Breaking New Grounds

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As part of efforts to improve the standard of education in Nigeria, Dimeji Falana and Dare Adebayo developed a digital education software known as EDVES. In this report, Ugo Aliogo examines the unique features of the software

Dimeji Falana is a graduate of Computer Science, University of Ilorin, Kwara State. His original intention was to study Medicine, but by a twist of fate he found himself studying Computer Science. This was a choice he never opted for, from the outset. Years before gaining admission, he frequently visited his cousin’s office, a lecturer in the University of Ilorin and assisted her in preparing PowerPoint Presentation for inaugural lectures.

While assisting his cousin, he gained mastery of Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel. This created the room for him to prepare Power Point presentations for inaugural lectures for some university professors. This activity helped not only in deepening his love for Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel, but inspired him to learn programming on the Youtube and create software which could do the work of those office applications combined.

After graduation, Falana and Dare Adebayo created a digital education software application known as EDVES as a product under their business known as ITvessel. Then in October, 2016, they registered their company known as Edves Nigeria Limited. They created this application because of their desire to develop software which could assist teachers in having enough time to research and innovate having realised that pen and paper often times slowed the pace of the teaching process. Their first client was a school they frequently visited in Ilorin to assist with IT and Multimedia jobs when needed. They began first with creating a website for the school, but later saw a need to improve on it by deploying the software which could handle calculations and grading of academic activities for the school.

“During a meeting with the school proprietress, she told us she wanted something like a website. Though she could not express appropriately, but we knew what she wanted. So we built a website for the school. But we also told her that there are things Microsoft Excel could not do such as handling complex computation, email, SMS amongst other things.

“Therefore we decided to offer the software that could handle calculation, and grading of academic activities for the school. So instead of using pen and paper to write student grades one-by-one, the application can automate them with 100 per cent accuracy. When we built the better version, it was not actually successful because it was a learning curve for us. It worked for a while and stopped, then came back again. We then carried out a research and built the better version for them which they are using till date,” he noted.

The software is built and deployed as a mobile and cloud solution. As an application, it helps schools (primary, secondary and tertiary institutions) to automate academic activities, such as student enrollment, serve as a platform for parents to identify schools online, check the information on these schools and enroll them without their physical presence.

The software is currently covering schools in 10 states in Nigeria, though the long term focus is to automate 30 per cent of schools in Africa, then expand to other continents in the near future. Subscribers of this application are all South-western states excluding Ekiti, Kwara, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Kogi states.

Judging from the growth of digital innovations in the world, Falana is optimistic that the software will be a sought after materials for schools in Nigeria and Africa because it addresses a lot of academic and administrative needs.
He espoused that the software will not only eliminate the traditional pen and paper work in carrying out academic assessment for the students, but also give parents an opportunity to research on affordable schools especially private owned delivering quality education.

Falana said the software would help bring efficiency to the work of teachers especially in result grading, documentation of student information, regular communication with parents, assist school owners to keep record of school fees and other payments. It also helps teachers to save time in order to upgrade their lesson notes and carry out necessary research for innovative teaching.

The software will allow parents to login in any time to know the performance of their children, academic records, pay school fees and track result compilation. Also, parents who are not connected can receive information on their children’s performance through text messages on their phones.

Parents can also download the application on their android phones to keep track of their children academic performance. Beside, result checking, parents can also use it to pay school fees and this allows the school owners get their money through online payment.

To fast track the payment process and ensure that it is secured, Falana said they have entered into a partnership agreement with Interswitch. This ensures that the payment goes to the school without any barrier of entry because it is totally free and setup takes 24 hours. The payment convenience allows parents to check relevant information about payment for school fees, transportation, PTA levy or textbook and pay for them.

According to him, “This is really helping the school to get their return on investment so that they deliver quality education. There are lots of reports they generate to know the performance in each subject. Every school on our platform can track the performance of their students in each subject to know the subjects that need improvement in the school. The student attendance can also be tracked. This software will enable the school to be sensitive to any change that can accumulate and create problem in the education system in Nigeria.

“October, 2016, we registered EDVES Nigeria Limited to stand on its own and today, we have 214 schools in 10 states that are using this software. We have been able to automate records that are close to 400,000. We have been able to do this through the support and partnership with some great organisations.

“We don’t focus only in the cities because we believe that education is meant for everybody and there shouldn’t be any division. We have our team going into every part of the state we are operating to onboard the schools. They use this solution to automate their work and improve their impact over the time. It has been awesome connecting with these schools. We want to become a cloud that is actually powering delivery of education in Africa and then the ability to track this improvement over time.

“We also do a bit of e-learning because we provide alternatives to teaching. We started this during the Ebola outbreak when educators and students couldn’t go to school. We launched our e-learning, online assignment and also video content. Even on weekends, teachers can give the children assignment and send the reports to the parents on Mondays.

“Teachers can use it to grade them and then send it back to the parents on their mobile application and through text messages. The schools have adopted this software. When they compared with what they (school owners) are getting from outside the continent it is better because this software is built with them in mind. We go as far as seeking their opinions and asking questions, then go back to the drawing board and build it for them. We work with the teachers, students and parents in mind.

“This software is not only for primary and secondary schools, but also tertiary institutions are not left out. We looked at the school’s system, their needs and then we sat down and built the solution before deploying it to them. We always train the teachers on how to use it and they will take it from there. But even before this software was created, most of these schools don’t really have any system in place. We have seen stories of schools that claimed they couldn’t figure out their finance but they can now track their finances.”

The software is very user-friendly as a result more parents are connected to it. Within months, the software has received about 1.8 million paid navigation on its site. They have visitors between 1000 to 4000 visitors per day with a total user of over 80,000. The penetration of this software is so efficient that parents can always check the performance of their kids from anywhere and know what else to do. It also provides result breakdown.

Falana added: “We are under Federal Government Technology Incubation, under Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. We also have partnership with private sectors like UBA Group and others. We have met like minds over the years. We have always engaged our hosting company to see how we can put more firewall security in place. We have gone as far as putting our own encryption.

“We have used the Secured Socket Layer (SSL) that gives encryption. All this encrypts every detail that go through every network. Our hosting companies, Mainone Cable Company protects us from DOS attack and enable firewalls for security purpose. We are making giant strides in Africa because I believe when we started that it didn’t make much sense, but it is breaking grounds. With the software, African schools will deliver quality education and measure growth and impact.”
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