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Capacity Building in Mobile App Development through Project-based Learning and Mentoring in Senegal and Benin

Your Name and Title: Dr. Christelle Scharff, Associate Professor of Computer Science, US Fulbright Scholar

School, Library, or Organization Name: Pace University, New York, USA

Co-Presenter Name(s):

Country from Which You Will Present: Senegal

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience (such as primary school teachers, high school administrators, students, etc.): University professors, mobile enthusiasts

Short Session Description (one line):
Three years of capacity building in mobile app development with impact, in Senegal and Benin.

Full Session Description (one paragraph minimum):

Capacity building is an important aspect of development. Mobile solutions adapted to the African population need to be designed by Africans, and thus African youth need to be prepared to be developers, entrepreneurs, and business actors of this promising field. However, most of these initiatives are concentrated in English-speaking countries of Africa.

MobileSenegal is the first initiative of this type in a Francophone country in Africa. MobileSenegal ( is emerged in Senegal in 2008 and evolves under the umbrella of Pace University in the United States in collaboration with partner universities across Senegal and through funding by corporations and agencies. 

We designed and implemented a model of teaching mobile application development based on intensive project-based courses followed up by mentoring activities to increase the likelihood of deployment of the solutions on the ground or their release in the marketplace. The model is supported by the creation of an active and diverse community of actors of the mobile field – students, faculty, universities, NGOs, international organization and companies. This partnership is crucial in integrating sustainability and scalability of the project.

MobileSenegal targets students through boot camps, courses, competitions and dedicated field projects. It also organizes training for faculty. The teaching philosophy takes into consideration the multi-disciplinarity of mobile application development and integrates teaching components on technology (Java ME, Android, SMS, Voice, Mobile Web), software engineering (requirements, usability, quality assurance), graphics (sprites, video and image editing), marketing (market analysis, social media), and entrepreneurship (business planning). Participants work on real projects for real beneficiaries. MobileSenegal also uses global software development projects where students from the US, Senegal, India, and Cambodia collaborate together to develop mobile solutions as a capacity building framework in mobile.

Through collaborations with local universities, mobile application development was integrated in the curriculum of several universities in Senegal. More than 250 students participated in boot camps and competitions and more than 30 mobile applications were developed to date. Some of these applications were piloted for improvement and evaluation for larger scale implementation, winners or finalists in international competitions, and published in Nokia Store and Google Play. KomKom, an accounting application for artisans, was piloted in the artisan village of Thiès and was a judge choice winner at the Nokia Calling All Innovators in 2009. StopMalaria was the winner of the Population Council Datauncovered contest in Senegal. Four mobile applications targeting health and education were published in Nokia Store and Google Play in 2012. CibleCI, designed to help first grade pupils practice essential skills in math, reading, writing and geography, was piloted in elementary schools in Senegal in 2012.

In 2012, the model was used in Benin during a bootcamp.

In this presentation, we plan to share our model of teaching and its evolution over the years. We will describe the positive and negative outcomes of the project and the difficulties we met and still face in establishing a sustainable project. We will share our findings, lessons learned, and guidelines for faculty interested in adapting our work at their universities or in their countries. We will present some of the apps developed by the participants of our activities.

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