Development of an innovative and user-oriented digital library in DRC


The project Resilience in COVID-19 through Digitalisation (RESICODI), co-funded by the European Union, aims to strengthen capacities and services in the field of education and health. On this occasion, we met Cédrick Ngandu Kalala and Nelson Mbembe, two colleagues from Enabel in DR Congo. They explain how they came to develop a user-centred digital library for this project from scratch.

You are both experts in Enabel's D4D - Digital for Development - team. Can you briefly explain what your function is?

Cédrick Ngandu Kalala: My official job title is D4D expert, but for the RESICODI project, I am also the Intervention Manager. In other words, I am in charge of the implementation of the project, the implementation of all the activities at the health and education level, but I also lead the reflections on the solutions to be put in place, the follow-up and the tasks related to the management of the project.

Nelson Mbembe: I am an ICT officer in charge of digital capacity building. I mainly make sure that we can lay the foundations for good digital literacy for schools and teachers so that the project can run its course in the best possible way. This means that we follow up on the logistics of rehabilitating the rooms, follow up on the trainings but also provide technical support for the different ICT platforms and equipment.

You are developing a new digital library. How did this idea come about?

C. : We were mainly guided by the desire to develop an innovative pilot project and the desire to test a new solution to make free educational resources available to both the RESICODI and Enabel projects in DR Congo.

N. : If we wanted to develop this solution, it is mainly because we realised that from a technical point of view, the specificities proposed by other solutions did not always correspond to the needs expressed by teachers and learners. So we had to be able to recreate something that was easy to use and where we could have 100% control.

Is there an innovative approach that Enabel takes? What is specific to these activities?

C. : What we wanted to establish in the RESICODI project is a real motivation to learn from the first link in the learning chain: the teachers. By allowing them to obtain an internationally recognised certification (Certiport) we want to allow them to open up other fields of possibility and participate in a real community of teachers. This allows them to gauge the effectiveness of the training and to participate in a constructive exchange of ideas. I would also like to mention that another innovative approach of the project is that we decided to also include populations that tend to be neglected both geographically and financially. By offering coding programmes in three centres in the more remote areas of Kinshasa, we want to enable these younger populations to also have access to this type of training in their neighbourhoods and at a lower cost.

N. : For me, the fact that we had the opportunity to develop a pilot project for a digital library from A to Z is a very innovative approach for me. I also liked the fact that we were able to involve the teachers in the development from the beginning to make sure that everything evolved according to their expectations and needs.

What are your long-term expectations? How can we ensure that this solution will continue to be used?

C. : I would say that in the long term we will have to focus on two aspects. The first is technical support. We want to make sure that the main users have a certain mastery of the management and use of the tool. Indeed, for a person who is already used to preparing lessons in a certain way (using books, printed materials, etc.), it is important to be able to accompany the transition and allow him or her to gradually detach from certain habits in order to create a flexibility and a mix in the educational approach. This is why we have opted for flexibility and calibrated the requests to the different realities encountered in the centres (number of pupils, infrastructure, teachers, etc.). Secondly, we would like to ensure that this solution can also be deployed on other projects. Indeed, we see the relevance of using this solution also in the health sector and we hope that through our transition and support work, this solution can be adapted to other projects and sectors.

N. : I would really like teachers to take ownership of the library and make it a permanent part of their methodology at the heart of their teaching. If we can convey our enthusiasm and passion for this digital library then I'm confident that it won't be a one-off.