Digital content producers and animators are set to be among the biggest beneficiaries as the government starts implementing the Digital Literacy Programme.
The initiative to start next year will offer an opportunity for most public school students to access education materials through computing devices such as laptops, personal computers among others for the first time.
The government plans to hold a digital content stakeholders conference in October to create awareness about the opportunities available and the process to be followed in approving education content.
ICT secretary Fred Matiang’i said digital content will be regulated by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to ensure standards are met as per curriculum objectives.
The government intends to leverage partnerships with the private sector for education content development that it says will open up commercial opportunities for digitising and developing education content for schools.
“We will continue to leverage partnerships with the private sector for education content development. We want to tap into the commercial opportunity these partnerships have in digitising and developing education content for schools,” said Dr Matiang’i.
He emphasised on the role to be played by the KICD in ensuring that quality is observed through out.
“That’s why we are planning to bring publishers and content innovators under one roof with the KICD and the Digital Literacy Committee,” he said.
The curriculum regulator said that it has already embarked on a programme that will see the content of lower classes digitised.
The minister also reported that the curriculum guidelines for the execution of the programme have been completed. These guidelines include the requirement for a new universal platform and another for special needs education.
Also developed is a draft education cloud strategy which will be shared with stakeholders for review to ensure sound basis for content delivery.
“Our plan is to facilitate development of education content that is in formats that are device- independent. We expect to have content for Class One by October,” said Dr Matiang’i.
The pilot programme is ready and from the e-readiness survey for primary schools 11,744 schools out of the 18,184 respondents were connected to power.
In addition, the programme is preparing a manual with model classroom and desk specifications prepared in collaboration with the department of Public Works.
This will be the guide for schools to model suitable classrooms. The specifications are to be complete by the end of this month.
The government has also developed a draft education strategy which will also be shared with stakeholders for review.
Although not a new concept in the country, providing education content through laptops or tablets has been a preserve of privileged learners in elite private schools and a few public schools.
The digital learning initiative is expected to widen the market for digital education materials, initially for lower classes in public schools and upper classes in future when the project is scaled up. The programme is also expected to offer opportunities to animators.
Unlike hardcopy books, the digital books for young learners ought to be intercreative and as such this will offer opportunities to animators whose skills will be required to come up with fresh content.
However, publishers have previously expressed fear over increased intellectual property theft after the introduction of the 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) on books recently made reading materials expensive.
Other than Samsung there are also other initiatives by private firms such as Read and Prosper and e-Kitabu that are offering e-readers in the country.
E-readers are easy to operate, have memory capacity to store hundreds of books and require little power to operate and can be charged using solar.
Also set to benefit is a local higher learning institution that has computer assembly lines.
In June the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) launched its ‘Taifa’ branded laptop. The laptop that retails at Sh46,720 has a fourth generation processor, 500 gigabytes (GB) hard disk, a 4GB RAM (random access memory), 14-inch screen, Wi-Fi and a Web camera, among other features.
The JKUAT has also set a target of assembling 1,500 laptops daily, backed by Treasury’s tax exemption on imported computer parts.
In June, Treasury secretary Henry Rotich exempted value added tax (VAT) on imported or locally produced computer parts, giving JKUAT’s pet project a major shot in the arm.
High taxation previously impeded local computer or laptop assembly with firms such as Samsung that intended to put up local lines preferring to set up in countries such as Ethiopia that did not attract such tax.