Using technology to solve the world’s most pressing challenges facing education — IBM and CGI U partner to host the Call for Code Education Innovation Case Competition

As part of the Call for Code Education Innovation Case Competition, students were challenged to devise innovative solutions that help make quality education a right for all — not a privilege.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide on children’s learning and well-being. Nearly two years into the pandemic, millions of students across the globe — particularly those in low- and lower-middle-income countries — have been affected by full or partial school closures.

Prior to the pandemic, progress in education was already too slow to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, Quality Education, by 2030; the pandemic has further compounded long-existing challenges and wiped out 20 years of progress.

Technology can play a key role in developing action-oriented solutions to these issues. Inspired by this, IBM hosted the Call for Code Education Innovation Case Competition for university students, in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

Modeled after SDG 4, the competition theme was “A future of education that ensures accessible and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.” More than 1,700 students were challenged to design an innovative technology solution that addresses a problem aligned to achieving accessible and equitable quality education.

The competition sought solutions that would, for example, broaden educational opportunity for women, who continue to face steep structural and societal barriers; relieve the burden of educational inequality that falls disproportionally on under-resourced communities; or democratize access to quality learning for all, in an increasingly digital world.

The case competition featured a variety of programming to support students in developing their project ideas, including:

  • A panel discussion on educational access moderated by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair, Clinton Foundation, and featuring Lydia Logan, vice president, Global Education and Workforce Development, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility; Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; and Claudio Sassaki, CEO and co-founder, Geekie
  • A workshop on effective storytelling led by CGI U’s senior impact and design manager, Myeashea Alexander
  • A session featuring two CGI U alumni — Oscar Romero and Junette Maxis — who spoke about the intersections of technology and education in their original CGI U Commitments to Action and their current work

Addressing students during the panel discussion, Chelsea Clinton said, “We at CGI U and the Clinton Foundation are so grateful to be part of Call for Code, and so excited to see everything that all of you have imagined to help us get to a reality where every child and person has the right to every education and learning opportunity they deserve at any point in life.”

The winning team was announced during the virtual awards ceremony on December 7. Thiloshon Nagarajah (University of Southern California), Sparsh Sharma (University of Southern California), and Augustus Agbator (Loyola Marymount University) were awarded first place for their e-learning mobile app, Simulated Interactive Teaching (SIT).

From left to right: Augustus Agbator, Sparsh Sharma, and Thiloshon Nagarajah

SIT allows students to access online lectures with up to 98 percent less internet which opens up remote learning for the masses. The app works by reducing the sizes of packages required for download and upload to partake in online learning, thus making it an attainable process for the millions stranded in their learning.

The team hopes their app will have a strong impact on remote education, particularly for students in under-resourced areas.

“SIT can allow students to access education where the internet is completely lacking or severely limited. While the sudden mass transition into remote learning was borne from the pandemic, the concept will continue. Where physical infrastructure for schools is less-than-ideal in many non-developed regions to begin with, we expect the preference for remote learning to be much stronger should that option be there. We expect SIT to fill that gap… By simply being a carrier of education, SIT can transform the landscape of teaching where it is needed most.”

Nagarajah, Sharma, and Agbator will receive $20,000 USD, distributed by David Clark Cause, and will be invited to take part in CGI U’s year-round program which supports the next generation in developing social impact projects to address pressing societal challenges. They will also receive an invitation to the CGI U 2022 virtual annual meeting hosted by President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, as well as access to mentoring, skills training, networking, leadership development, and professional growth opportunities provided by CGI U throughout the year.

The team shared some words of advice to fellow students interested in the intersection of tech and education, saying, “With two transformative powers of technology and education, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a happy marriage! Education is and will continue to be a social experience. What is particularly exciting, though, is just how accessible technology has become… The key thing to remember is that technology is there for our use, for application on traditional problems. Thus, it is important to keep track of current trends and keep experimenting!”

Call for Code invites developers and problem-solvers around the world to build and contribute to sustainable, open-source technology projects that address social and humanitarian issues while ensuring the top solutions are deployed to make a demonstrable difference.

Learn more and join the Call for Code Community to get involved.

Working with partners across the United States and around the world to create economic opportunity, improve public health, and inspire civic engagement.