2021 | Early stage | Education | Netherlands | SDG4

1. General


SDG 4: Quality Education


Please describe Other

Equal rights in the IT and information era



2. Project Details

Company or Institution

Stichting Second Wave Education Foundation



General description of the AI solution

PetitPouss is an application for primary school children in French-speaking Africa. With fr.petitpouss.fr, children can improve their level of knowledge, teachers can optimise the quality of their lessons, and parents can better monitor the progress of their children. The application was initially created for the children in the last two classes of primary school (CM1 and CM2). The reason was to give the children in CM2 a better chance to pass their exams so that they can enjoy further education. We are currently active in Togo and Niger, and many people have asked us to create modules for all classes and for the first years of secondary education. In Niger, the application is being validated and it is therefore integrated into the Nigerian education system. Online education is a right and a great necessity. We experienced this painfully with the outbreak of Covid19. In Niger, there is also the increasing flow of refugees. One of the major challenges we are taking up in the project is ensuring that there is sufficient hardware (laptops, tablets, smartphones) and that the Internet works everywhere. We are therefore also investigating the extent to which we can use this online tool, which is interactive, offline as well.




Stichting Second Wave Foundation

3. Aspects

Excellence and Scientific Quality: Please detail the improvements made by the nominee or the nominees’ team or yourself if your applying for the award, and why they have been a success.

AI is a concept whereby computers perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence – think of search engines and spam filters (for example). Going back to the origins, we come to Alan Turing who did pioneering work in WWII and wrote, among other things, how a computer can make the difference between a human and a machine. Now to Sub Sahara, French-speaking Africa. There, the level and use of AI is really different from, say, Western Europe. Our application is a form of AI that can raise the level in these countries. We don't use AI to replace humans, but rather to help them advance: children learn interactivity, the internet, teachers get new tools to improve their teaching skills. It is very innovative because in these countries there is little to no work with AI; in many places there is hardly any internet and the hardware is old and inadequate. With PetitPouss AI each user gets questions to which the system responds. From a scientific point of view, it is an application created by pedagogues and educational experts, executed by IT specialists. The quality that our AI solution offers is high; all levels of both primary and secondary education have indicated that they want to use our application.
The status of technology is that PetitPouss works with Moodle, the world's most popular learning management system. PetitPouss is using this system to develop a well suited education program based on the local educational program of the countries we are working in at this moment (Niger and Togo). The TRL ( Technology Readiness Levels) of Moodle is well known and is used by lots of universities and others education institutions.

Scaling of impact to SDGs: Please detail how many citizens/communities and/or researchers/businesses this has had or can have a positive impact on, including particular groups where applicable and to what extent.

Overall view: Education (SDG 4) enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. Over the past decade there has been some progress towards increasing access to education and school enrollment rates at all levels, particularly for girls. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, many schools closed, impacting more than 91 per cent of students worldwide. In many Western countries, an online educational back-up system was used immediately. This was not the case in sub-Saharan countries. This proposal focuses on a few million children in Francophone Africa who are now deprived of (online) education. Because of the pandemic, but also because of insecurity, poor hygiene conditions at school (which directly affects girls). The pandemic has taught us that we need to work globally on access to the Internet. Our application and all the activities our foundation undertakes in this area bring the achievement of the SDGs closer.
Measurable progress: The proposal is the stepping stone to all 22 French-speaking countries. To give the process a chance of success, we have started in two countries. The indicators per country are the number of schools that have been reached. From a baseline the number of pupils per school that passed the CM2 exam in previous years and years with PetitPouss. How many girls got (better) education through PetitPouss?.
This application is a technical innovation. We work together with governments, with various schools, with educational institutions (research is being done into the possibilities of using online applications offline). And with many NGOs on the ground. We have set up our own agencies that provide employment opportunities.
Projection of impact: If access to (online) education increases, a solid basis has been laid for solving many development issues. As Nelson Mandela said, education is one of Africa's most important weapons.
The global impact is large. After the twofew French-speaking countries in Africa we expand to all Francophone countries. All 22 are UNESCO member states. The impact of good education goes beyond the countries themselves; good education offers prospects that make many people less likely to have to flee
Global added value: This proposal is an absolute contribution to the development of a dynamic AI ecosystem for SDGs. This application can serve as a catalyst for other AI applications. In further education, but also, for example, in healthcare. Better communication between hospitals, or remote surgery.

Scaling of AI solution: Please detail what proof of concept or implementations can you show now in terms of its efficacy and how the solution can be scaled to provide a global impact ad how realistic that scaling is.

The evidence for impact is that millions of kids lack education – for reasons of insecurity (Jihad, Boko Haram), lack of hygiene in schools (which causes problems for girls), distance, poverty. With this application these kids can have education. The other evidence we face, is the enthusiasm of all local and international partners; this application is needed. At the local level schools, governments, syndicats want the application to be used. UNHCR, UNICEF, ADES, Stromme Foundation – just to mention a few, they want to work together with us. In Niger we just ended the process of validation. The government authorised PetitPouss as being part of Niger educational system. This opens the door to scale up in this country. And to show the other neighbouring countries that it is suitable also for their system.
The problems we are facing in scaling up: the slow decision-making by governments, internet that is inadequate in many places and the lack of hardware. But the latter are solvable if large-scale international cooperation can be established. For example, we are already working with www.close-the-gap.org to see how we can provide children and schools with hardware on a large scale. And with big providers we discuss the possibilities.
This project will encourage AI developers. We build the basis, we need more (locally based) companies / organisations to expand the content, to make the application possible to use in an off-line situation, to develop new uses for the application, to make it suitable to specific local situations.
The network effect is already there. We work with several large international organisations, with companies and with research institutions. We have placed several issues with Universities of Applied Science. All these institutions work according to the principles of the SDGs. Because of the topic, AI in education, our project makes a great contribution to the realisation of a vibrant AI SDG ecosystem around the world.
We have two countries with about thousand early adopters. We need them to get the snowball rolling. The (end) user community is between 200 and 300 million children. In addition, an equally large group of teachers and parents.

Ethical aspect: Please detail the way the solution addresses any of the main ethical aspects, including trustworthiness, bias, gender issues, etc.

Perhaps it is precisely because of the absence of (basic) facilities for AI in the global south, the consequent widening power gap between North and South and the gigantic digital gap between Western countries and a continent like Africa, that our project is of such great importance; PetitPouss can bridge part of that large gap. Our project is absolutely ethical and equitable because we are helping to overcome the differences with greater access to the facilities needed for AI technologies.
The AI solution is reliable in the sense that PetitPouss is legal. Both in the country where it was initially developed (the Netherlands) and where we are currently active (Togo and Niger). As mentioned, PetitPouss has been validated by the Niger government.

The AI solution is reliable in the sense that PetitPouss is legal. Both in the country where it was initially developed (the Netherlands) and where we are currently active (Togo and Niger). As mentioned, PetitPouss has been validated by the Niger government.
As stated above, ethics are highly valued in the use of the application. Girls in particular, can experience a great benefit from using it. The content of the application is continuously updated and tailored to local situations. In doing so, any form of unethical content is avoided.
The application is robust because it is built for long-term, multi-year use. Intended for the children (and parents and teachers) of today and those of the near and more distant future.
Inclusiveness in the solution we offer can be found in several areas. The added value is that teachers get new tools to expand their knowledge and experience, and children can raise their level. In this way, our proposal offers innovation in education, new models to be used in practice. In the project, we work towards access to the Internet and availability of hardware for all. This increases opportunities for equality. And as reported, girls are more often deprived of education than boys, because the brother comes first, the distance to school is too great (insecurity) and hygiene leaves much to be desired. The application can be used everywhere, which increases opportunities for girls and can therefore reduce gender inequality.


International Research Centre
on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI)
under the auspices of UNESCO 

Jožef Stefan Institute
Jamova cesta 39
SI-1000 Ljubljana



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