I honestly think we are at an inflection point. Thanks to the painstaking work done by Jehan Ara and her team at PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) The Google/Samsung/US State Department sponsored incubator is ready. Its brilliantly designed by Adil Moosajee and his team. I got a sneak peak and what I saw was impressive. Here are some of the pics I took.
The incubator will open on January 14th, 2015 formally, but already there is a steady stream of people coming in to see the facility. It has a 80 odd people presentation room with a 65 inch Samsung TV, a media studio, meeting spaces and ofcourse seating for 40 incubatees. That means that apprx. 15 teams would be incubated for a period of 4 months at a time.
It is money well spent and congrats to Jehan and the team. The location of the space is on Shaheed e Millat Road, close to Karachi’s Silicon Alley (Shahrae Faisal) and close by to DotZero also. Great work, and may we all benefit from this space.
I think that the ilmapps challenge that has been launched by DFID and Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF) http://learninginnovatio n.pif.org.pk/ilm-apps-challenge/ is a great initiative to try and focus minds from the tech space to solve the pressing problems facing education in Pakistan. I had the opportunity of mentoring a team that had entered the competition from Karachi- Edequal. (www.edequal.pk). I was impressed with their model, and the degree to which they have been able to digitise content and testing for mathematics. The only area where I felt more research is needed is that they insist that students have a basic understanding of English, before starting the maths section. The reason is that the content is all in English (sourced from around the world).
Having said that, what I liked about their approach is the assessment system. I want to lay the foundations of a system that works in replacement of the traditional educational system in Pakistan, and not work in consonance with it, as the current Edequal and other systems like Jugnu TV (www.jugnutv.com) do.
I propose the following
A complete cancellation of the school based education in Pakistan, and a replacement by a system of life learning. This life learning system would allow students to advance at their own pace and not be reliant on spotty education systems that plague Pakistan. Assessments would be possible through assessment centers all over Pakistan to be run by a National Authority (like the NTS). Assessments would be done after biometric identification and would be online. Every child that is born in Pakistan, would be given a unique learning number (ULN).
Since there would be no schools, so the question would arise that how would the students get any knowledge at all? In my opinion, learning given online and delivered through various mechanisms (tablets, pcs, mobile phones, blended learning in learning centers) is going to be more useful than the current state of both government and private school systems, barring a few high end schools where quality is delivered.
The second thing is that the curriculum would be completely overhauled because different systems operating in Pakistan would all be abolished and one system with one testing system would be put in place.
In a future post I will explore the question of language in such a system, and how various language formats can be incorporated into this.
As would seem to be the case from the above argument, the issues are not really those of technology, but those of politics, and pedagogy. We have the tech to solve the problem of education in Pakistan, but do we have the political will?
Dear Agency CEO:
It is my pleasure to present 8 things you need to do now!
- Bring media planning back to the central focus of the agency. Uptil the time that media buying was agglomerated into specialist media buying agencies, Media was the way that Advertising Agencies made their money; digital media buying allows Agencies to come back into the game. Avail this opportunity and train your media buyers and planners in digital planning and buying.
- Change the focus of your copywriting team to content writing. This has two implications, telling brand stories is not just about sexy headlines and neat copy; it’s about blogging, about writing websites, and creating interesting social media content. Also, there is the issue of time: The digital world cannot wait for your copywriter to have his epiphany. Hire people who can think fast. In short: Hire journalists.
- Completely new skills are needed in your studio: Your studio needs to know how to optimize images for internet usage. They need to know how to design websites, use CSS and flash and also know sizes of mobile applications, and simple animations for banners. They need to know what fonts work on internet, and what don’t. An inhouse training program conducted by a professional web designer, should be good enough to get you started. In case the older lot of art directors are not willing to change, the new generation that you hire must be internet enabled.
- IT focus: Your IT department has been sitting around running the network, and updating and maintaining your PCs. Its time to upgrade and reposition them also. They need to be the focal point of your technology efforts. When you go and make a pitch to take on an application development or website portal project, you must have inhouse resources to carry these out. Upgrade your IT department to implement CSS, CMS and HTML 5 websites. One solid resource is a good start
- Think BTL. Think about ways to connect brands to events, memes and current affairs. This requires the thinking skills of an event planner: eg. Whats our eid plan? And what is our brand saying to the Pakistan team on losing to India in the T20 worldcup. So, sometimes its OK to set aside brand thinking, and connect to consumers through engagement. This thinking needs to be done by the planning / strategy team. Train your strategy team in non-strategic ideation, or hire BTL planners.
- As CEO of a Digital enabled agency, you just cant say I don’t have a facebook account. Get with the program. Get a facebook account, and a twitter handle. Insist that everyone in the company be online. Get bandwidth allocated so people can access facebook and twitter, and online websites
- Does your agency have a website? When was the last time it was updated? Put this into the Critical Things to Do List.
- Now on to the real payoff. Will your company be able to deliver interactive content based on world class ideas of user experience design and game dynamics? There are agencies who are able to do that (akqa is my favourite). My suggestion is to keep this as the goal and build to it.