You cannot solve 21st century problems using 19th century processes. Yet, too often, solutions to secondary education in developing nations do just that. They focus on trying to increase access to traditional schools where traditional subjects are taught in the traditional way by traditional teachers.

It’s a narrow inward-looking perspective which doesn’t break free into visionary disruptive thought.

Socio-economic realities cause teenagers to drop out of secondary schools at an early age. Sixty per cent of 15–17 year olds in sub-Saharan Africa are not even in school. Populations are growing faster than schools can be built or teachers trained. The…


A migration to analytics would bring efficiency to the education evaluation process. It would boost learner motivation. It would measure thinking throughout the year, rather than memories at year end. It would engender year-round focused work rather than periodic cramming. It would facilitate real-time remediation and continuous improvement 24/7 through the year, which would cumulatively result in enhanced intellect and greater achievement by year end. And it would allow the creation of multi-dimensional learner competency profiles instead of a simplistic score.

A teacher in a classroom cannot monitor each learner’s choices, actions and progress second by second every day, which…


TL;DR: The future is characterised by socioeconomic and climate-driven chaos. Traditional schooling cannot cope and will be disrupted by enlightened e-learning via smartphones. Africa’s prosperity is dependent on education that grows intellect in the youth, delivered by affordable, accessible mobile learning experiences.

If its primary purpose is to prepare the youth to thrive in the future, why is education entrusted to institutions so intrenchably wed to the past? Education should be the most aggressively future-driven of all sectors. Tragically, it is the opposite.

Of course the future of the world itself is not that clear. In the coming decade you…


176 years ago, Karl Marx was intrigued by how individuals are influenced by social institutions which grow to define society. In his view, the most addictive form of dependency-based social control at the time was religion. If he were writing today, he might instead be thinking “Social media is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” While religions still have their detractors, today social media carries the weight of concern over damage to and exploitation of the mental state of individuals.

The…


In our desire to be as headline-grabbing as an asteroid strike, everything new gets a “disruptive” tag. If you find yourself longing for the relatively hyperventilation-free days of “revolutionary” but are afraid of seeming stuck in the 1900s, perhaps it is time to step back and gain some perspective. Disruption is, after all, a 20th century concept.

Decades ago in The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen described a “disruptive innovation” as one inferior to existing products, so it doesn’t initially compete for mainstream customers; rather disruptive innovations appeal at lower prices to a part of the market not already being served. Over time the disruptor enhances the features or functionality of the innovation and attracts mainstream customers away from incumbents.

An example is South Africa’s Capitec Bank, which started life as a cheap debit card service with none of the expensive overheads of a traditional bank. Ignored by the big players because it wasn’t a “real” bank, it…


Image from a maths game in the MindZu app

In education, much of what passes for disruption is simply hyped innovation — better ways of doing the same thing. The notion of disrupting the classroom is often more about giving a teacher better tools than about dispensing with the classroom (or the teacher) altogether. Handing out tablets loaded with text rather than paper-based books, is a common digital initiative which makes schools feel like they are innovating, without actually changing anything. The substitution-augmentation-modification-redefinition (SAMR) model of digital transformation is much loved, because it makes techno-shifts seem incremental, linear and manageable. …


Traditional Social Media Implodes

For marketers, social media was traditionally a free platform where you earned your audience through publishing relevant and meaningful content, and by occasionally talking to a customer. Most brands built up a fan-base of likers, then broadcast an endless pipeline of promotional messaging to an audience who over time simply stopped receiving their posts. Today’s reality for marketers is that this organic social performance has evaporated.

In South Africa, for example, data from the 2018 Social Media Landscape Report by World Wide Worx & Ornico shows how little real impact the major social platforms have, even…


As technology-enabled behaviour changes turn markets on their heads, is it inevitable that organisations, companies and institutions rapidly fall behind?

Organisations are run by smart people with plenty of experience in strategy and access to sophisticated planning and risk management systems. Yet most organisations evolve logarithmically, their ability to change tending to plateau, even as the technological environment in which they operate evolves exponentially.

Most business planning and financial management systems build this damper into the organisation. Financial professionals have a naïve faith that the world changes in iterations of a year at a time, and then only by a…


To an experienced digital marketer, hearing a Gen Y tech entrepreneur extol the virtues of growth hacking is like hearing a teenager enthuse about this amazing band called Led Zeppelin. Is growth hacking just an early-era digital marketing process which has been rediscovered by a new generation? Or is it truly avant-garde?

A few months ago, I was preparing a start-up project for a European launch. I ran a quick $100 experiment using Facebook ads to synthesize early traction data. The nature of the most responsive consumers profoundly changed our assumptions about personas, targeting, messaging and product features. …

Godfrey Parkin

Digital strategist, marketer, ed-tech pioneer, futurist and author. CEO of Britefire. CEO of MindZu. Startups in Zurich, London, Washington DC and Cape Town.

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