VENTURES AFRICA – The women in the Mukherjee family know their technology, but mother Jyoti and daughter Nivi are approaching its use from very different angles in their respective bids to build a better, brighter Kenya.
Thanks to Jyoti Mukherjee, an Indian who arrived in Kenya at the age of 28 and started Software Technologies Limited (STL) in 1991, businesses can now manage their boardroom affairs online thanks to an innovative system based on cloud computing. Yet daughter Nivi has approached things from a different angle, using technology to improve the Kenyan education system. The eLimu tablet she conceived contains revision content, exam tips, quizzes and educational songs. It is in the process of a pilot for Kenyan primary school children and bids to tackle the high dropout rates between primary and secondary school in Kenya.
Technology is at the centre of Kenya’s economic growth, and the Mukherjee women are rightly focusing on it as a means of advancing the country as a whole. While Jyoti develops software that aids Kenyan businesses, Nivi is pioneering in using ICT to educate the young people that one day hope to staff these companies.
The eBoard innovation from Jyoti’s STL allows businesses to store agendas and minutes, as well as much more such as compliance and evaluations, in the cloud rather than a more costly and time-consuming manual fashion. Jyoti says it has been one of its best received products and has seen STL increase its customer base. Cloud computing is considered to be at the forefront of modern ICT, allowing users to store data virtually rather than hosting it themselves in expensive data centres. Her new system, considered to be the first of its kind, is available for $60 per user per month and, after an initially slow uptake, has now attracted some major clients, with the Capital Markets Authority set to begin using the service. It is the latest in a series of products from the firm’s eHorizon range, which allows businesses to manage and store data virtually, at a significantly smaller cost. Jyoti claims that virtualisation reduces costs by 50-75 percent.
The concept was based on her own experiences running a business. “I thought to myself, why not make my business paperless,” she said, and it seems other companies are following her lead. “A lot of people are still saying wait and see, but a lot of people are accepting that it is possible.” Many public companies have signed up, including several major banks, and the Capital Markets Authority is the latest to accept the new technology that Jyoti believes is the next step in terms of utilising IT in the interests of business.
Like mother like daughter, it seems, though Nivi has taken a different approach to using technology to create a brighter future for Kenya. The e-Limu tablet, which is also available as an app, is easily navigable and specifically designed to focus on the core primary school subjects. It has a simple design and includes features such as 3-D animations to help students understand complex ideas, games to strengthen cognitive thinking, quizzes and access to online Q&A forums with teachers.
It has been designed to use technology to combat the poor standard of teaching in Kenyan schools, which has resulted in poor exam results and a dropout rate of 40 percent at the end of primary education. By providing focused content as well as teaching aids it is hoped that e-Limu will improve the provision of education in Kenya. Studies conducted once full rollout has taken place will establish the true impact of technology on education in Kenya.
“There are few student-centric approaches in the Kenyan education system, and that is our focus, getting students engaged,” says Nivi. “It shouldn’t be a one way street; there should be a focus on fun and creativity.”
This has been built into the e-Limu concept, with songs, games and quizzes used to embed and test what the kids learn from the tablet’s content. The inspiration behind the development came from a 2011 study from Uwezo, a four year initiative that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children aged 6-16 years old in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The study found that, though school enrolment is almost total in the wake of education becoming free in 2003, education standards were low. Nationally, 7 out of 10 children in class 3 cannot do class 2 work, while 9 out of 100 children in class 8 cannot do class 2 division. The report also found that in many districts 4 out of 10 children miss school daily, and that on any single day 13 out of 100 teachers were not at school. On average, every Kenyan primary school has a shortage of 4 teachers. All of these problems have led a high dropout rate, with only 60 per cent of primary school children advancing beyond class 8 into secondary school. Nivi is looking to change that.
“I think the concept of innovation and creativity is lacking in our classrooms,” she says. “If you sit in on classrooms in Kenya it is depressing.”
Both mother and daughter are understandably proud of their developments, and target a better future for the continent, in business and education, as a result of them.
“I am proud to have an African application for African people for an African environment,” says Jyoti.
Image via kws.org