Rise of Smartphones in Tanzania

A year ago TechCrunch posted an article by Jon Evans which predicted that by mid-2017 most Africans will have smartphones. With a mobile penetration rate around 80% most Tanzanians are exposed to cellular devices. Traffic to TETEA’s website suggests a rapid increase in smartphone usage to view internet content and supports Evan’s claim. The chart below shows TETEA website data from November 2013 to present. Over the past four months mobile devices have averaged over 50% of the total hits to TETEA’s websites. This really is a stunning development as prior to 2013 nearly all of TETEA’s site traffic was from desktop computers. While some of the recent traffic spikes are due to national exam results being released the smartphone-access proportions is similar across months.

Why the rapid rise in smartphone popularity? Smartphone prices have come down from over $200 a few years ago to just $81 this past summer, and now TIGO is advertising a $71 smartphone under its Jismartphonishe campaign. While Microsoft is entering the market with its Lumia Smartphone priced at $150, it is the Huawei and Tecno Chinese brands that are most accessible at the low end. Data prices have also significantly decreased. Based on Tanzanian phone pricing trends, Tanzanian data pricing trends, and the TETEA website traffic sources Jon Evans’ prediction will soon become reality.

“Big Results Now” Initiative For Education is Underwhelming

In 2013 President Kikwete announced the “Big Results Now” initiative, a US$416 million effort targeted at eight priority areas, one of which is education. The World Bank largely funded the education initiative’s budgetof $122 million. The program has some positives such as cash transfers to families to who keep children in school. It also is shifting away from what is described as educational inputs such as “books and classrooms” (ironically, in the early 2000’s  the World Bank championed the SEDP program which fueled a rise in classrooms at the expense of education quality). The program promises financial rewards for school performance. This idea, controversial in many countries, has some shortcomings. Where will this money go? Will it gentrify the education system? Wouldn’t there be even more of a reason to look the other way when students cheat on their PLSE and CSEE? Or, the easiest solution, just make the tests easier. If you look at the Tanzanian Education National Dashboard there was, for the most part, dramatic improvement in pass rates in nearly every region. It is doubtful that a few months after the program’s announcement such rapid improvements occurred. More likely the CSEE was easier either in content or grading. The money should be targeted at keeping the best teachers. Teachers are the single most important factor on student achievement. Ensuring that they have the financial means to focus solely on teaching every one of their periods should be part of this initiative. Too often teachers skip periods for side businesses or farming. Also too often ineffective teachers are left in the classroom.  While this program brings a carrot of $122 million pumped into the school system there are few sticks mentioned. “This is the Big Results Now in Education program which includes financial rewards for school performance, early grade student assessments, targeted support to lagging students, recognition incentives for teachers, and ensuring that funds reach schools in a timely manner.” Really this program should give Mkuu’s the ability to hire and remove their teachers as they see fit and be responsible for their respective school’s improvement. The Ministry of Education would have the ability to quickly remove underperforming Mkuus. The World Bank is rewarding high performers without reforming low performers. Sources How Tanzania Plans to Achieve Big Results Now in Education http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/07/10/how-tanzania-plans-to-achieve-big-reforms-now-in-education Tanzanian Educational Dashboard http://www.necta.go.tz/opendata/brn/index.php?mp=1 Big Results Now in Education: Sector Summary http://www.moe.go.tz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1717&Itemid=635 Teachers Matter http://www.rand.org/pubs/corporate_pubs/CP693z1-2012-09.html  

Form 4 to Form 6

A good look at the statistics of how few of the students that pass the Form IV exam actually make it to sitting the Form VI exam. It also sheds some light on the misleading 78% pass rate. It is nice to see a quantitative look at the exam statistics. The full article on The Citizen