The only touchpoints between schoolteachers and parents used to be once-a-semester report cards (sent home with – and invariably lost by – the students) and the rarely-more-frequent parent-teacher conferences. That’s so Twentieth century. One exciting startup in Ghana is introducing the future of institution management and teacher-parent communications in schools across Africa with a solution that includes a personalized daily student report card by phone to parents, improving direct communications and enlisting more active parental involvement with the educational outcome of the child. In their bid to create a truly inclusive platform InfoView has partnered with SaraConnects to develop a telephone-centric smart portal to allow hurdle-free access to all parents – regardless their own literacy or income or handset technology or remote location.
InfoView Data Solutions Ltd is the Accra company behind the SIMS School Information Management Solution that uses mobile technology to revolutionize education in Africa by transforming the administration of schools and addressing the information gap between schools and parents. Its strategy is to disrupt traditional approaches to social and organizational challenges in Africa using technology and data. SIMS is already actively used by 152 schools across four countries to manage operations and enhance routine reporting to parents via their companion gBook app that parents download to their smartphones, providing always-available access to their ward’s SIMS record online. gBook is basically a personalized daily student report card by phone that allows parents to:
- Monitor Performance – daily updates with grades, attendance, class schedules, lesson notes, more; and
- Pay Tuition and Expenses – Parents get their bills and pay instantly via gBook.
SIMS has been recognized by school administrators and government officials as a highly impactful solution that significantly improves routine school operations management while enabling parents to take a more active, even proactive role in helping to nurture their children’s education. Officials have endorsed InfoView and expressed keen interest in seeing the cloud-based SIMS solution universally deployed to all schools, with a caveat guaranteeing that any parent of any background or means has equal access to their children’s daily performance report card by phone and archived records. This challenge presents an enormous business opportunity for exponential growth.
The gBook app requires a parent possess a smartphone with data plan to access the SIMS report card by phone. Smartphones in turn minimally require a 3G/4G infrastructure to deliver adequate performance to support gBook. Whereas this is of no concern when supporting private schools in urban centers catering to wealthy families, both of these hurdles effectively prevent the larger pan-African population of parents from accessing and using gBook. InfoView recognizes that to move to the next level in SIMS penetration into school systems across nations, an alternative portal is required that will accommodate more pervasive basic feature phones and 2G infrastructure common across the continent.
Sam Bhattacharyya recently explained “what a lot of people don’t realize is that around 46% of the world still isn’t even connected to the Internet….there’s still people who aren’t connected at all and they’re moving to 2G or to 3G. So that’s where a lot of the growth for a lot of these companies will come from in the future, especially in the developing world…. the first ed tech companies that have gotten successful now, that started about five years ago, have gotten successful pretty much from users in big, large cities, but that only accounts for like twenty to thirty percent of the population, and now the majority of their growth will have to come from second-tier or third-tier rural areas, where people still have only 2G or 3G connectivity.”
“We at InfoView have a mandate to make our solution available to all parents of all children attending all schools,” explains Jeffrey Bamba, InfoView president and founder. “SaraConnects, in partnership with InfoView, will design, develop and deploy the gCall SARA smart cloud platform for integration into SIMS.” gCall™ Powered by SARA™ will be the feature phone equivalent for the gBook app; a universal portal to SIMS optimized for all telephones to guarantee access for all parents and families regardless their device, their income or their own literacy. gCall will incorporate human voice prompts and synthesized voice into a friendly personalized audio-optimized telephone platform with rich interactive features that permit a parent the same access to a child’s report card by phone and archived records contained in the SIMS data warehouse – facilitating more frequent and intimate teacher/parent interaction. gCall machine learning AI will record and learn from any listener interaction to improve service, personalize features and enhance the user experience.
“gCall ensures service inclusiveness to all levels of society, giving all children and their parents a fair shot at improving themselves and their livelihoods through enhanced participation in the education process.” Cloud-based gCall can ultimately become a platform not only for the daily student report card by phone but also a medium to offer personalized education – like language learning and audiobooks – to students and parents alike. This will contribute towards the greater good of bridging communication between parents and schools and bringing up the level of educational excellence across the continent. With gCall deployed, underserved communities, urban poor and rural parents can better monitor their kids’ education and more actively participate in the process; learning can take place both at home and at school. Rapid expansion to more schools also affords opportunity to nurture“girl child” education programs and other targeted initiatives.
Because gCall targets parents with its daily report card by phone, it simultaneously serves as ideal platform to commandeer in SARA’s mission to combat the last mile vaccine crisis, save lives and eradicate preventable diseases through improved public awareness and vaccination alerts. Each year hundreds of thousands of children across Africa needlessly die due to lack of immunization against preventable diseases. SARA is collaborating on a separate yet synergistic initiative with Not Impossible Labs and Pfizer to connect and educate the disconnected via their telephone handsets to defeat the last mile crisis impact – bringing people to vaccines they require while authorities collect valuable data that can be used to better anticipate demand and logistics.
SARAConnects is specifically focused on delivering smart mobile services to dumb phones. Smart Audio Recognition Agent SARA is an AI-powered web browser specifically optimized for audio, voice and DTMF (touch tones): a basic feature phone becomes an interactive portal to personalized services and entertainment. No apps or content downloads – all storage, personal settings, click data, intelligence and learning – it’s all in the cloud, accessed by mere dialed phone call or text. Literacy not required; eyesight optional. Works with all telephones wired or wireless, dumb or smart. SARA delivers information and education optimized for audio consumption and voice and opens new economic possibilities to unbanked masses.
Interested in helping us have a huge and perpetually beneficial impact on public education and wellness across Africa? We’d love to hear from you.