UNLEASH: Joining global talents to hack solutions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

I spent 6 months living in India as part of a fellowship program called IDEX Accelerator. The IDEX fellowship program brings fellows from across the world and gives them an opportunity to work for a real start-up while focusing on key areas of interest. Some of IDEX key focus areas include; technology for development, community development, livelihoods, as well as education. Making the decision to accept my fellowship offer was one of the hardest decision I had to make. I had never lived anywhere else apart from Uganda my home country for longer than a month before. What really attracted me to the fellowship was the opportunity to contribute to the journey of a start-up in a different setting, different environment as well as different culture.

As a technologist, and a computer science major, I quickly found that my passion was technology for development. I’m mostly interested in the intersection between technology in enabling innovation as well as entrepreneurship. Of interest to me is looking at the underlying policy environments that foster greater adaptation of ICTs and Innovation. I believe that ICTs and the Internet have the power to change and impact livelihoods.

While at IDEX my focus area was technology for development and I was honored to work with Wings Learning Centres during it’s inception to help them roll out their after school programs (ASP). Coming from Uganda, I had the knowledge of challenges faced by the African education system at large. Challenges such as fewer school structures for the growing number of school going children, lack of school expenses for children including school fees, uniforms, supplies etc, lack of quality teachers and learning materials to mention just a few. These issues are not peculiar to just Africa or Uganda for that matter. I found out that India had the same challenges we faced with our education system.

Malavalli, One of Wings first after school program

Wings LC, the education technology start-up I worked for was looking at finding solutions to some of these challenges by providing affordable after school programs to students in rural Bangalore and West Bengal. The approach was to leverage technology in ASP and provide students with easy to understand content all derived from their curriculum while using a blended learning approach to ensure learning outcomes. I was at the forefront of researching and implementing blended learning methodologies in the first pilot schools, an experience that left me truly enriched.

While we had great success with a few pilots we also had a lot of challenges especially when looking at long term deployments.

In general, while ICTs are great and need to be adopted for all levels of learning different stakeholders including government, private sector as well as policy makers need to work together to address some of these challenges;

  1. Teachers need to be the primary drivers of technology in order for it to work in schools and as such, they need to have the right skills and training to champion ICTs. Most schools do not have the resources to equip teachers well to help implement ICTs.
  2. Access is still a very big issue in developing countries. In order for Technology or ICTs to be well adopted more broadband connectivity needs to be developed by governments or private sector.
  3. Relevant content creation; there’s still lack of relevant content and more needs to be done to create more content for different learning levels.
  4. Inadequate supportive infrastructure such as electricity especially if you consider schools in rural areas.
  5. Affordability of ICT hardware and software is also another challenge to consider.

These and many more challenges still face our education systems and there’s need for policy makers to enact and adopt policies that will solve them.

This year, I was fortunate to be one of 1,000 global talents that were selected to take part in the first ever UNLEASH innovation lab. UNLEASH will kick off in Copenhagen, Denmark from 13th August to 21st August. Together with these talents we will take on the biggest challenge of working together and finding solutions to a select number of Sustainable Development Goals.

UNLEASH methodology

I will be focusing on the Education and ICT theme and I can’t wait to meet other global talents working on similar issues. I believe that my experience working on Education and ICT issues while in India will bring great perspectives to the conversations. More-so, my experiences with the education system in Uganda have also given me better insights in the problems we all face.

My primary focus outside of UNLEASH is not specifically in education but I’m passionate about the sector and would love to work with global talents to find solutions.

Denmark, here we come.