Education is here… it’s just not well distributed (yet)

Kids catch on to technology fast!

In Piriati Embera, kids have access to education up to high school.

Piriati Embera is a rural community of indigenous people in East Panama where most homes have dirt floors and reed roofs, electricity is intermittent, and entire families live on about $20 per day. Yet they have high school through Telebasica, a television program for rural communities that requires only a supervisor to go through workbooks matching the curriculum.

During spring break, I worked closely with several families in Piriati Embera on a Global Business Brigade, serving as a business and financial literacy consultant. With increasing pressure from the “outside world,” the previously independent Piriati Embera society must develop to keep up while also maintaining their unique culture. There were tons of lessons that came out of the trip, but I constantly returned to how education would be critical for the community. And how technology could facilitate that.

Telebasica is one wonderful example of how technology is distributing education, but there is more change to come. Several weeks ago, I attended an event with X-Prize CEO Peter Diamandis where he mentioned one of the latest education prizes. The vision is beautiful. Imagine a teacher that not only knows your academic progress, but also your interests and your preferences – so it can teach you on your terms, whether that is in terms of baking or baseball.

Education Game X PRIZE

There is a global shortage of great teachers. If an online or mobile gaming platform existed that was able to reliably teach students in a compelling and engaging fashion, it would transform education around the world for anyone with a smart phone. Imagine if learning a subject was fun and done with your best friends.

Is this vision too far out? Not at all! When I was in Panama, we saw that people had Blackberrys… despite not having electricity to charge them (spurring an industry in itself). Telecommunications technologies are absurdly pervasive in developing nations. Moreover, there are increasing efforts to conquer the “digital divide.” One Laptop per Child has already put laptops in the hands of over 2 million students and teachers in 42 countries.

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop... With access to this type of tool... they become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

In the words of William Gibson, “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.”

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