OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Democratizing Access to Education Using Mobile Technology

We hope to provide access to tele-learning with a new, impact-oriented, and tangible app that can be created within a 1 month time frame!

Photo of Jason Torreano
1 0

Written by

What is the need are you focusing on?

Similar to many countries around the world, South Africa’s COVID19 response called for a complete national lockdown. Since March 27th, access to education became limited for those learners who are on the lesser-privileged portion of the digital divide. According to a 2012 UNICEF report, “South African adolescents and youth are the first adopters of mobile technology, with 72 percent of 15 to 24-year olds “having a cell phone.” Since this information is dated, we can surmise that South African youth who have their own phone or access to a phone (even if it is a family members’) have possibly increased. Inkululeko seeks to harness this for those who do not have access to data (which can be incredibly expensive). So, the need is accessibility to education - how can we alleviate the stress of learners who do not have access to tele-education while under the impact of COVID-19 policies such as South Africa’s national lockdown and social distancing?

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed
  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Although there are methods of tele-learning accessible to students during the COVID19 pandemic, many do not have access to these resources while schools are closed. Some South African learners have smartphones but lack access to data. Inkululeko seeks to create a learner pack application with academic materials that loads content shared via bluetooth - similar to airdrop - so that learners will be able to meet their educational needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, although learners ought to be fairly close or in the same vicinity in order to utilize bluetooth, they can still stay safe and adhere to social distancing policies without jeopardizing their educational needs.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

On a global scale many do not have the access to all digital benefits that others do. Education, as a great equalizer, is a right for everyone. Inkululeko hopes to provide access to this crucial right to students.This project could be incredibly transformative, not only for Inkululeko learners but for people across South Africa. It could, if executed correctly, achieve the following: 1. democratize access to information in ways that currently do not exist by harnessing the resources that students already have; 2. allow for social distancing - students can transmit information via bluetooth to other devices - nobody else needs to handle the mobile device; 3. begin to cut down the digital divide in South Africa by giving learners from more modest backgrounds (with access to a bluetooth enabled device) an opportunity to get their academic materials like their more affluent peers do regularly without a second thought;

What is the name of your business or organization?


What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Inkululeko's mission is to provide South African township youth with the skills, support and guidance necessary to apply, attend and succeed in university; to challenge the bigotry of low expectations for township youth; and to provide sustainable, positive change; student-by-student, generation-by-generation. We offer free tutoring, access to computers and the internet, transportation, exam prep, a library of textbooks and regular books (and snacks too!) to young people beginning in grade eight and remain with them through grade 12, with the hope of contributing to the new South Africa, and meeting tomorrow’s leaders, where they’re at, today.

What is your profession?

Executive Director of Inkululeko

Where are you located (country)?

South Africa

Where are you located (region)?

  • Southern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Education

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 5-10 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Civil Society Groups
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

It would require resources from The Learning Trust (funding), Inkululeko (expertise and students), and institutions like Syracuse University (support building the platform), the University of Michigan (support building the platform), as well as Oxford University (research), where we have long standing partnerships.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

There are potentially three major issues: 1. access to smartphones/tablet technology (which could be surmountable if we all put our heads together); 2. regular access to data/wifi to actually get the educational materials that are being sent initially; 3. depending on the degree of austerity concerning national COVID19 responses, (like that of South Africa’s strict national lockdown as opposed to a quarantine or stay-at-home order) being in the same vicinity to even employ bluetooth would not be an option for students;

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

The global education community is partnering with other sectors and organizations to do incredible things for students during this time. After reviewing the “idea” and “inspiration” links on IDEO, many others are also thinking about the ways in which we can make education more accessible on a global scale. This means that the quality of education of many students is declining due to the impact of COVID19. To put it simply - the number of education “ideas” and “inspirations” signals that there is a real need for solutions to the accessibility of education.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

No, we are not aware of or participating in any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to Inkululeko’s solution.

Website URL

Attachments (1)

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Welcome to the challenge Jason Torreano . It is exciting that you are working on providing access to tele-learning.

It might be interesting to connect with some other innovators on the platform in Africa also helping provide learning at this time:
1. M-Shule: Delivering adaptive SMS learning & health guidance to low-income African families during coronavirus  by Claire Mongeau 
2. Kisomo Smartlearn by George Akilimali 
3. StanLab 3D Virtual Laboratory by Job Oyebisi 

Keep us updated on the progress