Jim Teicher led a discussion in the May 6 “Global Digital Development
Forum” hosted by USAID and other global development leaders
Most international development projects have a short lifespan because
there is a limited capacity for long-term sustainability at the
country or local level. The net result is a lot of time, energy, and
money wasted; as well as the loss of life. This is a sad and
unfortunate reality of global development that needs to be avoided and
mitigated at all cost. The emergence of COVID-19 reminds us that the
security of the planet rests on effective coordination, transparency,
and sustainability. In order for this to happen we must demand
accountability and take political risks.
STUDENTS & PARENTS: The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to look at our connected world. More than ten year ago, students attending CyberSmart Africa’s first partner school in rural Senegal wrote, narrated and filmed short one minute stories. These stories provide us with an unusually intimate window into lives far different than ours.. The students — all the first in their villages to ever attend school — reveal their thoughts and dreams for the future. As we see most clearly today – in our connected world, we can learn from each other and everyone makes a difference. Conversation prompts are below.
- What surprised you about the stories?
- How is your life different from these lives of the students?
- What else do you want to know after viewing one of these videos?
- The students worked in teams to make the videos. What other examples of teamwork do you see when you watch the stories?
- Take one thing you learned about Senegalese village life and compare and contrast it with your own life. What story might you tell to “answer” the story told in a Senegalese video?
- How do your responsibilities at home or school compare to those of these Senegalese students?
- Write a one-line movie tagline, or slogan, for each of the video stories here Make them catchy so that others will want to see the videos, too.
- Many students in these videos talked about what they’d like to do change in their villages. If you could change one thing about your community, what would it be? What changes do you hope to see in your hometown 10 years from now? What changes do you hope to see in your country 10 years from now?
- These stories were filmed in the village of Sinthiou Mbadane Senegal. Where’s that? Geographically how does it compare to where you live?
- Which one video spoke more directly to you? Why?
The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to look at our connected world. More than ten year ago, students attending CyberSmart Africa’s first partner school in rural Senegal wrote, narrated and filmed short one minute stories. These stories provide us with an unusually intimate window into lives far different than ours.. The students — all the first in their villages to ever attend school — reveal their thoughts and dreams for the future. My personal hope is that, now stuck at home, you will watch these stories. As we see most clearly today – in our connected world, we can learn from each other and everyone makes a difference.
TEACHERS & PARENTS AND BORED KIDS. Stuck and home and running out of things to talk about? We’ve provided writing prompts and conversation starters below:
“I’m driven by my vision to help solve the world’s largest education challenge – addressing the needs of SubSaharan Africa, home to the fastest growing youth population. I believe, and our new research shows, that massively scalable education technology and social networking are the key drivers to meeting this challenge.
What’s inspiring to me is that after 12 years of grassroots collaboration with teachers in rural schools, my longstanding, deep local relationships allow us to identify clearly the most practical ways to proceed and support the tens of millions of teachers and hundreds of millions of kids in SubSaharan Africa.” Jim Teicher
During 2020 our focus is on building out and launching the SmartSenegal.com social network experience and cementing relationships for the massive uptake by teachers in Senegal and elsewhere in the developing world.
Relationships. Relationships. The SmartSenegal.com social network
During 2019 we secured key relationships for the start-up and growth of the SmartSenegal.com teacher social network – trusted local partnerships established from working over ten years in Senegal. Relationships emphasizing the private sector, teacher unions, and other key influencers outside of government control. It’s all about relationships!
SmartSenegal.com overcomes the persistent obstacles associated with teacher training, collaboration, and access to up-to-date learning resources in developing nations: it provides a highly supportive, empathetic platform for teachers to make new, meaningful connections with learning content and each other. Strategic use of artificial intelligence helps teachers locate and apply the best available resources.
Ground-breaking Research: The Digital Life of New Teachers
CyberSmart Africa conducted ground-breaking research about the digital life of new teachers – something never done before in Sub-Saharan Africa where teachers’ opinions rarely enter into decision making by education authorities. We surveyed 300 new Senegalese teachers and found that the vast majority (89 percent) own smartphones and are substantially more connected than the general public. New teachers are the power telecom users, representing the largest group of stable wage earners in developing countries. This is encouraging news both for telecom players, and for the development of new education solutions which embrace technology. See the Slideshare presentation here first presented at AfricaCom, Capetown, South Africa.
Schools continue to use CyberSmart Africa’s proof-of-concept solar-powered interactive whiteboard for low-cost classroom learning. Although not our current focus, this low-cost learning technology will play a key role to bring online and offline multimedia lessons to classrooms without, and with electricity.
I connected with The National Basketball Association to bring NBA Academy players and staff to the rural elementary school, Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1. The NBA Academy is a world-class facility designed to train elite African athletes. The players spent time in classrooms, played games with the kids, and provided inspiration just through their towering presence. We used basketball as a frame of reference for multimedia lessons in geometry – a basketball court is a rectangle!
American Chamber of Commerce
I have assumed a leadership role within the American Chamber of Commerce to strengthen American investment and influence in West Africa. The net impact can be huge, including transparency improvements, and embracing more problem solving and decision making at all levels.
2019 Community Service Activities
This year again we had numerous opportunities to serve students, teachers, and their families.
Student Health Care
Once again we were thrilled to arrange for the Maine (USA)-based Partners in World Health return to Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane1, CyberSmart Africa’s first partner school, to provide medical treatment for hundreds of children and their families.
Chef Pierre Thiam visit to Dakar
I was thrilled to facilitate a meeting between the internationally renowned American/Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam and U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, Tulinabo Mushingi. Pierre Thiam is widely recognized as the culinary ambassador of West African cuisine to the world.
Life-saving open heart surgery/Cardiovascular disease prevention
The Cuomo Pediatric Heart Hospital is the new hub for open heart surgery and medical education in the region. During September 2019 I was honored to sponsor life-saving open heart surgery performed on a young man in dire need. Aligned to the Senegalese national curriculum, lessons in cardiac disease prevention, including rheumatic fever, hypertension, and diabetes will all be a vital component of CyberSmart Africa’s new digital learning content.
Feature film “Tall as the Baobab Tree” This internationally acclaimed feature continues to impact tens of millions of people around the world, 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. A free teaching and study guide is available for teachers.
Micro-Sustainable development exemplified
Madame Fataya exemplifies the vision for financial sustainability at a micro-level. This woman increased her sales of street food and boosted her income by offering new, creative versions of a traditional Senegalese donut called “fataya.” We provided the coaching, recipes, and ingredients to make the initial batches. She’s been on her own for over six months, buying the ingredients and profitably selling new banana and apple fatayas to tourists and locals.
CyberSmart Africa conducted ground-breaking research about the digital life of new teachers – something never done before in Sub-Saharan Africa – where the teachers opinions rarely enter into decision making by education authorities.
We surveyed 300 new Senegalese teachers and found that the vast majority (89 percent) own smartphones and are substantially more connected than the general public. New teachers are the power telecom users, representing the largest group of stable wage earners in developing countries. This is encouraging news both for telecom players, and for the development of new education solutions which embrace technology. See the Slideshare presentation here first presented at AfricaCom, Capetown, South Africa
HIghlight: Teachers represent the largest professional workforce on the African continent. Teachers in Africa actually take home a higher percentage of GDP per capita than their peers in developed nations. This means that regularly salaried teachers are important customers in Africa. Plus this market will grow, and grow, and grow as estimated shortages of teachers in primary and secondary education in sub Saharan Africa are dire.
Teachers will facilitate technology use in schools, and will help drive children and families to connect.
The next generation of African teachers will be a key customer segment for telcos as they are already likely to be connected with smartphones, buying their own bandwidth and are part of the largest, most stable, salaried professional workforce on the African continent. And their numbers are growing with the booming youth population.
Russell Southwood of The Balancing Act- the primary source for information on Technology, Media and telecoms industries in Africa talks to Jim Teicher of CyberSmart Africa about the findings of a first-time-ever survey he conducted among 300 new teachers fresh out of teacher training colleges in Senegal.
Discussing the results of our recent survey with 300 new Senegalese teachers with Monahed Moustapha Diagne, Director of Training and Communications for the Senegalese Ministry of Education.
Teachers represent the largest, regularly salaried, stable and professional workforce on the African Continent. And their numbers will only grow with the booming child population growth. CyberSmart’s groundbreaking research found that the majority of teachers – fully 66% will pay for the convenience of connectivity when and where they want it and 89% own a new smart phone – a significantly higher percentage than the general population.
For the full results and implications for telcoms and education See
My experience with telecom players suggests that they care deeply about bridging the digital divide, connecting everyone, and impacting education. It makes sense on every level. An educated society benefits everyone because it contributes to economic growth and well-being – including the expansion of new telecom products and services. (photo from #AfricaCom2019).