University of Cape Town (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5086-5098
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
The Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS) is a peer-to-peer network of university departments/schools/programmes that offer urban and regional/rural planning degrees in Anglophone Africa. It is a member of the Global Planning Education Association Network (GPEAN) and it is currently a voluntary organisation. Since 2008, funding from the Rockefeller Foundation has enabled collaborative work to be done on curricula reform. The underlying and general opinion is that urban planning education is largely informed by Northern paradigms. Revisiting curricula in the face of challenges such as informal urbanisation and deep resource inequities is considered essential to the relevance of training.

A core part of this network building process is the use of digital tools to enable communication and information sharing. The 41 member schools of the AAPS network vary considerably in terms of resource access and capacity. Only about one third of schools have broadband access available to staff in their offices, and to students in their studios and computer laboratories. Schools with general access to staff but with very low bandwidths, and shared but limited access to students in shared spaces comprise another third. Schools with limited access to staff members (mostly shared access in the secretary’s office or available only to the Head of Department) and very limited access to students in designated laboratories (in some cases students have to pay for this service) comprise the rest.

There exists a direct correlation between the level of participation of schools in the network and their digital capacities given that AAPS activity is so reliant on these tools for communication. In addition to the connectivity issue, an awareness of the potential of the Internet and its interactive capacity is patchy. Older staff members are generally not as active. Many staff members in ‘limited connectivity’ schools rely on their own resources for Internet access; many use the 3G modems available from cellular phone companies.

This paper reflects on this uneven digital landscape and the implications and challenges posed by these realities. It argues that assumptions regarding digital networks need to be examined and challenged. It concludes by positing an actor-led approach whereby communities of interest are nurtured using a broader range of technological tools.
Africa, educational networks, urban planning, connectivity, Universities.