International Day of the Girl Child: How Tech Will Help Girls Progress
The world’s 1.1 billion girls are part of a large and vibrant global generation poised to take on the future. Yet the ambition for gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights the preponderance of disadvantage and discrimination borne by girls everywhere on a daily basis. – The UN
Universal education is a somewhat utopian idea notoriously difficult to crack. However, this didn’t deter Projects for All, a not-for-profit tech organisation seeking to make learning free and accessible to all, regardless of gender, location or wealth. They’re doing this through introducing robust solar powered and internet enabled computers, called Hello Hubs, into some of the most remote communities in the developing world. It is initiatives and missions like this that will take girls into account and help girls around the world to progress.
The Projects for All mission is to provide 2 million girls and boys with free and unlimited education by 2019, which yes, seems ambitious but when you explore deeper into organisation’s values, completely doable. Built on the work of Professor Sugata Mitra the Hello Hubs are testament to the fact that not only do children have the capabilities to educate themselves, but they are incredibly keen to learn and to teach each other.
So how does it work? Well Projects for All take their knowledge – but not resources – to developing communities and empower them to build the internet kiosks. These communities are required to negotiate resources, contribute physical labour, and – perhaps most importantly – learn about the technical maintenance, which ensures that the hubs are sustainable. The result; the community haven’t been handed anything. They have built something from scratch, made decisions about where to build it, and they can maintain, repair and upgrade the technology.
Interestingly, users all have a unique login and therefore educational progress and usage over time can be tracked, providing some incredibly useful data on communities typically neglected as well as how different groups use the hub – if girls use the hubs differently to boys, for example.
The overriding priority of the organisation is to provide an inclusive tool for education but the hubs do also facilitate creativity. Children can take pictures, make movies, host radio stations and tell their stories. Adults can learn how to start a business, check traffic, or simply ask Google questions about being a parent. The more vulnerable groups in the community have been thought about too; different groups are allocated specific times to use the hubs, including women and girls, and homeless children not enrolled in any type of school who use the hub late at night.
From start to finish a hub costs less than 5% of a traditional school, yet can reach 3 times the number of children. The cost to educate a child for life is a mere $22. The computers in the hubs are loaded with educational materials, but let’s just consider the internet for a minute. No student will ever outgrow all the information available to them on the internet. Children have taught themselves astrophysics solely using internet resources. Of course, the internet comes with its own set of dangers and Projects for All doesn’t interfere with implementing restrictions (that’s up to the community), but the shared screens in public areas do make a pretty good deterrent.
This type of revolutionary education will open opportunities to girls that will help not only these girls to progress, but also families, communities and society at large. Hello Hubs will also collect previously unseen data that can ensure programmes, policies and services can effectively respond to the specific needs of girls.