Roundtable – Developing edtech with Dr Nicos Nicolau

In the first in our series, Steve Wright finds out how edtech in the developing world is advancing and driving educational change.

Dr Nicos Nicolaou is CEO of Unicaf, an online platform making quality higher education accessible to African professionals and young school leavers.

Q. Which developing countries are benefiting most from edtech?

I believe that the countries currently benefiting most from edtech, within the region that we operate (Africa) are Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda. 

Q. What kinds of edtech are being employed in developing countries? And which are proving successful?

Edtech is mostly being employed in flexible delivery models. Students can now study using their mobile phones and/or tablets, thanks to the availability of 3G and 4G systems in developing countries. A number of universities are now offering online programmes (mostly for postgraduates) using digital platforms.

This makes it possible for thousands of students to earn degrees online – which was not an option before the introduction of state-of-the-art digital platforms.

Edtech is mostly being deployed in flexible delivery models – Dr Nicos Nicolaou

Q. What do educators in developing countries want most from edtech suppliers?

I would say that educators most value digital resources and online platforms that are able to operate at low bandwidths. Digital libraries, ebooks and other digital resources are absolutely necessary for educators in developing countries. Edtech suppliers should take into consideration the fact that more than 75% of students who currently study online are using mobile devices – and, therefore, that all products should be mobile-friendly.

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing different countries around the implementation of edtech?

The biggest problem is lack of financing, which in turn produces problems associated with lack of electricity and internet. Many universities, for example, are teaching computer science even though the computer labs available to students are very old and cannot run the latest software and operating systems. The lack of electricity also makes it extremely difficult for students to study and access the internet – in Malawi, for example, power cuts are frequent and can last up to half a day.

Further reading

Building Learning Foundations programme, Rwanda:

Rwanda hosts 2018 international conference on ICT for development, education & skills:

Omidyar Network Ecosystems Framework:

Technology-supported CPD for teachers – lessons from developing countries:

RTI Global Learning XPRIZE Data Summary: