Dr. Scharff Brings Mobile Education to Senegal and Beyond Through Fulbright Project


Dr. Scharff with undergrad and grad students from the University of Ziguinchor, 2013

Since 2008, Seidenberg — through the dedicated work of Dr. Christelle Scharff — has been involved in research in mobile for development and in capacity-building in mobile technology in Senegal, Africa. While most of the ground-breaking mobile initiatives at that time emerged in English-speaking countries in Africa, Dr. Scharff decided to work in French-speaking countries, leveraging her first language, and became a pioneer of mobile technology in Senegal. In 2012 her efforts were rewarded by a prestigious Fulbright scholarship.

In order to receive a scholarship from Fulbright, one must prepare for a grueling application process with many stages. Dr. Scharff waited patiently during the process that would and did finally grant her the scholarship to get the ball rolling on her project and research in Senegal. The award letter was followed by letters from Crongresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Dr. Scharff founded the MobileSenegal project (MobileSenegal.org) for capacity building in mobile technology in Africa in 2008. It was first geared towards university students, but evolved into a mobile revolution for middle and high school students, developers and professionals of the IT industry. MobileSenegal, since its beginning, has become a program that organizes boot camps, courses, competitions, training for faculty and dedicated field projects.

Africa is booming in mobile investments, attracting the attention of larger corporations, including Google, Microsoft, and IBM. Of these, Google and IBM both sponsored MobileSenegal, as did Blackberry. NGOs have also caught on to the importance of mobile technology, even the most basic phones, in education and health for countries that may not have the same kind of access to technology that many of us take for granted. Students from Pace and Senegal worked on the development of a mobile application for reading, math, and geography for first grade students in Senegal. The application was piloted in a primary school. The experience generated enthusiasm amongst pupils and teachers and was a great learning experience in software engineering and social development for Pace and Senegalese students.

Dr. Scharff also founded the SenMobile startup to provide innovative mobile solutions in education, health, and financial awareness. She has more than 10 mobile apps published on Google Play, Nokia Store and BlackBerry App World. One of the Nokia apps gathered more than 17,000 downloads.

Dr. Scharff will continue to promote her ideas around the world to spread the initiative and her research. She has presented the project at diverse conferences including the mEducation Alliance Symposium in Washington D.C, the Mobile Learning Week at UNESCO in Paris, and this past month, she shared her work at the conference on Social Entrepreneurship at Harvard.

The Fulbright U.S. Student competition for 2015-2016 opened on May 1st and Dr. Scharff would be thrilled to talk with Pace students who are considering embarking in this life changing experience.

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