    Oh by the way I found an interesting paper (not so new but still relevant) on sustainability of ICT initiatives in rural areas. It looks at the elements essential to sustainability and gives case studies of ICT projects done in developing countries.It can be downloaded at:

    It gives a wider overarching perspective and gives examples of elements that are critical to sustainability. However my sense is still that whereas there are general elements that contribute to sustainability others are very context specific and need time and experimentation – this always has resource implications…..



    A weave on Sustained Access and Use
    Integrate and make technology available and accessible with three key aspects; vision for what is expected from the technology; access for acquisition, deployment and availability to target audiences and; integration – development and implementation of strategies that make technology useful and capable of accomplishing the vision.
    This should be a process of continuous change; learning and improvement as people are not afraid of change, they are afraid of the impact the change will have in them.
    Ongoing interventions involve various implementing partners and other forms of collaboration with a participatory approach in dealing with stakeholders in the communities as well as establishing strategic partnerships and collaborations that where possible leverage the synergies
    We seek good learning environment for children and youth; Increase workplace skills and capacity, stimulate employment opportunities, improve the livelihoods of communities and develop cohesion and leadership within existing community structures to establish networks for collaboration and improved resilience.
    It aimed that all school staff are able to capture, store and disseminate school related data and information and educators participate in ICT integration training activities that will generate continuing professional development points

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