Three Ps of ICT4E: Principles, Partnerships, and Programs
Information and communications technology for education (ICT4E) encompasses a broad array of technological tools and resources that can be used to strengthen efficiencies in the education system and help students improve academic performance. USAID’s engagement in ICT4E dates back to the use of radio in the 1970s to target hard-to-reach populations. The Agency’s commitment to ICT4E has only grown stronger with time and investments in the Internet, wireless networks, television, and mobile technologies.
The USAID Education Policy recognizes that “Incorporating relevant information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education interventions can enhance the training and coaching of teachers and instructors; enable teachers and instructors to be more effective; aid in reaching marginalized and vulnerable children, including children with disabilities; and improve the collection and use of educational data to strengthen systems and improve policy decision.”
Although the Agency’s ICT4E legacy is broad and deep, there are three words that highlight our investments and approach in this space: Principles, Partnerships, and Programs.
Navigating ICT4E Projects in Low-Resource Settings
Three Ps of ICT4E
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for implementing ICT4E. Deciding whether and how to use ICT4E depends on several factors, including the country context and the educational outcomes a program is targeting. The goal is to strengthen systems and processes to ensure sustainability over the long term. Initiatives that are sustainably designed to impact teaching and learning in one country can entail more challenges to implement in another context. Therefore, when conceptualizing, designing, and implementing ICT in education systems, USAID adheres to the following ten basic principles that can integrate ICT into the broader context and maximize impact beyond the education sector.
- Use ICT to support education and development goals
- Use ICT to enhance student knowledge and skills
- Use ICT to support data-driven decision making
- Include all short- and longer-term costs in budget planning
- Explore technology alternatives to find appropriate solutions
- Focus on teacher development, training, and ongoing support
- Explore and coordinate the involvement of many different stakeholders
- Develop a supportive policy environment
- Integrate monitoring and evaluation into project planning
- “It takes capacity to build capacity” — System strengthening precedes system transformation.
Before undertaking an ICT4E project, it’s helpful to conduct an assessment of the need for and resources available. Two useful publications to help with this are: MIT’s Framework for Evaluating Appropriateness of Educational Technology Use in Global Development Programs and INEE's ICT Inventory for Education in Emergencies.
Learn more about the 10 Principles for Developing ICT In Education ProgramsRead now
An essential element of USAID’s ICT4E approach is through partnerships. The complexity of local and national education challenges mandate collaboration and partnerships not only within, but also across sectors to amplify and accelerate progress toward shared goals. Take for example the critical role of partnerships like those formed by the All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development in developing and organizing various grant and prize calls to catalyze innovative uses of technology to support early grade reading. USAID is also a founding member of the Mobiles for Education Alliance, a partnership of donor agencies, multilateral institutions, and NGOs designed to strengthen knowledge exchange among organizations working in the space of ICT4E in low-resource settings. The annual mEducation Alliance Symposia bring together policymakers and practitioners from around the world.
The cornerstone of USAID’s investments in ICT4E are its diverse programs. To ensure that program staff are addressing not only access to, but also the skills to effectively use ICT4E resources, USAID has developed guidance in its ICT4E How-To Note on integrating ICT4E throughout the Program Cycle including: Strategic Planning, Project Design and Implementation, Activity Design and Implementation, and Monitoring and Evaluation stages.
Read the ICT4E How-To NoteDownload Now
There are many thematic examples of ICT4E programs referenced throughout the ICT4E How-To Note. Two examples include:
- Increasing Access to Education in Conflict Settings
Thanks to technology and mobile devices, displaced and refugee children can continue to learn despite having their lives disrupted by conflict. Learning is therapeutic and brings a sense of normalcy to the lives of these children, especially when games are used. One example is the USAID teaming up with Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) among other collaborators to support the EduApp4Syria competition, which sourced smartphone-based applications that could help Syrian children learn to read Arabic and improve their psychosocial well-being. The two winning games, Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters, are free to download. Because these applications were developed as open source software, they have been reproduced in many other languages.
- Strengthening Parental and Community Involvement
Access to ICT resources can facilitate community and parent involvement in education. The Makhalidwe Athu pilot project improved the reading skills of young children in Zambia’s Eastern Province using mobile phones as a means to provide reading materials. Over a nine-month period, participant households received three SMS messages on their phones each week containing a short story for children to read with their families, as well as a question about the story. An evaluation reported that the project had a positive impact on three of the five Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) subtasks: non-word reading, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension.
As each year goes by, more tech-based applications for education are developed. These new tools and techniques hold much promise to help address education challenges and to positively contribute to improving learning outcomes for millions of children who do not currently have access to quality education. Contact our senior education technology specialist Anthony Bloome to learn more.