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Cell phones, the IT tool for the future


by Honorine Kaze
Education

 

A mobile phone is an essential tool to many but yet has for long been seen as a hindrance to education.
Only lately have educators and researchers changed their tune.
The first Information and Communication Technology Chair with a vision of being the Namibian centre for excellence in mobile communication and mobile web technology research and application has been established.
Its goal is to guide the ICT Research and Development Agenda at the Polytechnic of Namibia. The project will be funded by Mobile Telecommunication Company for a period of five years.
The mobile technology project looks into expanding wireless telecommunication.
As explained by Prof Hippolyte Muyingi, project leader of MTC endowed Chair of ICT “wireless is the usage of some devices that can still capture the information wherever, whenever one is, as long as there is coverage”.
However, he adds: “That the mobile operation still needs to be worked on in order to cover a wider area as there are still some limits.
“Wireless technology has an advantage of being cost effective and covers longer distances compared to the traditional technology which uses cables wired from the server hence it covers very limited areas.”
A number of software applications are being developed under this project. Some of those applications are for educational purposes namely: m-learning which will allow people to listen to a short lesson of about seven minutes on their cell phones.
The others are SRC mobile voting to be used in SRC voting at polytechnic mobiles games for mathematics skills for school learners, mobile puzzles and solar panels.  
Other mobile applications will benefit businesses. Some of these are mobile classifieds that will allow anyone without internet to get access to classified materials as found in newspapers and websites.
Namibia business Innovation Centre (NBIC) hotline which is an SMS based multiplatform helpdesk for NBIC entrepreneurs and network.
According to Prof Muyingi, many people are now using cell phones, therefore becoming the most important tool for them to reach and be reached. The researchers’ team then took advantage of using cell phones in their software application development for the benefit of people.
One of the project’s aim is to increase, adapt and sustain existing business provision through SMS, mobile web based transaction and communication towards rural communities.
 “We are trying to see how to integrate the education of IT with entrepreneurship and also help the youth to be innovative in technology,” Prof Muyingi points out.
 The other issue being tackled with this project is solving the problem of youngsters who are reluctant on taking science subjects and mathematics.
“Surveys have shown that almost 60% of youth (age 13-18) are using their own mobile phones, and about 20% using cell phones from relatives. So, we are developing a mobile platform where school learners can download popular games and at the same time incorporated with interesting mathematical games. For the moment, we are searching for well known games, loved by the youth so we can consider which ones can be used for the project,” Prof Muyingi later says. Furthermore, the application will allow teachers to adapt and edit the contents appropriately.
To date, most applications under the project are still under developed and are expected to be operational before end of the year.  
Mobile puzzle and the NBIC hotline are currently operational.
According To Mike Abia, NBIC hotline developer and lecturer the NBIC hotline has been operating since this June, and so far the response has been satisfactory.
“It is an enlightening experience to be part of the new mobile technology research team. I wish more students could get time and willingness to be part of this amazing and empowering experience,” Abia said.
In this regard, Prof Muyingi highlighted that the mobile developer team consist of 20 members. Amongst them, are students who are either undergraduates or post-graduates.
“We have a mobile application lab and beside normal teachings we do have regular meetings with students eager to develop smaller programs,” Prof Muyingi said.