EdTech startup Funzi and UNDP Syria have partnered to deliver mobile learning to vulnerable populations in conflict areas.
In a war zone, the sad truth is that education often becomes one of the first casualties, as it is – understandably – pushed back in favour of more urgent and immediate needs such as food and healthcare. The tragedy of it is, however, that this not only affects people’s ability to cope with their immediate situation, but also hampers their post-conflict chances of building a long-term future.
Conflicts in Syria have resulted in shortage of jobs and infrastructure, as well as lack of security in certain parts of the country. This erodes livelihood prospects of Syrians and makes access to relevant information and quality learning evermore essential. Yet UNESCO policy guidelines for mobile learning affirm that mobile devices can help ensure the continuity of education during times of crisis.
To help address this, and strengthen the resilience and socio-economic stability of individuals and communities in Syria, Funzi and UNDP Syria have started collaboration to deliver mobile learning, with training modules expected to be launched later this year.
“Mobile learning leverages technology people already own,” explains Tero Salonen, Funzi’s CEO and Founder. ”The cost of mobile teaching is only a fraction compared to traditional means of teaching, making mobile an efficient and effective channel for knowledge transfer, especially in areas of crisis.”
Since essential information and training content are available via mobile phones, he says, learning can happen in areas and at times that may not have been easy to reach
“With our service performing well in slower networks and on feature phones, training is easily accessible to vulnerable populations in areas with poor infrastructure. It is also a major step forward towards helping mitigate educational disruptions during times of crisis through mobile learning in order to support swift recoveries of these countries.”
This is a significant milestone for Funzi, a Finnish start-up we covered previously on Tech Trends which is an active member in the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan. When I met their founder Aape Pohjarvita in Helsinki, he was keen to emphasize how he believed mobile would be the most disruptive method of delivering effective learning globally, specially in conflict areas (at the time they had already deployed courses to over 40,000 people in Iraq).
“We at Funzi are committed to supporting the world in achieving peace, meaningful livelihoods, and happiness and health for all through quality education. Thus, this project is a significant milestone that takes us closer to achieving our vision,” agrees Salonen.
Funzi’s service – which is free to end users – delivers learning specifically designed for mobile and personalizes the user experience using similar mechanisms as those leveraged to make mobile games “sticky” such as behavioural and usage patterns.
This is also an important as a test case for exporting Finnish education and for the viability of mobile learning as a delivery mechanism for learning opportunities to vulnerable populations in conflict areas around the world.
Tailored training modules for UNDP’s local partners and their beneficiaries will be launched as mobile learning on a dedicated site starting late 2017. The goal of the partnership is to promote long-term participation, sustainability, and self-sufficiency of UNDP local partners.
Training will be delivered in two phases, with the first one developing essential program lifecycle management skills for UNDP and NGO field staff and the second offering training to vulnerable populations like the displaced, and women- and youth-headed households to support them in achieving social cohesion and sustainable livelihoods.
“Our participation and experience in developing and implementing mobile learning services for displaced populations allow us to create learning programs that are effective in knowledge transfer and skills development, while remaining cost-efficient and scalable,” Salonen concludes.
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.