“Africa’s development will not happen without digital technology” Fabrice Teeg-Wendé Guéné
The current situation caused by the global health crisis COVID-19, has given rise to exceptional bursts of solidarity and creativity. In West Africa and the Sahel, talented young people have put their creativity at the service of their country and the region to tackle the consequences of the pandemic.
At only 24 years old, Fabrice Teeg-Wendé Guéné is the co-founder of BRISCOM, a digital communications agency that supports companies in their communication, web-marketing and digitalization of their processes. He created the Ecole Digitale (Digital School), an online teaching platform to allow students to continue their studies from home following the closure of schools, colleges and universities due to the pandemic. Interview.
Who is Fabrice Teeg-Wendé Guéné? tell us briefly about yourself.
I’m a young digital entrepreneur. I am 24 years old and have a degree in communication and journalism. I have a great passion for digital and communication. I am the co-founder of BRISCOM, a digital communications agency.
For me, to most of the challenges of our African societies, there is a digital solution
You are passionate about digital communication, how digital tools are important in our societies, particularly in Africa?
For me, to most of the challenges of our African societies, there is a digital solution. Digital does not do everything but can be invaluable. The dematerialization of certain operations contributes enormously to the improvement of life conditions and security. Thanks to mobile banking, for example, people are further able to protect their money. Digital technology contributes to bringing education to remote areas that are sometimes inaccessible because of scourges such as terrorism. We must not forget that innovations in health that enable disadvantaged communities to benefit from remote diagnosis and management of diseases. With digital the scope of possibilities is vast. It remains for inventors and innovators to explore these opportunities and solutions to boost development. Africa’s development will not happen without digital technology. On the contrary, I believe that digital is the gateway, the channel through which Africa will assert what it has to offer to the world.
Recently, you created Ecole Digitale, an online teaching platform, to help students who have had to stop school because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How and why did you embark on this project?
Briscom aims to be a generator of digital solutions to society’s problems. In light of the crisis and the closure of classrooms, we felt it was our duty to contribute to the fight. This is how we decided to make the courses accessible to as many students as possible through internet. And the idea of Ecole Digitale was born. We immediately started the project with our own means. 3 weeks later we launched the beta version. But the development work is still ongoing.
Beyond the coronavirus issue, École Digitale meets three Sustainable Development Goals: Access to Education (SDG 4), Equal Opportunity (SDG 10) and Collaboration to Achieve Goals (SDG 17). Since terrorism has led to the closure of hundreds of schools, it is important that children in these areas have access to the same education rights as others. With the high failure rate in recent years on school exams, École Digitale plans to also provide free school support for all students in order to ensure equal opportunities for success.
The first stage of the project was the technical implementation of the platform. After three weeks we had completed this stage. The second was to find the content. We have therefore federated a local and qualified teaching team made up of certified teachers, supervised by national education inspectors to ensure high-quality courses on the platform. Currently we are working to make an interactive space for discussion between students and available teachers so that students can ask questions if necessary, in order to facilitate their learning.
Is the platform operational in an efficient and satisfactory manner?
Yes, the platform is open and functional. But there is still a lot of work to achieve, such as the finalization of the interactive exchange space, the publication of middle school courses (the entire CP1 to the Senior Year program) and the operationalization of personalized and free school support for all students. We set our priorities on exam classes to prevent the emergency. We will have content soon for middle classes, but the lack of permanent staff slows down the process. But the platform works, and students have access to the courses.
We have been working since the beginning of the initiative to get in touch with the Ministry of National Education. In view of the cumbersome administration and the resulting delays, we have decided to continue our action and then to contact them as soon as possible. Our priority is to get the quality labeling of our content from the Ministry of National Education to reassure students and parents about the quality of the content. Teachers and inspectors have been with us since the beginning on a totally voluntary basis. They produce courses, exercises, assessments. They will also remain available on the platform to assist students who may need them.
We have also managed to get from Orange Burkina the insertion of Ecole Digitale, in their education package which is usually accessible at 100 F/day and has become free during this the crisis of Coronavirus.
For now, we have no support from the government or any other partner
What are the obstacles that block the effective launching of the platform?
We would like to have a labeling of the content that is produced by teachers. For now, the courses are validated upstream by inspectors who are kindly helping us. Financial means to recruit dedicated and permanent staff are lacking! It would also be good to be able to encourage teachers who have so far accompanied us in a totally voluntary way.
For now, we have no support from the government or any other partner. The financial need to support the operating costs of the platform is quite high and any assistance we could receive would be very useful in making the platform work to the best of its potential, much to the delight of the students.
Could your platform be used in countries of the sub-region, for example?
The platform is duplicable elsewhere. We thought of it and designed it that way. We would like to give students from other African countries the opportunity to use Ecole Digitale. Burkina Faso can be considered as a pilot project.
To duplicate the model elsewhere, we will need a qualified teaching team at the local level to produce the courses according to the program of each country. We will also need a powerful technical (host) infrastructure to support the traffic load that each site could generate.
Do you have other plans? do you think you can get the support you need to achieve them?
Yes, we have several other projects that we are working on. We are in several sectors, including education, employability, health, entrepreneurship, real estate, etc. There is no shortage of needs, the first of course being the financial and partnership need.
For example, we are working on a project that we have named Yidgri which means fulfillment in Mooré. It is a project that involves the creation of an online training platform for entrepreneurs. Specialized training adapted to the African context to enable African entrepreneurs to improve their resilience accordingly in order to avoid as much as possible to create stillborn businesses as it is the case today!
Public authority is difficult to mobilize based on a simple project, especially today as everyone has a project. That’s why we always work relying on our personal resources. This allows us to launch a prototype we can present when searching public or private partnerships.