How might we harness advances in information and communication technology to improve education in South Africa?

Social Innovation Lab in South Africa on Education and Technology


Subpar scores in international exams, vast disparities in access to quality education, and other evidence of poor school performance could no longer be denied: South Africa’s education sector needed major reform.  National leaders looked to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as part of the solution.  While no means a silver bullet, ICTs hold potential to improve teacher performance and student learning, boost access to learning resources, while also increasing administrative efficiency and oversight.  The Government of South Africa, with major education reform looming, wanted to know: on what education challenges should we focus ICT support?


Depending on your role in the education system – teacher, student, parent, future employer – your ideas may differ widely.  The Government of South Africa needed a way to hear a lot of perspectives in a short amount of time, and bring those ideas together to inform strategic planning.  To do this, they created a “Challenge Scoping Lab” with support from the World Bank and GKI. Inspired by Malaysia’s “Big Fast Results” initiative, the effort was designed to collectively prioritize education challenges based on the perspective of key communities: those who use the education system (e.g., students, parents) and those who implement education programs (e.g., teachers, administrators, technology developers, etc.).  GKI designers constructed the Lab experience to maximize participants’ time spent with users to understand their perspectives. Lab participants generated challenge ideas that built off those user insights.  Participants praised the easy-to-follow methodology and participatory approaches used.  The Lab prioritized 46 challenge ideas that served as a starting point for a subsequent phase of strategic planning: envisioning possible reforms and interventions to address those needs.

Results / Outcomes

  • Complete Lab process credited with providing South Africa with clear strategic priorities that elicited buy-in from the Office of the President and guide government investment
  • Engaged 40 education stakeholders in a multi-week “Challenge Scoping Lab” process
  • Interviewed 30+ students, teachers, administrators, and other key education actors
  • Developed 46 starting challenges to be used by a subsequent policy development lab