In this interview, Favourite Ownuemene, the Chief Executive Officer of Bluebic, an indigenous Information Technology (IT) firm in Lagos with special emphasis on developing eLearning software and solutions talks about eLearning, challenges and the need to fund education sector in the country. Anthony Nwosu captured this in an exclusive interview.
Tell us about BlueBic as an IT firm?
BlueBic is an EdTech startup that builds software solutions that automate the tedious processes involved in running a school, giving school admins and teachers more time to focus on teaching. We strongly believe that the narrative in education ought to change and we are poised to make our own contribution towards this.
Over the years, you have demonstrated efficiency in development of e-learning software, what prompted this?
We noticed a need for an indigenous software product that is not just reliable, but also very easy to use. Giving our deep expertise at software development, we knew we were well-equipped to tackle this problem. This was the gap that we had in mind to fill. We saw the vacuum and we are building also capacity in that area.
What is the level of acceptance, do you think that Nigerian education institutions are open to deploying indigenous solutions?
The level of acceptance is growing rapidly as schools begin to appreciate the need for IT solutions that improves student outcomes, administrative efficiency, saves cost, and also creates a tech-savvy image for the school. Apart from e learning, our solution incorporates school management and all that has to do with day to day running of education facilities. We understood how human error can affect the optimization of many things in the school, we brought in automation.
You are one of the few IT firms that are deploying cloud-based software for learning, do you think that schools are ripe for this?
Yes, schools are more than ready for this. There are a few issues that affect a schools’ ability to deploy cloud-based School Management Software, and we have been, and continue to work very hard at mitigating against these issues. We have seen will to deploy these facilities in school.
How are you dealing with challenges like Lack of computers and poor power supply?
Most teachers today can afford or already own internet ready phones as Chinese smartphones can be bought for as little as $50, sometimes less. We have built our product from the ground up to be mobile-first. This ensures that our product can be used by schools with very few or no computers and does not require constant power supply as phones can be charged and used even when there is no power. Also, we know that cost of data in this part of the word can be prohibitive, we have built our product to use very little data. Records can also be viewed when offline. Finally, we conduct regular IT literacy training for employees of schools that use our product.
What are the challenges that you face doing this business in Nigeria?
Our biggest challenge has to do with the fact that the education sector is underfunded. A lot of school’s struggle to break even and this affects how much they’re willing to pay for services like ours. We must start funding the schools appropriately.
Have you ever deployed in public schools; do you think that the government funded schools are open to such a technology?
Yes, Govt. funded schools are open to deploying this technology, and we have deployed our product for a few. The challenge with deploying this for Govt. funded schools has less to do with their readiness and more to do with the long sales process and bureaucratic bottlenecks as there is usually a hierarchy of decision makers that all have to be convinced.
For a school to run an effective eLearning solution or platform like yours,there must be skills. What are you doing about this ?
Yes, it does. We, however, have put systems in place to ensure that teachers can be trained in a cost-effective manner. We strongly believe in capacity building; we have that in mind and that is the reason that we put forward training programs that would update teachers on the best practice. We are not the IT firm that dumps solutions on client, we incorporate training in our service delivery.
How can parents monitor their ward’s educational progress using BlueBic solution?
Parents get login access to the portal; via the portal they can monitor the performance of their wards and also pay their school fees.
As a stakeholder in the ICT space, what is your advice to the policymakers and government on how to deploy e-learning solutions this post COVID-19 era?
E-learning without the guidance of a teacher/instructor isn’t very efficient for the general population of students. My advice would be for the Govt. to focus on deploying e-learning solutions that are targeted not only at students, but also solutions that aid parents/guardians (or other adults) to play the role of a teacher in the learning process. Pertaining to our products and where we have deployed, the product is mostly developed in Nigeria. We have also deployed for schools in Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana.