Facebook’s Internet.org, an nonprofit with plans to bring the next billion online has today launched SocialEDU, a pilot initiative that will provide students in Rwanda with free access to a collaborative online education experience.
“Internet.org is about working together to remove barriers to access and give billions of people the power to connect to the knowledge economy,” said Javier Olivan, Vice President of Growth and Analytics at Facebook. “SocialEDU represents this kind of collaboration at its best.”
Facebook and edX will build an education based mobile app while Airtel will provide free education data for everyone in Rwanda who participates in the program for one year. Nokia will pitch in with affordable smartphones that will improve the quality and ease of Internet access while the Government of Rwanda will support innovative financing mechanisms, such as interest rate subsidies, micro-loan guarantees, trade-in rebates, and targeted use of its Universal Service Fund.
The Government will also expand its Smart Kigali program to provide free wi-fi in campuses throughout the country, enabling students to access high-quality multimedia educational content. Furthermore, the Government will work with edX to adapt course materials for local students. Airtel will lead operations for the phone trade-in program.
Airtel Africa’s CEO Christian de Faria said, “We are honored to participate in this noble initiative. Education is one of the key engines for economic and social growth across the continent, with Rwanda amongst Africa’s most respected countries for its outstanding development record. We will do everything possible to support this ongoing reform using Airtel’s technological capability in the data and mobile commerce environment, to facilitate Rwanda’s rapid progress.”
Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Mobile Phones, Timo Toikkanen said the firm will give its affordable smartphones to help students get access to great learning via social education, through the SocialEDU initiative is truly an honor.”
“Improving global access to high-quality education has been a key edX goal from day one,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. “Nearly half of our 2 million students come from developing countries, with 10 percent from Africa. In partnering with Facebook on this innovative pilot, we hope to learn how we can take this concept to the world.”
With SocialEDU, students in Rwanda will receive free data plans for accessing free edX MOOCs from some of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, MIT, U.C. Berkeley, TU Delft, Australian National University and ETH Zurich. Our platform will allow students to ask questions, engage with other students, interact with teachers, and participate in group discussions. We are bringing the classroom to them and providing locally-relevant content, while transforming the educational experience to provide collaborative, social and sustainable learning.