Improving education outcomes is a wicked problem. It is so wicked that you should run for the hills if you hear anyone claiming that they have the silver bullet to fix the issues. However, we cannot hopelessly fold our arms in surrender. Education being a complex array of activities and actors needs multiple initiatives and interventions on an on-going basis in order to attain the best level of performance possible.

The internet has changed the playing field of education and has the potential to totally revolutionnize the sector. The roles and responsibilities of teachers and students is changing rapidly and schools have to do their best to keep up with the progress lest they become irrelevant in a technology-driven society.

According to economist Jeremy Rifkin, the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism. His book, “The Zero Marginal Cost Society” is a thought-provoking read that pushes some of the most important new technologies to their logical—and sometimes scary—conclusions… the value of this book…doesn’t lie in the accuracy of its specific forecasts, but rather in the extrapolations of current trends that enable Rifkin to reach them. If Rifkin’s predictions have value…it is bringing home the extent of the technologically induced upheaval that may lie ahead. How we deal with the consequences is up to us. A grand unifying theory of [Rifkin’s] thinking over four decades.”

Google has enabled zero marginal cost of acquiring information because now anyone, anywhere can search for information and find it with ease. Youtube has brought lectures and discussions from the best campuses and corridors of powers into people’s pockets. The teacher is no longer required to be the fountain of knowledge who dissipates it to unknowledgeable students.

Teachers in our schools now have to unleash new skills that will enable them to leverage the information available on the internet and keep personalization-accustomed students focused. Teachers are now facilitators and curators of knowledge in the high digital societies.

Business models of schools ae changing and focus is no longer on mere certification but evidence-based learning that justifies the exorbitant fees that are currently charged in private schools.  If these schools do not reinvent themselves then they will be innovated out of business by emerging ed-tech entrepreneurs who are using state of the art tools to create, deliver  and analyze education materials and performance.

As the barrier of entry for new edtech startups continues to fall, there is an immediate need for robust identity tracking and verification such as those offered by Open Badges. Standardization will be key in the networked world so that freelance workers in Japana can do gigs in any part of the world without ambiguity or confusion over their capabilities and track record.

It is my view that new players can radically shift education as we know it. Tech OEMs and telcos are perfectly positioned to revolutionize education.

Some of the most progressive technology companies of our time like Google, Oracle, CISCO, IBM, Huawei, Samsung, Microsoft have already started redeifining what education means through their training certifications which lead students to decent work.

For illustration, IBM launched Digital Nations Africa (DNA), whilst Google set off with Google Skills Africa. These education offering are free to the end user who after acquiring these skills will have a soft spot for the provider’s offerings. So this is a clever way to develop business with the future in mind.

Telcos such as MTN, Vodacom have education platforms that are supporting learners across Africa.

The good thing is that these technology firms have a wide reach across the continent of Africa and can zero-rate public benefit offerings in order to unsure that no student is left behind.

I strongly believe that tech fims can sustainably deliver SDG4.