Using ICTs (educationally) for development in an African context: possibilities and limitations
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This article examines the possibilities and limitations of using ICTs for development in an African context from an education perspective. Although we provide an account of the Pan-African Agenda on integrating ICTs, which covers many countries on the African continent, our focus is specifically on using ICTs for development in a South African context. In addition, this article focuses more on using ICTs within the educational system in (South) Africa, and specifically on the possibilities and limitations of using ICTs for improving both educational achievements and teaching and learning experiences in South Africa. In the first section of this article, we provide an account of the importance of engaging with the increasing global ascendency of ICTs as a significant characteristic of the current, global information age and networked society. Drawing particularly on the theory of Castells (2001), we argue that access to ICTs is not only becoming unavoidable, but may also provide African countries with the possibilities to increase and enhance development. In this regard, we also briefly outline what we view as some of the critical features of development in an African context. In the second section, we provide an account of the Pan-African Agenda on ICTs integration in Africa. This account reveals that, while pedagogic integration of ICTs in education is still in its nascent stage, its relevance is an urgent imperative. In the third section of this article, we specifically examine the South African educational situation and show that, while the importance of using ICTs is recognized and attempts to increase access to ICTs is increasing rapidly, critical questions as to whether or not ICTs can, in fact, improve teaching and learning experiences and outcomes tend to be assumed rather than engaged with critically. We conclude this article by noting that, while ICTs may provide valuable opportunities for development, the recognition of possibilities and limitations of what ICTs can achieve within the African context need to be taken into account.