ACT-US: Combating Digital Illiteracy in Africa so Children Can Succeed

Digital illiteracy in Africa, particularly among children, is an issue that greatly negatively impacts the region, which is why Embrace Relief created the program ACT-US. ACT-US stands for Accessible Computer Technology for Underserved Students, and it’s of utmost importance because in today’s rapidly changing world, technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in all facets of our daily lives. However, many continue to lack access to important resources like a stable internet connection, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Below are some facts concerning the educational and technological difficulties sub-Saharan Africa is currently experiencing.

Sub-Saharan Digital Illiteracy Difficulties

  • In 2018, the secondary school enrollment rate across the globe was about 66 percent. However, in sub-Saharan Africa it was 36 percent (World Bank Data, 2018). These statistics point to a significant underinvestment in education in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • According to a UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, the cost of failing to provide basic education to 250 million children is equivalent to a loss of 129 billion USD (UNESCO GEM, 2014). This is because the more children are educated, the more job opportunities become available to them, allowing them to create better lives and improve their countries’ economies.
  • If this lack of investment in education continues, the economic loss will become greater as the population of school-aged children continues to rise in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Only 40% of students in Uganda are literate after primary school, and less than 24% of adolescents are enrolled in secondary school.

Embrace Relief’s ACT-US Program

To combat digital illiteracy and, subsequently, lift areas of sub-Saharan Africa out of extreme poverty, Embrace Relief has partnered with the Nile Humanitarian Development Agency to create and implement the ACT-US Program. The program provides computers that allow students in Ugandan K-12 schools to learn general education subjects such as science, math, and reading, as well as life skills such as health, farming, and sanitation, among others. The computers’ operating systems are also equipped with ICT (Information and Computer Technology) skills training such as typing and coding. Plus, because the computers are equipped with Endless OS system technology, students can learn these skills without needing access to the internet. 

Assessing ACT-US’s Effectiveness

To assess the impact of the ACT-US program, the Nile Humanitarian Development Agency has conducted a survey in nine of the 15 selected schools, arriving at the following results:
  • 100% of the interviewed teachers believe the computers benefited students and improved their learning outcomes.
  • Specifically, computer skills, English, and finance were among the subjects where great improvement had been demonstrated by the students.
  • 75% of the interviewed teachers felt they received adequate training for the technology and were able to effectively direct the learners during instruction.
  • Students expected the computers to help them with research and communication skills, and the computers were mostly used for research purposes by both students and teachers.
  • Throughout the administration of the computers in the Ugandan schools, over 98% of the computers remained properly functioning.
  • The number of students accessing the computers was almost the same in all the schools varying between 16% to 4%. Also, students in each school spent a maximum of 60 to 120 minutes per lesson. This time is averagely above the standard minutes per lesson in Uganda, therefore giving the learners more time to interact with the computers and improve their learning.
  • The schools believe that if administrators are committed and continue to monitor the program, ACT-US will yield a strong and lasting impact on their schools in the same way it has started to positively transform the individual learners.
Clearly, the survey proves ACT-US is a highly successful program that is greatly benefiting Ugandan schools, despite the negative impact of COVID-19 resulting in school shutdowns, among other problems. As a result, Embrace Relief intends to continue to grow and implement the program, including making improvements such as allocating more computers to schools with a higher number of students and increasing the internal capacity of the computers so more information can be stored, among other improvements.

How YOU Can Help

ACT-US is an incredibly important program because without programs like it, an estimated nine out of ten children in sub-Saharan Africa will grow to live in extreme poverty (UNICEF, 2016). Not only that, extreme poverty breeds more extreme poverty, leading into future generations, a problem only exacerbated by the fact that the population of sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly increasing. Therefore, more and more people will live drastically below the poverty line. To date Embrace Relief has delivered 324 ICT Computers serving over 7,000 underserved students in Uganda and Tanzania. However, thousands more are in need of aid. Please consider donating today to help them receive the education and digital literacy they need to create prosperous futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.