On the 1st of October 2015 Econet Wireless Zimbabwe rolled out 4G LTE to the Zimbabwean public. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a 4G wireless communications standard that’s designed to provide up to 10 times the speeds of 3G networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, notebooks and wireless hotspots. 4G technologies are designed to provide internet access at speeds of at least 100Mbps and up to as fast as 1GBps. This new development is expected to improve Zimbabwe’s internet speed rankings significantly in the coming year. With an average internet speed of 6.53Mbps, according to a report by Techzim in 2014, Zimbabwe is currently ranked 5th in Sub Saharan Africa and this is expected to change any time soon.
A recent report by Techzim also revealed that 90.3% of Zimbabwe’s population own a mobile phone while 6.1 million people have access to the internet, 99% of those being mobile device based. Which means that most internet access in Zimbabwe is via mobile devices, making improved internet speeds on mobile networks a very welcome development. Other than contributing to growth in GDP as suggested by an Ericsson report which stated that every doubling of Broadband speeds increases GDP by 0.3%, education development is also expected to benefit. So how will education benefit?
Easier learning through multimedia
Faster internet speeds will make use of multimedia like graphics, images, pictures, animations, slides and documentaries in teaching a lot easier. Arguably, it is believed that visual data has a greater impact on learning and memorizing than plain text. Using the Internet to access multimedia illustrations provides an opportunity for children to gain knowledge about a particular subject in depth. With faster internet speeds students can now see the actual photographs of rare bird species, or see animated graphics of a volcanic eruption to understand the concept in detail.
Increased effectiveness of online learning
Another positive effect of faster Internet speeds in education is the improvement of distance education or online education (internet-based training (IBT) or web-based training (WBT). Access to online learning platforms like Higherlife Foundation’s (www.higherlifefoundation.com) Ruzivo platform will become easier and digital learning hubs will become more effective.
Easier and cheaper access to learning material
Availability of text books is a big problem in Zimbabwean schools. In most schools more than 5 students share a book and in some cases the books are not there at all. Such factors make delivery of quality education an uphill task however with improved internet speeds, text books can now be replaced with websites like Wikipedia and Google books.
Conclusively, as LTE coverage spreads through out the country the potential benefits of using high speed internet for learning and education are also going to increase so lets all embrace it. The time is now.