by Karen Coppock
Students in Mauritania fully understand the educational value of the Internet, their parents do not according to a recent article in Balancing Act's newsletter (issue #501). Since most of these students do not have access to PCs at home, they need their parents to give them money to use cyber cafes. Parents are skeptical, at best.
I observed a similar dilemma in Uganda - students and youth fully understood the wealth of educational and other opportunities that the Internet provided, their parents, largely agricultural workers, did not. In China, the situation appears to be similar - a Vital Wave Consulting analyst mentioned that computers are forbidden in some Chinese dorm rooms as administrators fear that the children will play video games and not study.
Often times there are two types of buyers of educational materials - the economic buyer (the one who pays) and the end-user (the one who receives the service). In schools the economic buyer is often the government and the end-user are students and teachers. The IT industry is adept at marketing to governments for large-scale public school technology deployments. Marketing to parents of children in rural areas of Africa may be a bit newer.
Firms could consider partnering with non-profit organizations, schools and even cyber-cafe owners to promote awareness on the educational-value of the Internet. Firms could also leverage traditional media such as radio, TV and perhaps mobile-phones to tout the educational value of the Internet and help children convince their parents to open up their wallets to enhanced educational opportunities.