Classrooms in Cameroon are filled with students, as many as 100 in one class in some places, with limited resources to teach the children. This presents a dual problem where students teachers provide less attention to each student who has reduced access to additional books and materials. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that “children in many of the world’s poorest countries can spend several years in school without learning to read a word” (Unesco.org, n.d.). When children are crammed into classrooms, given sparse resources, and come out after several years still illiterate, parents begin to weigh their options. Parents have few incentives to pay money out of pocket to send their children to school after the mandatory six years, or sometimes before finishing them, because the children can begin working to earn income for the family.
Based on geography, education opportunities should not be a lottery of being born and raised in a developed country versus a developing or undeveloped country. Nonprofit organizations like Room To Read seek to reduce the number of children in classrooms by building schools and increase the exposure to education materials by building and stocking libraries and computer labs. These are excellent steps but they perhaps lack an advanced IS strategy to match future goals with needs. Superintendents in the United States have even expressed the sentiment of not having the time to strategize on behalf of their schools (Willner, 2011, para. 3). Technology is not as abundant in the overall infrastructure of Cameroon, especially when it is sometimes used against populations of people, such as removing internet access in response to political protests (Fandio, Tchaya, & Landais, 2017, para. 1). This inconsistency in access to the infrastructure leads to underdeveloped minds when children become adults. They subsequently cannot demand higher paying jobs which hurts the overall economy. Per capita GDP for Cameroon falls in the bottom 20% of 195 countries tracked by Trading Economics, which signifies a lower income expectancy and thus greater need for more income earners in each household as quickly as possible (2017). This can compound the cycle of uneducated adults removing education opportunities for their children.
The information systems strategy will have to be written into the overall “business strategy” that the Ministry of Education uses for education growth. This will help rewrite the education goals that are in the overall strategy to account for current and needed IS.
With existing technology being inconsistent across the country, the Information Systems Strategy Triangle will help balance where upgrades are proportionately needed most while still considering the upgrades needed in more advanced areas. Existing technology being used can also be reassessed in the business strategy during the architecture and infrastructure phases. In other words, there might exist a more efficient use of the existing technology that can advance the IS of some areas without expending abundant resources.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that foreign investments in Africa decreased by a third in 2015 (Christensen, Ojomo, & van Bever, 2017, para. 6). During this same period, developed countries experienced increased investment, which signifies a need to reintroduce the foreign interests. Foreign investors will be sought for capital to provide technology infrastructure; this supports an IS strategy aligned with country-wide education goals. The economic goal is to develop a strategy to attract investors to move forward with the new architecture, ultimately building an infrastructure that attracts more investors. Growth opportunities for investors can lead to new jobs in the market, increased disposable income, and increased spending, which starts the virtuous economic cycle. This eases the burden on needed income earners in the household and allows children more years for school.
Additionally, donations will be sourced globally for building new schools with technology-equipped libraries that can help subsidize costs to communities to better meet IS goals. With more schools and libraries, the quality of education can increase and expand, further enhancing the incentive for parents to send their children to school.
IT governance will be a major component because there will be many standards that are needed to bring the whole educational system up, while maintaining vast ranges of flexibility so that individual communities can adjust as needed during their growth process. Networks of IS professionals will be needed to not only implement the new IS infrastructures, but train and follow-up on the development of the systems. A network will require a level of centralized or decentralized governance to grant rights to the individual units. One idea to help jumpstart and sustain these networks is to bring in millennials from developed countries who seek a greater meaning in life before and during their career endeavors (Brooks, 2014, para. 3).
If too much control is centralized, the individual communities that lack the financial or logistical ability can and will get left behind; if the control is wholly decentralized, some communities may get lost in their IT strategies to the point that they must take steps backward in order to fix new issues (Pearlson, Saunders, & Galletta, 2016, p. 193). A hybrid level of governance will eventually work, but the decentralized portions of the IT structure will have to be gradually added. This approach will allow the oversight of a central unit to control the consistency, accuracy, and effectiveness of the installed infrastructure. This approach takes the risk of taking away individual decision-making rights that could cater the infrastructure to a particular unit (e.g. geographical area or school system). Conversely, it will mitigate the risk of giving too much decision-making rights to a unit that may not know how to properly utilize the resources and infrastructure it is being given.
If a community has only one school and no computers within that school, adding a computer lab could be overwhelming, having neither the properly trained staff or the resources to maintain the lab should problems arise. The more centralized governance approach will allow for slower rollouts to areas that need more stages to install the infrastructure. Additionally, the overall architecture may need to be catered to specific units in order to properly set up the infrastructure.
Building schools allows for a staged rollout that not only secures buy-in from the community, but helps plan out the eventual decentralized structure that will give decision-making rights to the respective business units. As a school and library are built, the necessary support system of teachers and staff can be hired and trained, eventually being able to fully realize a decentralized unit. Each new unit will thus move from centralized to decentralized as it grows. An additional idea is to create committees of operational leaders from each unit who share and consult strategies and feedback. This would help ensure that individual communities do not fall behind the aggregate progress of the country.
Architecture and infrastructure will be extremely useful in determining how the education resources are best used so they match and achieve the strategic goals of the project. An appropriate architecture will allow a system to grow and evolve, which will help the communities take advantage of new technology to further their education goals (Pearlson, Saunders, & Galletta, 2016, p. 140). As time passes, implementation of today’s technology will eventually be made obsolete. The IS strategy must consider a path for growth and flexibility so that the architecture can be properly adjusted as needed.
The resulting infrastructure can be adapted to best suit the style of learning that is chosen by the education administrators. Understanding how the infrastructure works and further, how it can be updated and altered is part of the education administrators position. There must be support staff to keep up with IT trends while maintaining their education system’s needs.
This helps maintain a proper database of information to measure results accurately and effectively to determine where growth is and is not occurring. As schools and libraries are built, data can be collected on number of students in attendance, student-teacher ratios, test scores, IT support requests, response times, solutions available, and solutions implemented. This data can be mined to reveal trends such as the response time to IT infrastructure failures with attendance and test scores. Each buildout of a school or library can utilize the latest data trends from previous ones, simultaneously compounding in accuracy with each buildout. This data can also be mined to reveal specific trends that exist in some units but not in others to better match demographics and geography of proposed build sites to ones that exist (Pearlson, Saunders, & Galletta, 2016, p. 266).
The expected end result has three parts. First, working with the Ministry of Education, I would reformulate the information services strategy to instill principles and policies as a standard for all business units; these units being the individual communities. The greater oversight provides for consistent implementation of infrastructure, based on an architecture that caters to the education goals.
The second part will bring together foreign investment funds. The foundation of this part must be built within the financial industry to build a network of global investment opportunities for business and individuals. These will be the catalyst for funding the execution of the IS strategy and building schools and libraries, which is the final part.
These new schools and libraries provide a more complete physical infrastructure in which communities can build the ground-level digital infrastructure. More schools decrease the number of children per classroom, while more libraries will provide access to more resources for both teachers and students.
The next action steps are to continue working closely with individuals in Cameroon. Through a network of contacts, I will set up a meeting with the Ministry of Education Office to discuss a partnership. Simultaneously, I will contact a nonprofit organization called Room to Read that builds schools and libraries, among its many other global endeavors in education. Through their vast experience, I can partner to open a new branch in Cameroon.
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