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We Need Affordable Broadband Internet for mLearning

By Guest Writer on May 4, 2012

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With all the talk of mEducation, USAID’s Grand Challenge, and the upcoming mEducation Alliance conference, there is something huge that is missing. It’s fair to talk about devices, software, and pilot initiatives. But none of that matters if broadband Internet connectivity isn’t available!

mEducation is operating in the dark – and needs more insight from the broadband industry and the analyst community about pricing, speed, reliability, and forecasting. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible to see where mEducation is headed. It’s all guesswork.

I am James Teicher and I have found that mobile broadband isn’t fast enough, reliable enough, or cheap enough in Senegal (and many other countries). What’s more, I don’t know when it will be. At CyberSmart Africa, we can’t reliably use mobile broadband during class time because images take too long to paint on the screen. Video Skype simply isn’t possible. Sure, Internet pricing has come down as a whole; but the pricing for broadband Internet at schools is still way too high – completely unaffordable.

I am glad there are Technology Salons on broadband – the right people are talking. I also urge the Broadband Commission to boost its efforts so that education figures more prominently on the international policy agenda. But what is the timeline for all the essential ingredients for wireless broadband to merge so as to make it more viable for scale?

The only thing we have now that is reliable and cheap is SMS. Yet SMS alone does not make for mLearning as a whole.

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