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Pushing Computers into Africa's Classrooms

FILE - Students use computers to study at Elswood Secondary School in Cape Town, Nov. 7, 2013.

FILE - Students use computers to study at Elswood Secondary School in Cape Town, Nov. 7, 2013.

Countries across Africa are actively pushing to integrate more technology into classrooms across the continent.

To further this effort, the African Development Bank and the U.N. educational organization UNESCO are hosting a conference in Ivory Coast. Three years after its first edition, the pan-African forum opened this session by highlighting the progress made by countries such as Kenya, and the benefits that have followed.

"Five years ago, the government announced that they were going to give laptops to kids,” said Jerome Morrissey, chief executive officer at Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative, or GESCI, one of the forum's organizers. “Everybody started to laugh, saying this is ridiculous, we should be buying books, etc. But what has happened is that it has stimulated interdepartmental and interministerial action and now, practically all the primary schools have got electricity in anticipation."

As Africa's population is expected to double by 2050, it faces a shortage of teachers and a lack of access to education, especially in rural areas. The forum aims to show that technologies can help.

Ivorian entrepreneur Thierry N'Doufou, CEO of Qelasy, the company behind the first African-made educational tablet, remembers the doubt he encountered when he introduced the device.

"Some people thought we were too much in advance, and even a bit crazy," N'Doufou said.

But Qelasy is now present in six countries and partners with NGOs, government bodies and telecommunication companies to develop educational content.

Other tablet-based education programs have been launched in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.

"The fact that there are many forums of this kind organized lately show that there is a reflection throughout the continent on how to turn pilot programs into full-scale developments," N'Doufou said.

According to one estimate, only 8 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa possess a tablet or a computer.