1 February 2013

Tanzania: Learning Network Expands Services

GLOBAL Development Learning Network (GDLN), which has over 120 recognized global affiliates like Tanzania Global Learning Agency (TaGLA) in 80 countries across the world has provided quality services for the last 10 years and is a rapid expanding network that keeps on revising modern technologies to disseminate knowledge across national boundaries.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and the then Tanzania Global Development Learning Centre (TGDLC) chairman, Dr Florens Turuka, the agency has started centres in Africa, but its number has been not more than 5.

At the 10th Association of African Distance Learning Centres (AADLC) and the Asia Pacific GDLN annual regional meeting in Dar es Salaam two years ago, Dr Turuka noted that GDLN had contributed considerably to the development of the African continent through bridging of geographical barriers, diverse cultures and thinking to foster knowledge transfer across the globe.

"This is a rewarding experience to witness it happening and it gives me even more pleasure that Tanzania has been part of the players who have gained for being part of the GDLN family through TGDLC (which was in 2012 transformed into TaGLA)," he explained.

He numerates the GDLN numerous potential to the African continent, which he said included the power of the best technology that brought communities together to share their knowledge and experiences, having a network that helped governments to match their capacity development demands in a flexible and cost effective way.

Larger numbers of people could be trained within limited financial budgets and bring a blend of convenient and friendly technologies that allows people to interact in real time. "I understand that the blend of other technologies brought through the network and the potential that the emerging technologies bring.

I am referring to the potential that will be brought when GDLN centres innovatively extend the current reach and engagement of stakeholders through internet applications like online steaming, blogs, twitter, face book and many of the mobile phone technologies," he explains. According to Dr Florence, taking into consideration the importance of technology as the mortar for development, GDLN has transformed modern technologies into a catalyst for disseminating knowledge across the world.

Furthermore, knowledge, expertise and rich experiences of policy-makers, researchers, academics and above all government leaders across the world have been immensely made accessible by GDLN. TaGLA is a member of the GDLN (www.gdln.org) and AADLC.

Formerly known as TGDLC, it has experience of at least 12 years in online learning and to date it offers more than 200 online courses in a variety of fields. Another facility that is worthy mentioning is Tanzania Country Level Knowledge Network (CLKnet), which is hosted by TaGLA at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) in Dar es Salaam.

It is a national knowledge network for research and policy development that has been developed to create a platform where decision makers, professionals and practitioners can learn and share knowledge and information through online and offline dialogues and discussions.

It is supported by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the government of Tanzania. The overall objective of the project is to cultivate a culture of wide consultation through broadening access to and utilisation of information in the formulation and implementation of development policies and programmes.

CLKnet specific objectives include mobilising policy experts, academics, professional associations/institutions, public and private sector, civil societies, policy activists and advocates to share and debate developmental issues and providing a knowledge-base for development policies through the establishment of a website and database of experts in the country, the region and the world.

Others are to provide a platform for debate in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development policies and programmes and promote utilisation of knowledge for development through knowledge dissemination and advocacy.

All sectors of the economy in the country will benefit from this project. Members of the public such as civil society, politicians, the private sector, policy makers, researchers and academicians will have access to structured information and a platform that provides for effective participation in policy dialogues and debates.

This will in turn contribute to public ownership of development programmes, informed decision-making and promotion of transparency and accountability in government policies. Furthermore, lobbyists and activists will have a platform for influencing decision- making processes and policies.

CLKnet aims at leveraging knowledge of national professionals in the country and outside through electronic discussion boards and similar platforms to harvest knowledge that is made available to policymakers as an input for development policy planning, design, reform, implementation and evaluation.

The knowledge system will consolidate data and information from all sectors and provide an efficient, cohesive and logical platform for easier access and use by all sectors of the economy. It will also facilitate the capture and consolidation of both explicit (information) and tacit (experiential or know-how) knowledge.

Therefore, a decrease in training budgets and an increase in demand for new skills have created more opportunities for TaGLA to bridge the knowledge gap through the use of technologies, mainly videoconferencing and multimedia applications.

Thus, CLKnet invites all stakeholders - the government, professional bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), development partners, civil societies, private institutions and members of the public - to utilise and become part of this knowledge sharing network.

Besides GDLN notable achievements, there were also challenges the board chairperson mentioned. They included fast changing technologies that posed a challenge to cope with, dependence on expertise that did not fully exist in one country or region to manage such a robust network, diverse cultures, management styles and institutional set ups that were unique in all countries that hosted global development centres like Tanzania, lack of experienced skills to manage the technologies, emerging competition due to new and evolving technologies and regional associations that some were still being served in-kind, without full time fledged personnel and funding.

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