Online Education in the Developing World

Education has a vital role in increasing people’s and nations’ quality of life. With deficient access and economic resources, the developing world has been left far behind, suffering in illiteracy and scarcity whereas the developed world swims in the deep waters of knowledge. Filling the educational gap across the globe is today more feasible due to the Internet and online learning. However, are alternatives such as MOOCs (massive open online courses) the holy grail the developing world has been expecting, or will the lack of technology and linguistic barriers demonstrate online education to be just another way the rich countries educate themselves while the developing world keeps incipient?

The following infographic summarizes the effectiveness of online education today, and the potential for its future evolution in the developing world’s countries.

Online Education and the Developing World Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

The Innovation— Massive Open Online Courses

According to the World Bank, education is a vital factor for development and one of the most effective means for decreasing poverty, improving people’s health, bridging the gender gap and establishing peace.

Each year, first-class university education is accessible to more global students through videos and dynamic online course programs. Numerous courses are free, and they are all reachable to anyone with an Internet connection. Not surprisingly, scholars from the developing world are a major and growing percentage of online education’s consumers.
Coursera, for example, has 11 million students and free classes. Students can acquire “validated certificates” for a single class or mini-degrees in cloud computing or business. One of three Coursera’s users are from the developing world.

Challenges to Education

Online education presents unique challenges for countries in the developing world.

  • The world’s underprivileged regions do not have enough Internet speed for reliable video streaming.
  • Only 31% of households have Internet connection.
  • Basic literacy, a prerequisite to undertake more advanced education, is a major issue in many regions.
  • Many U.S. universities offer advanced courses intended only for the middle class.
  • Tailoring courses’ content to a global, multi-cultural audience is a main challenge. Any given course may not be suitable for diverse learning styles in dissimilar countries.

Pain points to address for major impact

Some innovations in MOOC platforms have the potential to improve developing world’s access to online education:

  • Capability to download course materials for offline consumption, instead of streaming only.
  • edX’s projections to open-source the platform, allowing more institutions to publish online courses and software developers to innovate with personalized user interfaces.
  • Issuing of real-life certificates, despite location.
  • Mixing the online course’ paradigm and the traditional university methodology.

MOOCs have challenging issues that must be solved to completely fulfill the vision of providing education to the regions that need it most; yet wonderful opportunities have risen for tailored learning by combining online and traditional education. As soon as courses’ content is crafted in languages different than English and technical resources are upgraded, online education carries the potential to truly change the world’s landscape.


Afghanistan Mali
Benin Morocco
DR Congo Mozambique
East Timor Nepal
Egypt Nicaragua
Ethiopia Niger
Gambia Nigeria
Ghana Pakistan
Guatemala Peru
Guinea Philippines
Guyana Rwanda
Haiti Senegal
Honduras South Africa
Iraq Tajikistan
Jamaica Tonga
Jordan Uganda
Kenya Vanuatu
Liberia Yemen
Malawi Zambia