The Future Technology Lab hosted a presentation on Friday, 2 Sep, narrating how a successful project was set up between the University of Eastern Finland and the Eritrea Institute of Technology: ICT for Eritrean Education. The presentation was hosted by Andres Moreno, a service manager at a European Institution, and Samuel Tewelde a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Eastern Finland’s School of Computing.

Around 2014 Finland and Eritrea decided to cooperate on increasing the capacity of Eritrea’s Higher Education sector. The Eritrean HEI ICI funding mechanism was created. There was no existing relationship between Finland and Eritrea, so they had to get to work promptly. A trip to Eritrea and Helsinki took place for the teams to get to know each other. During the trip to Eritrea, meetings were held to meet authorities and potential partners. During the trip to Helsinki agreement on the general cooperation framework and the number of projects to support were made.

The two main parties involved came with different expectations and skill sets. The Ed-tech lab UEF is experienced in international collaboration and are expert in educational technologies for IT education. The ICT and Tele – Education Centre EIT has a team of junior ICT experts and is equipped with a higher education environment.

The overall objective of the logical framework was to strengthen EIT’s capacity to create, distribute and use electronic learning resources at the institute and beyond.

Some of the expected results were:

  • Capacity to deliver learning content and services is strengthened.
  • Content and services are used by students.
  • Colleges cooperate to produce locally relevant electronic learning content and services in a new edtech lab at EIT.
  • Acquired e-learning practices, content, and services and disseminated them nationally.

The two parties faced their fair share of challenges even before the project was created which were unreliable ICT resources and capacity, limited accessibility of e-sources, and non-participatory way of creation and services. “We also had some logistic issues. While the government was supporting us there are many levels of government. So, some may support it and others may not. We were bringing solar panels, batteries, and computers for the project. They had to go through a special process. Eventually, it got there – instead of it taking 5 years it took 1 year.”, stated Moreno.

The students that took part in the project had access to e-resources within the campus, to the educational technology lab, and to the latest technology and mentors in support of their educational technology projects. The students were also involved in the creation of new learning resources and ICT services for EIT. “Working with the Eritrean students in this project was amazing how far they went on their final year projects. They are so resourceful, and they didn’t have so much access to resources in Eritrea, and we were trying to sort this out during the program. Even without the internet, they were able to download things – it was not easy for them.”, Moreno informed.

During this project, the two teams learned that appropriate technology and resources is a long-term process but identifying strengths and following the right path is a must.

Today the Eritrean HEIs are undergoing a long restructuring process and the colleges under EIT are now becoming autonomous HEIs. There is also an ongoing stream of EIT graduates attending international master’s programs at UEF and four have already graduated.

It is safe to say that this was a successful project that produced innovative projects (developed by interns) that were low cost, and low power. A locally developed 3D printer was also created that addressed a contextual problem.