Rwanda and Cameroon have recently announced significant education-related technology agreements – Rwanda with investment group SoftBank and Cameroon with UN agency UNICEF.
SoftBank has this week announced the signing of a partnership agreement with the Government of Rwanda's Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) to provide an educational technology (edtech) service in Rwanda using non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions starting from the autumn of 2023. The actual agreement was signed at the end of June.
To provide this edtech service to schools lacking internet connectivity, SoftBank has partnered with Cyber University, Japan's first full online university and a provider of digital content for academic programmes and professional learning through its platform Cloud Campus. It is also working with other partners providing high-quality satellite internet broadband connectivity and related local management.
This edtech service was designed and proposed by SoftBank in line with Rwanda's efforts to promote and enhance digital education. Through the service, SoftBank, together with other partners, will aim to provide sustainable and affordable internet connectivity framework with high-quality educational content.
The NTN solutions referred to in the agreement presumably include high altitude platform stations (HAPS). In June this year, SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda successfully completed a stratospheric flight test in Rwanda with a new HAPS prototype aircraft. Further HAPS testing and development towards commercial implementation is ongoing.
SoftBank says provision of HAPS-based connectivity is one way in which it can contribute to the digitalization of schools and communities in rural areas that are not connected to the internet.
Also edtech-related but with a slightly different emphasis is a partnership between Cameroon and UNICEF to encourage the adoption of information and communication technologies in elementary and secondary schools.
Cameroon's Special Council Support Fund for Mutual Assistance (FEICOM) – a national fund for municipalities – signed the agreement with the United Nations agency earlier this week.
The US$4.8 million project will, we are told, benefit 100,000 students, 1,000 teachers and 15 schools, which will receive technology to enable access to digital learning platforms.
The project, called Education and Technology for Every Child, is being piloted in the municipalities of Bertoua I, Bertoua II, Garoua Boulai, Mandjou and Ngoura. The partners will contribute, among other things, to the construction and renovation of schools in the municipalities.
The move aligns with the government of Cameroon’s long-term plan to transform the country into a digital upper-middle-income economy by 2035.