Empowering education through innovation

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Idea Digital CIO Prudence Louw discusses shaping digital learning.

Idea Digital CIO Prudence Louw graduated from Wits University with a BSc in microbiology and genetics. She wanted to pursue postgraduate studies but was unable to do so due to a lack of funds. As a result, she opted to find work in order to save money for furthering her education, and she ended up working at a production company. 

What was initially meant to be a temporary detour unexpectedly ignited a deep passion within her. This job introduced her to the captivating world of photography and multimedia, providing her with opportunities to collaborate with prestigious brands such as Audi and South Africa Fashion Week. This unforeseen shift from science to creativity laid the foundation for her eventual venture into the realm of educational technology.

Prudence’s journey took a fascinating twist when she took on a role at Gallo Images, where she curated Africa-centric content. This position allowed her to seamlessly merge her creative abilities with technology, with the ultimate goal of bridging the gap in global marketing and stock images by creating culturally immersive local content. 

“During my time at Gallo Images, I played a significant role in managing the platforms used to upload our content to various channels. This experience provided me with valuable insights into content management systems and other technical aspects,” she says.

Bringing purpose to passion

Upon joining Idea Digital, her initial focus was on production, where she took charge of overseeing a talented team of animators, illustrators, and graphic designers who created all our content in-house. 

“As our team and production capabilities expanded, I gradually transitioned into a role that involved more strategic management of our technological solutions. This natural progression allowed me to explore the potential of technology in enhancing learning and improving outcomes. Consequently, I gained more technical experience, pursued additional certifications, and ultimately shifted my focus towards the tech space.”

Now her role encompasses leading the business’s technological and strategic solutions. “When onboarding new clients or expanding our offerings, I assess available technologies and evaluate their suitability for our business. For instance, I closely monitor emerging technologies like AI and other market advancements. I analyse how we can strategically implement these technologies to advance our business goals and provide valuable feedback to the team.”

By continuously staying informed about the latest technological developments, she ensures that the business remains at the forefront of innovation. “This allows us to deliver cutting-edge solutions to our clients and drive our overall growth.”

Technology that propels education forward

In her role, Prudence integrates emerging technologies into the field of education, driving innovation. “We come up with new ideas and make sure they work smoothly with all our different products. My main goal is to use these advanced technologies to create amazing learning experiences that really change how people learn.

She firmly believes that education extends far beyond mere software platforms. “Our commitment lies in making a significant impact by offering comprehensive training and support for implementation. I personally place immense importance on engaging users, ensuring that educators and learners feel empowered. This creates an environment where proactive strategies, including regular updates and initiatives involving parental involvement, collectively establish the groundwork for a comprehensive educational ecosystem."”

Prudence believes that the future of education lies in inclusivity, where technology serves as an equaliser. She envisions an educational environment where technology plays a crucial role in learning, particularly in a country like South Africa, driven by her belief that education is a fundamental universal right. 

“We not only serve southern Africa, but also east Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East. Therefore, we require individuals who can write across multiple curriculums for various countries to ensure alignment with desired outcomes. Our teams are currently exploring the use of AI internally to expedite the process of aligning these curriculums and assessments.” 

Furthermore, they are also exploring methods to encourage teachers to incorporate AI tools into the learning process with their students. “I firmly believe that these tools should not be feared or avoided. In fact, if we educate teachers, students, and colleagues on how to effectively use AI, we are enhancing their skill sets. 

“Many individuals are apprehensive about being replaced by AI, but it is crucial to remember that humans will always be necessary to drive and oversee these technologies. Therefore, by upskilling the entire population to use these solutions, we are not replacing anyone, but rather creating individuals who are proficient in using advanced systems. This prospect is truly exciting and holds great potential.”

Leading a technology team

Despite her unconventional journey into the field of IT, she thinks that her non-linear path has been an advantage. As a leader, she recognises the importance of strategically aligning objectives. Identifying and recruiting the right individuals is crucial, as she acknowledges that she doesn’t need to be the coder herself. Rather, her role lies in ensuring the formation of a robust team comprising skilled coders and other talented professionals who can effectively bolster the business.

“From a team perspective, I have always been able to relate to the work the team is doing because I have firsthand experience as a content creator. During my time as a photographer and multimedia specialist, I was immersed in this field. I understand the entire process, from conceptualisation to delivering the final product. This understanding has enabled me to effectively lead the team, ensuring that we meet our projections and timelines, and accurately estimate the time required for each task.”

From her scientific origins to her current leadership as CIO, Prudence embodies adaptability, innovation, and unwavering commitment. As part of the leadership team at IDEA, she steers the course of education toward uncharted territories. She is not merely revolutionising education; she is inspiring a generation to embrace the boundless potential of technology in sculpting the future of learning.

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