SEATTLE — The digital divide is one of many significant gaps between developed and developing countries. Poorer nations generally have less access to information and communication technology (often abbreviated ICT), and this absence has far more impact on their people than merely limiting the personal use of the internet.
Digital technologies are increasingly vital to the global economy. Innovation in technology helps drive economic growth around the globe and the developing world is no exception. The negative effects of not closing the digital divide on developing nations will only increase as the market comes to rely more on ICT.
In order to narrow the gap in ICT, citizens of developing nations will need access to education and training. Providing such resources can be difficult and expensive for fledgling education systems, but this is where a video game developer called NetDragon comes in.
Expanding Opportunities in Nigeria
NetDragon was founded in China in 1999 and specializes in developing online multiplayer games and apps. After establishing themselves in the industry, the company set their sights on a more ambitious goal — to become a leader in providing digital education services around the world.
In mid-August, NetDragon’s ambitious plans led to a trip to Nigeria for ten members of their management team to meet with government officials about the future of education in their country. After the meeting, NetDragon and the government of Nigeria announced a joint Initiative called Digital Education in Africa (IDEA).
Digital Education in Africa
For NetDragon, IDEA is a chance to further involve the company in the global digital education industry. This involvement will help the Nigerian government by providing educational services and forming platforms for training teachers.
Netdragon will also build a smart classroom in the capital city of Abuja. The classroom comes equipped with several digital services and education aids, also provided by NetDragon. The company hopes to use this area as a test site for future smart classroom projects across the country.
For Nigeria, IDEA is a step toward not only closing the digital divide, but addressing broader problems in the nation’s education system. Nigeria has more uneducated children than any other country, with as many as 10.5 million currently not in school.
This massive number is caused by many complex and interrelated issues. Girls’ education in Nigeria is often neglected for cultural reasons and most uneducated Nigerian children simply never enter school at all. The education system in northern Nigeria has also been devastated by Boko Haram, which has displaced thousands, killed more than 2000 teachers and destroyed nearly 1400 schools.
All of Nigeria, though, shares the problem of low government spending on education. While the web of concerns that Nigeria’s education system faces cannot all be solved by increased funding alone, the announcement of IDEA certainly signals a step toward both expanding and modernizing the education system.
The Future for NetDragon
NetDragon’s efforts to expand into education technology did not begin with IDEA in Nigeria; rather, the organization spent the past several years buying up companies ranging from developers of educational games like JumpStart to services like Edmodo — a Facebook-like platform which connects 90 million teachers and students across 192 countries.
While some companies have raised concerns about how NetDragon might oversee these services’ monetization and their users’ privacy in the future, one thing that is for certain is NetDragon’s dedication to digital education. The company once known entirely for its online games now makes more than half of its revenue from its worldwide education services.
As NetDragon develops and expands its reach, the organization could have a notable impact on closing the digital divide in the countries in which it operates. To this end, both NetDragon and the Nigerian government hope to use IDEA to make progress towards achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals of equality in education and sustainable economic growth.
– Joshua Henreckson