An Investigation into Using Current Information Technologies to Provide Engineering Education to Sub-Saharan Africa

Nicholas T. Kirkland
Mechanical Engineering Department
University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, NZ
E-mail: ntk14@student.canterbury.ac.nz

Valentin L. Vitanov
School Of Engineering, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, England, UK
E-mail: v.i.vitanov@durham.ac.uk

Dirk Schaefer
Systems Realization Laboratory, The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology Savannah, 210 Technology Circle, Savannah, GA-31407-3039, USA E-mail: dirk.schaefer@me.gatech.edu

Abstract:
Engineering education is one of the key factors for the development of any nation. Nowhere is this more true than in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a dearth of engineers has contributed to the lowest regional standard of living of anywhere in the world. The need in this region is so vast and immediate that it could only be met by the use of ICT-based education. This paper presents the findings of an investigation into the feasibility of providing tertiary level engineering education through current information and communication technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Data collected include an extensive review of the available literature, contact with current providers of ICT-based engineering education, and a survey of 250 engineering firms in Sub-Saharan Africa, the end-users of engineering education in that region. The findings indicate that it is indeed feasible to deliver tertiary level engineering education to Sub-Saharan Africa, assuming that resources could be found for course development and to enhance the technological capacity of local institutions. This paper complements the picture of a `flat world’ drawn by Thomas L. Friedman who in his recent book focused on well-developed countries only.

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