Use of smart devices like tablets or even smartphones has been mooted as a possible solution to South Africa’s textbook crisis.

Wesley Lynch, CEO of Snapplify, believes that the wholesales roll-out of smart devices cound be the answer.

“iPads and tablets can definitely aid the textbook crisis,” he says. “iPads in particular would probably feature more readily in private or wealthier schools, but Android tablets are more affordable and would provide a more realistic chance of institutions or the government being able to provide tablets to schools in South Africa.”

Lynch says that tablets will provide access to textbooks that have been digitally published as eBooks and educational web applications. “These devices allow for a better and richer experience of the web in a way that perhaps many of the students would have only previously experienced on their mobile phones.

“The potential is there to provide educational apps with multimedia which would help to explain the content in a more comprehensive way – the sciences in particular could benefit immensely,” Lynch says. “Mobile apps, such as Snapplify, have had a good uptake on training and educational material, and mobile means the student can have all his textbooks and notes with him at all times.”

The  biggest issue facing schools wishing to implement smart device technology in their classrooms remains the cost.

“I don’t think we can solve the textbook crisis with technology alone. The cost of the tablet as well as the cost of downloading the information itself is still extremely high,” Jacques du Toit, MD of Vox Orion, warns. “Most rural areas still rely on GSM or 3G – if they have access to Internet connectivity at all.

“If government subsidies the cost of the device as well as the price of the Internet subscription, it could be revolutionary. With technologies such as the Smart board, for example, children in a rural farm schools could “attend” a class that’s being held in the city, and download and review the lesson at a later stage. We’re willing to make concessions to disadvantaged schools as much as we can to make this technology accessible, but broadband costs will have to be subsidised.”