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Our Blog
Dec 13

Mobile Learning in Africa: Trends and Lessons

By zealousys

Sawubona SA!

As previously pointed out in one of our posts titled The App Revolution, the number of mobile users has surpassed the number of desktop users. So far, we have discussed the business impact of the same. In this post, our focus will be the impact of mobile technology in the education sector in Africa.

Let’s have a look at the following graph for Malawi, Ghana, and South Africa:-


If we analyze the numbers above, there is a steep rise in mobile ownership among kids and adolescents in Africa. The impact is increased usage. Following are the figures for mobile usage by kids and adolescents for the same time periods.


[Courtesy: Mobile Phones and Education in Sub-Saharan Africa]

What does this mean?

A per a research article published in The Journal of International Development, increase in mobile phone usage was linked with the following behavioral findings:-

Access to Information (via mobiles)

  • For exploring the course curriculum
  • Exploring personal identity and potential
  • Search Engine Usage for queries like ‘information on atomic numbers and calculating valence electron’

Teachers use Mobile Phones in the classroom for

  • Illustrative Learning or citations e.g. Malawi teacher showing poses of a dance form through her mobile device
  • Collaborating with students

Miscellaneous tasks

  • Peer to peer communication among students
  • Exam Notifications
  • Academic References e.g. Master Maths
  • Resources management such as fees, uniforms, books

This clearly indicates the scope of online learning through mobile devices in the continent. The proliferation of mobile phones brings unique challenges and opportunities for the learning sector. An effective user experience, keeping in mind the limited bandwidth and expensive data is the key to success.

Example: World Reader Mobile (WRM) Initiative

An initiative which brings access to a library of over 28,000 titles across 43 languages, even on a simple feature phone. The following infographic explains the mass adoption and success of the initiative across Africa.



Some figures related to the WRM initiative are as follows:-

  • Userbase of 2.7 million in Africa online
  • Curated content in diverse topics ( access to 22 million pages)
  • 50,000 daily active users

What made WRM so successful?

Web usage instead of fragmented mobile OSs made WRM accessible to any internet-enabled device. Users could save the books offline for later reading. This eliminated the need of constantly being online. Data compression made the books very small in size, hence, easy to download even on a GPRS connection. The concept was to deliver a fast and data-light user experience.

Other than Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, WRM also includes topic such as  history, art, language, literature, finance and business studies.

The Takeaway

Before launching a product/service, an assessment of the target market is a vital step. For mass adoption, It is essential to make your services around devices which everyone can afford than devices which cannot be afforded  by some.


For giving light to your ideas in the mobile learning space, connect with us at Info@Zealousys.com


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