Managing 7 risks of EdTech 4Dev project failure
Updated: Jul 13
The global community continues to place ambitious targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals. But, without the tools to build the capacity of all people, many of these goals will remain out of reach. And with the onset of COVID-19, it is likely, to be even further out of reach.
Education technology has the potential to transform the development sector in allowing for greater digital literacy and higher quality education, training and capacity building to reach more people. However, we are yet to harness it’s potential.
Coming out of 20 years in mainstream EdTech roles, I was surprised that in International Development, EdTech seemed to have a reputation for failed projects. Given successes in other contexts, I was really curious to understand why.
This is why we’ve been leading work to look at understanding the risks associated with EdTech4Dev and the ways that mitigate these so we can maximise educational outcomes and successes.
We have identified seven areas of risk that have contributed to EdTech project failure in the past.
A common point of project failure has been around inadequate consideration for the infrastructure that EdTech project participants will need in order to successfully participate. Projects need to plan access for participants to appropriate digital devices, internet connectivity and electrification . Matching careful infrastructure planning, partnership and management to project goals is critical to a successful project.
Human capacity/ teacher competency
All the technology in the world won’t succeed without adequate human capacity to deliver its content and full value. From digital literacy skill development to trainer competency and instructional/learning design capabilities, EdTech programs must invest in people and ensure the necessary support networks are available for ongoing success.
Ongoing technical support
Ongoing technical support is a critical component whereby there is support identified and articulated. This is especially important for first time users, where there may be a digital divide in the digital literacy and skills. This is often impacted by the lack of local technology support and services skills as well as ongoing training support. Finally, ongoing support also means consideration of the project buy-in and ownership by government education departments.
An area of risk is around the appropriate technologies, this can be mitigated by considering the most appropriate technology. Regardless of whether the technology is open source or licensed, the technologies should be maintained and there should be confidence that this will occur during the life of the project and potentially beyond this. Another consideration is whether you build or buy… Both have merits. However, these should be expanded. Finally, the course content and technologies should be appropriate to the culture, language and development context.
Design for sustainability/ scale
A feature of many EdTech4Dev projects is they are designed to meet a long-term challenge using short term fund. This means that there is a consideration around if the technologies are designed for sustainability or scale.
Child protection and safety
Consideration of the child protection issues should be a core component of any EdTech4Dev project. This is especially the case with projects responding to COVID-19. It is critical that we consider measures to ensure children are not exposed to inappropriate and harmful content. Another consideration is around putting relatively valuable mobile devices into communities. The poor management of risks to child safety and security as a result of introducing valuable assets into programs.
Evidence and research
A cycle of limited investment into building evidence and research on the efficacy of EdTech for development and its value for money, coupled with varying levels of success in development contexts, has resulted in limited long-term investments and sustainability of EdTech for development.
In order to harness the potential of educational technology in the development sector, we must consider how we address these risks to build sustainable project, achieve the outcomes, reduce the digital divide and truly harness the potential that digital technologies can bring.
About this post
We were fortunate to be invited to deliver a lighting talk at the first ever global virtual ICT4D conference that was held worldwide on May 6, 2020.
This blog post is based on that presentation.