Learning nonprofit edX is partnering with Facebook to help bridge the digital divide and bring online education to the unconnected world. The new pilot initiative, named SocialEDU, was revealed Monday at the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress, and will provide students in Rwanda with free access to “a collaborative online education experience,” according to a statement fresh from the Facebook newsroom. The program is being released under the umbrella of Internet.org, a global partnership focused on bringing Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population living without it.
The social media giant will be working with the Harvard-and MIT-founded platform to build a mobile app that is integrated with Facebook. Through SocialEDU, students will receive free data plans for accessing edX’s massive open online courses, which stem from 32 of the world’s leading universities, including Dartmouth, U.C. Berkeley, TU Delft, Australian National University and the University of Hong Kong. The platform will allow students to ask questions, interact with teachers, participate in group discussions and engage with their peers. What’s more, the Rwandan government will work with edX to adapt the course materials, thereby creating more locally-relevant content, as well as expand its free Wi-Fi in campuses throughout the East African country.
As part of SocialEDU, Facebook is also partnering with telecommunications company Airtel and Nokia. The former is providing a year’s worth of free educational data to registrants, while the latter is offering discounted smartphones to all those participating in the program. If the pilot is deemed successful, SocialEDU will expand beyond Rwanda.
John W. Thompson, CEO of Virtual Instruments and former CEO of Symantec Corp, has been named chairman of Microsoft’s board of directors, according to reports. An industry leader for more than 40 years, he has made phenomenal strides in technology, having served as the only African American leading a major tech company during his time at Symantec. The Florida A&M and MIT alumnus is credited with growing the software giant’s revenues from $632 million to $6.2 billion and leading the growth of its worldwide workforce to more than 17,500 employees.
Thompson has served as an independent director on the board of Microsoft and also brings his experience as a former vice-president at IBM to his current post. An early innovator and investor in tech advances in Silicon Valley, Thompson has also been included among Black Enterprise’s “100 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America,” and was named “Corporate Executive of the Year” as head of Symantec in 2004.
The West Palm Beach, Fla. native was recognized early for his knack for sales and has had a go-getter approach to his advancement. In a recent New York Times article, Thompson shared the following on career and business lessons he’s learned through the years: “First, never take yourself too seriously, or work is boring. Next, people make the difference. You can have great technology, but if it’s not complemented by great people, it won’t go anywhere. Finally, customers buy from people they like. I can always circle back to former customers and suggest they might want to take a look at our products.”
Achille Messac was named dean of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. He will be the first African-American dean in the university’s history.
Dr. Messac has been serving as distinguished professor and chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Syracuse University in New York. Previously, he taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and Northeastern University in Boston.
Dr. Messac is a native of Haiti. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
There are some pretty amazing kids out there doing the best they can with whatever circumstances were given to them. In areas of the world where little to no technological advancement has occurred, ideas are being born without any mentors, tools, and/or resources.
PRODIGIES is a bi-weekly series on YouTube that showcases the youngest and brightest as they challenge themselves to reach new heights and the stories behind them. Kelvin Doe is a 15-year-old Sierra Leone native who admittedly loves inventing. He’s taught himself how to make things like batteries, FM radio transmitter, and a generator out of need for these things in his community.
He said that his community doesn’t have much electricity. The lights come on at night in his area once per week and then they don’t have any lights for the rest of the month. That led to his battery invention, so that his neighbors and family could use the battery to light their homes.
He’s known as DJ Focus because of a valuable radio program that he broadcasts on FM radio. He was able to create his generator for his station by using scraps. He chose that name because he said:
“If you can focus you can do invention perfectly.”
He started the station to give “voice to the youth.”
Kelvin was discovered by fellow Sierra Leone native, David Sengeh, who is a Ph.D. student at MIT. Sengeh directs Summer Innovation Camp in Sierra Leone and that is where he discovered Kelvin and his talents. When he saw what Kelvin was able to create simply using spare parts from trash in his community, he knew he was someone special.