EQUIP Ed Tech Equity Project

The EQUIP project is a two-year study project that seeks to understand the critical considerations taken by the EdTech designers and deployers in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, to ensure equitable deployment of quality education technology-enabled solutions. EQUIP stands for EdTech for Quality Learning: Understanding Inclusion and Equity Pathways. With Dignitas [Kenya], Shule Direct [Tanzania], and STIR education [Uganda] as the lead organizations of this work, the project brings together the RELI EdTech special interest group (SIG) members to undertake a study on the key equity components to enable the end users effectively plan for EdTech interventions.

The outcome of this work will include a set of resources that will aid EdTech designers and deployers inequitable implementation of EdTech interventions. The initial two-year process includes preliminary research and design work on EdTech Equity. Year 1 (2023) focused on research that helped understand the bright spots of, and barriers to, equity and inclusion in the design and deployment of EdTech, particularly across the three RELI member countries. In year one, each of the county groups co-created an equity framework, which will form the basis to develop an online, interactive portal for use in year two testing. Year 2 (2024) will see us test the online framework for equity and inclusion, informed by the evidence gathered in Year 1.

Research Concept

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of education technologies (EdTech) to enable continued learning during the pandemic-related school closures. With the absence of traditional in-person classroom experiences, the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) was accelerated to support access to learning materials and teachers. Although schools have since opened, the value of incorporating technology in teaching and learning is not lost. The increase in demand to remote learning products is encouraging. It shows that there is real potential for education technologies to improve the quality of education to those that need it the most. This increase in demand, however, raises equity questions on who is being left behind as the world moves to educating children through ICT.

Access to EdTech resources in East Africa varies based on the social and historical disparities and vulnerabilities associated with geography, social economic status and political exclusion leading to inequitable access to services. As the world increases its investments in education using technology, Ed Tech developers and deployers need to address equity considerations to avoid exacerbating existing systemic inequalities in pursuit of quality education. These considerations may include the gender digital divide, access to internet, access to digital devices, the rural/urban digital divide, learners with special needs, refugee learners and learners in pastoral communities.

A recent study in Africa indicates that only 4 per cent of children are accessing distance learning solutions and those who do, it’s mostly via television. This finding implies that low technology and non-technology considerations are needed in the design and deployment of Ed Tech solutions to reach more children with little or no access to internet, power and connectivity. Additionally, system level factors are critical as the three countries in East African vary in their preparedness to deploy ICT interventions in their schools. This requires solutions to align closely with system needs, capacity and local preferences. Ed Tech Hub have developed an audit tool to help programmers and actors increase their impact by aligning their interventions to people, product, pedagogy, policy, place and provision considerations.

Furthermore, evidence increasingly suggest that technology complements a teachers’ efforts and is not a substitute to traditional teaching. The human element in technology still matters. As the different stakeholders continue to develop and deploy Ed Tech solutions, the Regional Education and Learning Initiative (RELI) Africa, a network of 70+ organizations in East Africa, are commissioning a study to understand the considerations given to equity in the design and deployment of Ed Tech solutions. As the partner organizations interest in EdTech grows, Ed Tech equity guidelines and resources are required to support the design and deployment of solutions.

Research Questions

  • To what degree is equity and inclusion a consideration in the design and deployment of EdTech solutions?
    1. What internal and external factors hinder or complement the equitable design and deployment of EdTech innovations by the diverse actors.
  • What equity elements are most effective in the implementation of EdTech interventions across a variety of users.
    1. What sequence of decisions is most useful for Ed Tech developers and designs to ensure equity in the implementation of EdTech interventions?
    2. Review case studies of what works at the policy level to influence the equitable implementation of EdTech interventions, including those designed to address equity and inclusion in LMICs.

In 2023, EQUIP convened three parallel but related working groups. The three included meetings at the country level, with RELI members in-country working groups in – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. These groups meet and co-created an equity framework around the theme of equity in EdTech within their country context. The second set of meetings involved the combined in-county groups – which formed the RELI regional SIG, in these meetings, the in-country groups validated the findings of the initial research, validated the country-level equity frameworks’ and collectively made a decision to proceed to develop an online prototype of a combine single framework to represent the region. The third set of meetings involved regional and network-level EdTech players who had an advisory role. These meetings were referred to as Regional Advisory Workshops. Organizations represented in the regional advisory groups included EdTech Ecosystem actors such as the Mastercard Foundation, EdTech Hub, UNICEF, Save the Children; government representatives, academia, and RELI SIG representatives. This study seeks to contribute to filling the gap: working with Edtech designers and deployers from across the three RELI countries (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania) the study seeks to:

  • conceptualize equity with respect to EdTech based on the East African context and experience.
  • Identify barriers and enablers of equity in the design and deployment of EdTech solutions.
  • Explore the extent to which barriers and enablers are currently informing the designing and deployment of the EdTech solutions across different education levels within and across the three countries.
  • Explore the feasibility of applying an evidence-based equity framework in the design and deployment of EdTech interventions.

A key outcome of the study will include the equity framework to support EdTech designers and or deployers design and deploying equitable EdTech solutions that are more responsive to the individual country contexts, needs, and aspirations and ensure quality education for all.