BY ONOME AMUGE
Africa’s education technology industry, estimated to be worth $1.5 billion, requires the deepening of collaboration of investors, edtech companies and academia in Africa and around the world to integrate more research in the development of new edtech products, says philanthropic fundraising organisation, Jacobs Foundation.
The edtech sector has experienced expanding opportunities in recent times with the system of learning recording significant developments, leading analysts to predict that up to $150 billion worth of venture capital could be deployed in edtech by the end of the decade.
Educational technology, generally referred to as edtech, is a technology-based system that encompasses computer-based training, online learning and other innovative and advanced tools to provide educational services.
Jacobs Foundation, citing analysts’ projection that the African edtech market, currently valued at $1.5 billion, will exceed $10 billion by 2026, called on edtech venture capital funds to make greater use of evidence in investment decision-making.
The call is being made ahead of May’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders will convene under the theme, “Working Together, Restoring Trust’’, and also assess the role of public-private cooperation in rebuilding trust and shaping a more sustainable future, following the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted learning for more than 1.5 billion students throughout the world.
Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer, co-chief executive officer of Jacobs Foundation, commenting on the dizzying amounts of investment pouring into the African edtech sector, urged stakeholders to intensify focus on the new innovations of edtech and its benefits to children’s learning.
“Today we are calling for a culture shift in edtech. The African investment and research communities should work together, and with partners around the world, to integrate more evidence in the development of edtech products.
“This will be a win-win for everyone. Investors will make better decisions, start-ups collaborating with researchers will improve their products, and students will have access to edtech that benefits their learning. There is not a moment to lose for students disrupted by Covid,” they stated.
The co-CEOs added that the alliance would ultimately strengthen the edtech ecosystem and support a large-scale shift towards evidence for impact in edtech to shape education policy globally by 2030 and beyond.
Marie-Christine Levet and Litzie Maarek, founding partners of Educapital, said: “At this historic juncture in education, we have an opportunity to shape technology’s impact on learning and schools. By combining our deep knowledge of the start-up ecosystem with researchers’ expertise in testing whether and how innovations truly benefit learning, we can ensure funding is directed towards innovations that will make a real difference in children’s learning.”
Gillian Hayes and Candice Odgers, co-leads of Connecting the Edtech Research EcoSystem at the University of California, Irvine, noted that edtech is an incredibly fast-growing field.
“We look forward to strengthening ties within the vibrant edtech ecosystem, in particular collaborating with investors and edtech companies to embed research into edtech development and evaluation. By working together, we will be able to truly capture edtech’s great promise,” they added.
To bridge the gap between learning science and edtech and also to facilitate greater cooperation between edtech investors, start-ups, and researchers, the Jacobs Foundation said it has committed 40 million Swiss Franc (CHF) or $44 million to three interlinking initiatives around the world.
The key players are expected to convene in May this year at Jacobs Foundation’s “Unlocking the Impact of Edtech” Conference in Germany, where they will discuss ways to make more and better use of evidence in edtech.
The organisation also announced the launch of the Learning Edtech Impact Funds (LEIF), deploying 30 million Swiss Franc or $33 million in research-backed projects in partnership with leading edtech venture capital funds partners, including BrightEye Ventures, Educapital, Learn Capital, New Markets Venture Partners, Reach Capital, Rethink Education, Sparkmind.vc, Owl Ventures, and Kaizenvest.
To further support a large-scale shift towards evidenced based investment, the Jacobs Foundation said it will spearhead EdFIRST, a proposed alliance of leading foundations that will work together to encourage the use of evidence in edtech investment decisions.