Dr. Drake Mirembe,

Dean, School of Professional and Vocational Education (SPVE),


Many African countries especially those in sub-Sahara Africa are endowed with abundant natural resources, ideal for the development of sustainable agriculture.  It is worth noting that nearly 80% of populations in sub-Sahara Africa depends on agriculture as the main source of livelihood of which, over 70% of these farmers are smallholder farmers. On top of abundant natural resources, African higher education sector is rapidly expanding providing platforms for creating new knowledge and technologies which are vital in enhancing smallholder agriculture. Despite the abundance of natural resources, favorable climatic conditions, and a vibrant higher education sector many of these countries continue to suffer from food and nutrition insecurity.

Smallholder agriculture continues to suffer from adverse effects of climate change, pests and diseases outbreaks, and limited access to quality farming knowledge, limited access to market information, unreliable wealth information, and poor extension services, among others.  African higher education institutions continue to boast about cutting edge research on challenges facing farmers. However most of the research outputs from these institutions has had little impact on lives of smallholder farmers due to constrains in the current models of engagement between higher education institutions and smallholder farmers.

Majority of the African Higher Education Institution (HEI) especially those engaged in agriculture are part of their National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS). These institutions run active community outreach programs aimed at disseminating agricultural technologies, information and knowledge to farmers. The programs are mainly implemented through student internships, publications, engagement with extension officers and on-farm demonstration. Studies indicate that over 50% of knowledge dissemination done by HEI is through publications, yet majority of the farmers are illiterate, rendering the knowledge inaccessible to farmers who need it most. While other approaches of knowledge and information dissemination like on- farm demonstrations, student internships and extension officers provide an enriched engagement with the farmers, they are too expensive to conduct by the university in a sustainable way in terms of staff time and associated logistical costs. Besides, these approaches do not provide farmers with opportunities to raise specific information needs on demand, as activities are preprogrammed based on the university research agenda. Current HEI outreach models are characterized by weak stakeholder linkages, inappropriate knowledge packaging, intricate technical language and limited interaction with end-users of information among other constraints. Seeking for more relevance and impact, HEI including universities across the global are exploring innovative ways of enhancing engagement between researchers and farmers.

A number of studies across the globe continue to demonstrate that appropriate application of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) can enhance engagement of HEI with smallholder farmers, resulting into increased uptake of agricultural knowledge. The enhancement in engagement is in terms of improved knowledge packaging and visualization, timely availability of information, interactive collaboration, mutual learning, and impact assessment of knowledge shared, reduced costs of engagement, among others.

How Can HEI integrate ICT into their Community Engagement Programme?

Successful integration of ICT’s into any business process requires systematic planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. It is common in many African enterprises and organizations to hear of stories about failed ICT initiatives and most blames are placed on the technology. Yet, ICT integration requires realignment of business processes, orientation of staff to work in the new operating context, updating of management and governance framework to reflect the new institutional operating context, and availability of appropriate ICT infrastructure and associated utilities. Therefore, any HEI which intends to establish an ICT mediated engagement with smallholder farmers should consider the following;

A Community engagement Policy: The policy should clearly describe how community engagement is undertaken through the use of ICT. The policy should prescribe the intended services to be delivered to stakeholder such as farmers, the technology platforms upon which engagement is to be conducted, models of staff performance monitoring and reward, profile of stakeholders to be engaged, and measure of successful engagement, among others.

Appropriate ICT Infrastructure: HEI should invest in appropriate ICT infrastructure to support community engagement ubiquitously. The focus should be on platforms which provide self-service on the concept of anywhere, anytime and at the wish of the stakeholder. Opportunities to exploit open source systems and applications should be considered as these generally have lower total cost of technology ownership and have a wider user support base.

Monitoring and evaluation Mechanism:  HEI should establish systems that can easily monitor and evaluate community engagement action implementation among stakeholders in real or near real-time. Technologies such as mobile applications which provide location services and GIS can be tapped into.

Establishment of Innovation Hubs with HEI:  Most HEI especially those running engineering and ICT programmes can tap into the potential of their students to develop the relevant applications and technologies to support the community engagement. HEI should consider options of establishing internal innovation and incubation hubs to address their internal ICT needs in general.

Establishment of Collaboration and Partnerships: Successful implementation of ICT mediated community engagement largely depends on existence of effective collaboration between HEI and other stakeholders. Therefore, HEI should invest efforts to establish viable collaborations with stakeholders like government agencies focus is on agriculture, community leaders, telecom operators, and civil society organizations, among others.

Information Communication Technologies have the potential of transforming community engagement function of HEI in Africa if a systematic integration process is done as briefly highlighted in the forgoing text. The focus should be to exploit open source technologies and harnessing the expertise within HEI.

About the Author

Drake Patrick Mirembe holds a PhD in Information Systems Security and a Masters in Cyber Security from Groningen University in the Netherlands. He has worked in both academia and the industry at local and international level. In the industry he has worked with Microsoft, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Eight Tech Consults. In academia he works with Makerere University and Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) as Lecturer.  Drake has vast experience in ICT innovations and incubation, ICT4D, Cyber Security, ICT integration and organization leadership. He is a distinguished scholar who has published widely in international fora. Click here to download the digest.

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Briefly describe your term of office as a guild president.

It’s been interesting with lots of positive challenges. The position has made me confident in class and in the outside world. Throughout my 1st Year of office, I have been able to interact with very many influential people including Hon. Tumwebaze Kagyigyi Frank, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance and such experiences have also improved my public speaking skills.

How were you able to balance books and Guild assignments?

So far, I have a first class in my studies which is positive which indicates progress. When I got into office, I had a second class upper. I think this tells a lot, when I first got into office, I had the fear that I might fail my exams in the long run and I had a hard time deciding if I should go for guild presidency. But my message to all students interested in leadership, “fear is the only thing standing in your way, don’t be afraid face it".

What is your memorable moment?

The day I was declared the Guild president of UTAMU. It was my happiest day and I will always live to remember it. The campaigns were tough, tension was high, I didn’t think I would win.

What is your saddest moment?

I doubt if there is any.

Any challenges that you met as a Guild Leader?

Challenges are part of any journey but the major challenge was having to coordinate books and guild activities. I had a large guild group to work with and also there were times students issues were becoming a lot and as a student leader they expected me to handle the issues.

What advice do you have for the incoming Guild President?

Success is a two-way street. You either succeed or fail to succeed. Your work may be criticized, but never stop believing and you won’t stop achieving.

What do you think your government has achieved?

Throughout our period, the guild has been able to introduce indoor games like chess boards in and draft. I worked with some colleagues to come up with a university calendar. For the first time, our university competed with MUBS in soccer. We were defeated but we enjoyed the game. A university app where students can install on their phones instead of using browsers was created. I brought partners on board like Green Bridge and consequently, UTAMU partnered with them. The revival of innovation Friday, introduced a social evening which brings administrators and students together to interact one on one with students, the first ever campus was party held within UTAMU with zero payment from students, free food, free drinks, with 5 different artists, was organized and we started a movie night at campus. Finally, UTAMU has a football pitch where students can play soccer.

Has this position taught you any lessons?

I have been able to learn how to work effectively with people. I have learnt that sometimes, one must take final some tough decisions and stand by them no matter the consequences.

What has been your guiding principle in life?

Hard work, trust, belief, persistence and perseverance.

What would you want the incoming president to work on?

I have already set ground for social activities like sports and I would love to see more events being organized. I would love to see the president motivating students to participate in sports fully both indoor and outdoor.  The president should work towards setting up a hub at UTAMU where students can develop innovative projects.

Who has been the most inspirational person during your time in office?

The Guild members have always been there and I will mention that we have walked this journey together. The Academic Registrar has also supported us and we cannot tread his guidance for anything.

If you were asked to re-contest for Guild presidency, would you?

I think sometimes we need change.  I already did my part and it’s sometimes better to let new blood in take on the mantle. I don’t believe in leaders who overstay in power.

Prof. Jude Lubega, DVC, UTAMU

In the past ten years, Africa has seen tremendous growth in the demand for higher education and this can be witnessed by the ever-growing numbers of Higher Education Institutions; HEI both private and public. This situation has been fuelled by several factors which include free secondary education from various governments propelling a surge in the numbers that qualify for higher education, improved society and emergence of the knowledge economy. There are also clear signs of the demand for higher education that is ubiquitous, there are more people on the move within the continent, lifelong learning is more sought after, employees’ skills becoming outdated after 3-5 years at the job which calls for retooling, the emergence of both digital natives and digital migrants.

These factors are propelling the evolution that is happening in the HEI in order to certify the demand which is higher than the supply  Questions like; how to cope with the ever-increasing numbers with minimal expenditure but still providing the quality education are constantly being raised Therefore  there has been a paradigm shift in many African HEI in both educational delivery and its management  This paradigm shift has focused on the ability to deliver education effectively  efficiently and ubiquitously with minimum costs possible.

In order to take care of the paradigm shift and its demands, African HEI have adopted innovative ideas to sustain their supply for quality education These innovative ways include the adoption of Information communication Technology (ICT) to enable educational provision and its effective management. Billy Gates has once asked Universities and colleges, “How can we use technology as a tool to recreate the entire college experience? How can we provide a better education to more people for less money?”. Other organizations such as UNESCO have also stated that African education status requires innovative ways to support it in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals  Further the CISCO system chief Executive Officer once said that the next bigger killer application of the internet will be education  These clearly signify the potential of ICT in solving the current dilemma brought about by African demands for higher education but with less supply of it.

Integration of ICT within HEI in Africa is slowly taking shape with several institutions appreciating its potential to offer a ubiquitous teaching and learning to both teachers and students The integration has taken a form of use of computers and internet  TV radio  video conferencing and mobile learning  This integration of IcT within the edu- cational sector depends on several things such as activity to be undertaken  processes involved  target audience availability and accessibility of resources  However  it should be noted that integration of IcT in education is not only about educational delivery but includes education management  administration  communication finance and security It is therefore important to understand the requirements under which a particular service needs to be en- abled using IcT if there is going to be returns on investments

Why integrate ICT in Education?

This pertinent question demonstrates that for African HEI to integrate IcT in their education institutions  there should be clear reasons that stimulate the adoption Several reasons have been identified as those that have fueled integration of IcT  in the African HEI  These include: effective collaboration  effective networking  easy sharing  of resources  effective accessibility to educational resources  ubiquitous education and empowering of learners  Inte- gration IcT in education teaching and learning has evolved in HEI leading to a new method of educational delivery called e-learning  E-Learning has been defined by several people to mean the use of IcT to support formal or non- formal knowledge acquisition This form of learning is one that should support enthusiasm to happen in class  be engaging  allow exchange of educational resources enriching enhancing allows being extended beyond geograph- ical boarders  that is entertaining  that allows embedding and empowers learners to become better   HEI in Africa are starting to realize that education has evolved and what used to be a traditional classroom is now a flipped class- room  This inversion allows students-teachers to collaborate and engage from anywhere  at their wish and at any time they wish.

E-learning world trend indicate that it is annually growing at rate of $0 4 Billion from 2015 and expected to rise by 2020  Statistics also indicate that there is an increasing expenditure on e-learning in several HEI across the world as compared the traditional education  However  as compared to the entire world Africa still lags behind in the integration of ICT in teaching and learning with just $512 Million revenue against USA’s $27 Billion revenue he advancement in technology  reduced costs of hardware  software and internet connection in the world market is affecting greatly the adoption of e-learning this is creating several opportunities for the HEI as described below.

Opportunities for E-Learning in HEI

Several opportunities have emerged due to adoption of e-learning within HEI and these include: immerging partnerships among institutions in terms of research and training empowered learners real-time supervision and share of resources is possible despite of the geographical barrier reach out to more training opportunities intercontinental educational markets for institutional courses  increased need for lifelong and work place learning and massive education through ubiquitous means It is obvious today that the Massive open online courses (Moocs) are taking the world by storm and are being more recognized within the HEI  African HEI have to tap into the opportunity of the Moocs to contribute to the localization and authoring of content that is suitable for the African setting.

Challenges for E-learning in HEI

Despite that several opportunities exist there are challenges that are serious impediments to the full integration of ICT in HEI  these include unavailability of adequate ICT resources by the institutions uncoordinated ICT integration projects funded by different bodies with own interests student to ICT ratio is still very high  indiscriminate learning within educational institutions ICT illiteracy amongst the population in some of the communities ;attitude and cultural change within the population   curriculum development to suit the e-learning teaching and learning model;focus being done on technology rather than pedagogy   the lack of appropriate ICT skills by the education stake- holders the limited or no access to power in some areas the internet access is still costly and has fueled plagiarism within HEI  preparation planning and maintaining of quality is always an issue if not well monitored and standardizing locally developed content.

Interventions required in African HEI

Adoption of ICT in African HEI can be better implemented once the following interventions are undertaken  these include; waivers on ICT’s for Education  conducting ICT Integration in Education sensitization and awareness work- shops for institutional heads and teachers; strengthening inter sector linkages and collaborations to create synergies for effective integration of ICT in education encouraging institutions to collaborate while purchasing things like internet  collaboratively procure e-subscription to e-resources  develop more localized content within the African setting  improving access and provision of ICT integrated education to special needs people and institutions of learning and adopting open source learning management system for costs saving purposes.

Article By:

Prof. Jude T  Lubega,

Deputy Vice Chancellor, UTAMU

Prof John Opuda-Asibo, the Executive Director of National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) highlighted the importance of compliance in governance of universities.

Prof John Opuda-Asibo, the Executive Director of National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) 

“University governance has oversight, policies, strategic action and compliance. And the issue of compliance is extremely important as far as maintaining quality of the institution,” said Prof. Opuda.

He was speaking at the 3rd UTAMU Graduation Ceremony held on 29th September 2017 at Sliver Springs Hotel in Kampala.

Prof. Opuda also emphasized on the effectiveness in delivery of output of universities. “Graduates must come out on time for all universities and the university must be competitive locally and globally which is enhanced by research,” Prof. Opuda said.

“Universities have to be competitive and visible nationally, regionally and globally.  And that’s why universities have the word universal,” he added.

The NCHE boss also called upon the owners of private universities to ensure their universities comply with the laws and regulations set by the Higher education bodies.

“Owners should monitor performance, compliance with the laws, regulations and stakeholders concerns. They should approve budget, listen and talk to management and cause significant change in the existence of the university.”

“Owners have a legacy to sustain,” Prof. Opuda emphasized the point.

Professor John Opuda-Asibo was the Keynote Speaker at the ceremony.


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