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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Vis Naidoo

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

Current Work My current focus at the Commonwealth of Learning (www.col.org) is to support the development of both open and distance learning (ODL) and ICT in education policies. My role is to work with national ministries of education and educational institutions to support the development of policies and implementation plans. Such support takes the form of sharing knowledge, participating in processes to construct policy, advising policy task-teams, developing sections of policy and working with ministries and institutions to implement. An important component of this is to encourage the development of national schoolnets/e-schools organisations that can play a leading role in promoting the use of ICT in the school sector of the education system.

The underlying principle upon which my work is based is that ICT offers the world, especially the developing countries, an opportunity to use technology and ODL methods to support the education system. Using both ICTs and ODL methods can support increased participation in the education system, increase focus on issues of quality, developing skills in information gathering, analysis, synthesis and use and helping to bridge both the digital and knowledge divides. I firmly believe that both ODL and ICT can make a substantive contribution to social and economic development, through enabling a more relevant, high quality education system.

I am also careful in my work not to suggest that both ICT and ODL is the panacea for the education and development challenges that we currently face. I believe that both can be of immense value to address these challenges. However, there are a variety of other issues that need to be addressed. Some of these include political stability, political will, a receptive education environment to change, the appropriate enabling policies to support this change and the ability to implement policies.

Thus my work in the area of policy development in ODL and ICT in education is likely to have long-term significance. As more developing countries are recognising the need for good governance and the rule of law, ensuring that there are good policies to drive innovative use of ICT and ODL in the education system becomes important.

Perhaps the most innovative part of my work is the development of schoolnets/e-schools as an entity to support both the development of ICT in education policy and to deliver such policy. My involvement in schoolnets stems from my work with the South African Ministry of Education. As the Director of the Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Education (a directorate of the Ministry of Education), I was involved in the development of policy (ICT in education and ODL) and was a founding Board member (currently serving as Board member) of Schoolnet SA (SNSA). While involved in SNSA, I was fortunate to have been part of the discussions and processes that led to the formation of Schoolnet Africa (SNA). In my currently position at COL, I have also been supporting developments in SNA, schoolnets in other African countries, in South-East Asia and the Pacific Island nations.

ICT, policy or schoolnets in and of themselves would not result in good education to support countries development. However, it is increasingly becoming an important and key component of what is required for a modern education system to support nations.

Brief Biography

Biography I joined the Commonwealth of Learning in November 2000 as an Education Specialist, Educational Technology. My role is to work with Commonwealth Governments and organisations to focus on open and distance learning and educational technology policy and applications and its impact on education and training systems. I currently work with governments to support their educational technology policy processes, the application of ICT within basic and secondary schools, supporting schoolnet developments and the use of technology for teacher training.

Prior to joining COL, I was the Director of the Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Education, Department of Education, South Africa. During the five years as Director, I was instrumental in shaping the policy environment in the area of distance education and technology-enhanced learning. I was also involved in implementing technology-based initiatives that focused on using radio and television broadcasting, computers and the Internet to support different sectors of the education and training system in South Africa. An important aspect of this was the formation of Schoolnet South Africa and I served on its first Board and currently am a Board member. Prior to joining the national Department of Education, I lectured at the Centre for Adult Education, University of Natal (re-named the University of KwaZulu Natal). During this time, I participated in policy development initiative (National Education Policy Initiative, established by the African National Congress) in preparation for a new democratic government in South Africa.

I earned a BSc degree and post-graduate Diploma in Adult Education from the University of Natal, South Africa, and Masters in Adult Education degree from the University of Manchester, UK. My professional experience also includes co-ordinating a community-based non-governmental organisation.

I was also involved in numerous civic and youth organisations as well as in the political organisations (in the 1980s and 1990s) that helped to transform South Africa. For my involvement in the struggle for change in South Africa, I was detained without trial on two occasions.

I have written articles and made presentation on adult education, distance education and ICT in education. I have also facilitated discussions/forums at various international and national meetings/conferences.