Digital Currency is Valuable for sub-Saharan Africa

Consumers will drive the growth of digital currency, which will and must become part of our daily lives in sub-Saharan Africa.  This is the essence of my remarks when I introduced the amazing panel titled “Consumer Led Innovation” at the WestAfricaCom conference in Dakar.

Technologies like blockchain and digital cash are particularly valuable because they bring the promise of transparency and trust. Blockchain provides a new way to exchange money and other valuable information without fear that it will be stolen or modified.

Telecom should be a leader in this new space. The technology is new and challenges remain, and the telecom ecosystem counts among the key players who must implement it successfully.  For more information about the impact of blockchain on international development see the USAID Primer on Blockchain.

The true test of success will be growing consumer demand to use blockchain in ways that make life easier and more affordable. The benefits of transparency and trust will impact the delivery of public services in ways that bring new efficiencies and renewed integrity to the government.

WestAfricaCom Conference Keynote Panel: Closing the Skills Gap with Technology

Key note panel speaker, Jim Teicher, Director CyberSmart AFrica on the topic of “Closing the Skills Gap with Technology and Innovation” notes that ” highly innovative, practical, and massively scalable educational solutions are required to meet the pressing demands of the skyrocketing population in sub-Saharan Africa.

Two additional points  emphasized:

– To bring more women into the workforce we need to make sure that more girls go to school – and stay in school.

– Public/private partnerships are very challenging and typically unsustainable once project funding runs out. Everyone seems to agree; and now we need to turn talk into action in order to close the skills gap.

West Africa Com 2019 Conference Speaker

 

Thrilled to be returning to West Africa Com 2019 as a speaker on ‘Closing the Skills Gap with Technology and Innovation’.

Great memories of being honored here prior with “Game Changing Innovation” Award.

Millions of Lesson Plans. Valuable and Missing.

Lesson Plan

Millions of lesson plans like this are kept in teachers’ personal drawers. So why should we care? Because most schools in Sub-Saharan Africa lack books and teaching resources are few. So lessons plans and learning content is treasured.

These valuable lesson plans need to be shared. That’s what CyberSmart Africa is working on.

And it must happen sooner than later because the school-age population is skyrocketing.

What teachers want and need.

Teacher using CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform

This teacher is sharing pictures and videos of animals at a nearby wildlife refuge to support his lesson. Last year,  he might have tried to draw chalk pictures or ask his students to imagine what he was describing. But when the right technology is available he eagerly grabbed the opportunity to enrich his teaching and capture the attention of his students.

The problem is not the teachers. It’s the politicians and donor community that get in the way to stifle innovation. The CyberSmart Learning Platform has proven  — beyond a doubt — that affordable and massively scalable classroom learning with the latest technologies is possible today. Even in rural schools like this without electricity.

P.S. Why are the walls pink? See our January 16, 2019 post.

2019 Plans and 2018 Accomplishments by Jim Teicher, Founder & Director

The solar-powered CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform

CyberSmart Africa spent the past year refining and enhancing the solar-powered CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform, based on ten years of working directly with teachers and schools in Senegal. This is the first practical model for massively scalable school learning also taking into account lessons learned from numerous education, government and business leaders, including the French Minister of Education, The US Ambassador to Senegal, the UN, UNESCO, The World Bank, and numerous others.

Introducing SmartSenegal.com – An AI Social Network

My biggest lesson learned from teachers in Senegal is that they need to save time because they are under  tremendous pressure to teach all of the curriculum. CyberSmart’s introduction of SmartSenegal.com uses artificial intelligence (AI) and is specially designed to help teachers do what they are already doing — only faster and easier. Teachers are already heavy users of social networks to meet their professional needs; but existing networks are not uniquely designed for teachers. We are adding features that teachers have told us will make their jobs and their lives easier.  For example, a knowledge bank of teaching resources allows teachers to share learning content, and commerce features will help them save money.

2018 Community Service Activities

Even though our focus is on educational technology, we are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to serve students, teachers, and  their families.

Feature film “Tall as the Baobab Tree” Millions of people around the world continue to view the internationally acclaimed feature film “Tall as the Baobab Tree produced by CyberSmart Learning Institute and filmed in the village where I started my work in Senegal over ten years ago. The film speaks to the power of education and its life changing consequences.

Delta Airlines partnership  Delta Airlines partnered with us to give rural village students a tour of the gleaming new Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar, providing them with a concrete example of where their education might take them — perhaps on a Delta flight to New York!

American jazz  We hosted the first live American jazz content ever to take place in a rural Pulaar Senegalese village to the delight of hundreds of villagers.

Classroom renovation Our annual  classroom renovation initiative turned into an exercise in student empowerment and democracy-building when students voted on the color of their classroom walls. A vibrant pink won, and teachers report that the students are more motivated as they prepare for the elementary school passing exam.

Student healthcare  We were again pleased to team-up with Maine (USA)-based Partners For World Health to facilitate medical treatment for hundreds of children and their families in Sinthiou Mbadane, Senegal.

Connecting through Jazz Music

Jazz music played live for the first time ever in the rural Senegalese village of Sinthiou Mbadane. Students from Virginia Music Adventures – an internationally recognized education and performance group – are dedicated to sharing America’s unique jazz tradition with the world. To watch the villagers who have never before heard of jazz music was amazing.  Everyone was completely engaged! This makes me think about my work with technology. We can’t bring live jazz music to every school but we can bring a world of information – and music – to rural schools in Senegal and other developing nations.  

Our 2019 focus: Launching a new, massively scalable education social network

The data speaks for itself. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are not learning. But irregular attendance, repetition, and inadequate teacher training are not the real problems. Rather, they are merely symptoms of much larger systemic weaknesses. The international development community, including The World Bank and USAID, feed into the dysfunction — and are partially to blame for it — by funding and then funding again inefficient and ineffective bureaucracies and contractors.

There are a variety of solutions and based on our lessons learned in Senegal over 12 years, our 2019 focus is on launching a new, massively scalable education social network – SmartSenegal.com aimed at helping teachers directly. 

Teachers are already heavy users of Facebook and WhatsApp users and SmartSenegal.com provides them with an even better platform designed specifically with features to meet educator needs.  An easily searchable content library providing content that would otherwise be unavailable, coaching groups, and education-focused e-commerce — all to make it easier for teachers.

Our 2019 focus on social network growth is core to growing the CyberSmart Digital Learning Platform.

Why are the Walls Pink?

Even though our focus is on educational technology we  are also fortunate to have numerous opportunities to help motivate students.


We just renovated an old classroom and turned the process into an exercise of critical thinking and democratic decision-making. Typically, it’s the Ministry of Education that selects the paint color,  but this time we let the students select the color options, debate the pro’s and con’s, and vote on the final selection. Vibrant pink won! 

“I would have never thought of this color,” said their teacher, Abdoulaye Ka. He reports that the empowered students speak proudly of their new classroom and are clearly more motivated as they prepare now for the elementary school passing exam.

Dream Big and Discover the World

The gleaming new Senegal Biaise Diagne International Airport is in striking contrast to the elementary school in the rural village of Sinthiou Mbadane. Located — as is the airport — in the region of Thies, the school is off the electric grid. With minimum facilities, the teachers strive to educate and inspire this Pullar community, the most education-challenged ethnicity in this part of Africa.

Delta Airlines’ Dakar Station Manger Monique Diaw-Brown teamed up with CyberSmart Africa to provide the students and teachers with a remarkable tour of the new airport. Monique’s openness and enthusiasm totally engaged everyone, particularly when she handed them boarding passes nearly the same as actual Delta’s passengers use!

The airport visit was an amazing source of inspiration to these elementary school students, giving them a concrete example of where their education might take them. If they work hard in school, maybe one day these youth will have the opportunity to travel on a Delta airplane and discover the world. What might be considered a common school field trip in more economically developed countries is here a hugely positive force for local and global change.