Kindergarten student in a school in Khartoum.

This is the third in a series of posts on designing innovative education solutions in Sudan, based on a mission that took place from September 3 to 23, and ongoing work. This series is by Panthea Lee, a consultant for UNICEF and principal at the service design firm Reboot. Some of the earlier posts are being published retroactively, partly due to the poor internet connectivity while the team was in country.

It’s been three days in hot, dusty Khartoum and things have been going very well. We’ve had the chance to sit down with various staff members of the Sudan Country Office (CO) to hear all of their different perspectives on the operating environment at present, and UNICEF’s ongoing programmes, as well as with our government counterparts at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Both are very interested in the potential of digital learning systems and how technology can strengthen their education systems. Before diving into the work in the coming posts, it’s probably explain a little bit more about what we’re doing. Working with the CO, I will be assessing their ongoing e-learning pilots, doing more design research and analysis of the current state of education for out-of-school and otherwise marginalized children, and managing community outreach for the further development of innovative education programmes. I’m especially excited to be researching user needs for educational technologies and programmes. Prior to the mission, I had the chance to speak with some experts at UNICEF NY on serving children with disabilities — 1 in 3 children who are out of school have a disability. The statistic is shocking. In some preliminary conversations with the CO, it seems that they are also committed to greater accessibility in education (and specifically for children with special needs) so this is an area I’m eager to dive deeper into over the coming weeks.  While the work with the CO is hugely exciting, I’m also eager to be field-testing the latest version of Child Friendly Technology, a global framework being developed by UNICEF for its COs. The framework addresses how to leverage technology for education, and how to design programmes that put educational priorities and the needs of children first, rather focusing primarily on technology. It is hoped that the framework will allow UNICEF COs identify and learn from common mistakes in using technology for education. These include:

  • Incorporating technology that is not easily usable by the target population due to language, culture, technological hurdles, or other factors.
  • Bringing in technology that cannot be maintained within the local context, rendering programmes fragile and unsustainable.
  • Developing programmes that commit the CO to a particular vendor or approach.
  • Developing programmes that are not easily adaptable to or extensible for evolving needs and environments.
  • Ending up with a technology inventory that stays unused, and education initiatives remain unchanged.
  • Incorporating hardware and software that were designed for OECD environments.

While its initial focus is on technology in education, the CFT framework is also broad enough to be applicable to other sectors as well. Eventually, modules for other sectors can be developed as well. Over the course of the next year, various prototypes will be testing across select UNICEF COs – with iterative refinements in between – to make the framework ever more relevant and useful given COs’ operational realities.

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