Google’s more philanthropic arm, Google.org, has connected and extended the endeavors of distinctive nonprofits and companies working to better their communities since 2005. This year’s efforts include providing around $50 million in funding, expertise, and tools to support these organizations. Additionally, the organization plans to train 10 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in this same time span, in order for them to be more employable and gain access to information and communications technologies, and it will train another 100,000 to develop mobile and global-capable apps. Thus far, Google.org has decided to put aside $20 million over the next five years for a range of nonprofits in Africa.
A leader in not only search engines but charity as well, Google has already chosen two African technology startups to receive $2.5 million in grants: Gidi Mobile and Siyavula. Gidi Mobile Ltd. focuses on expanding the visions of over 350 million young Africans and giving them the ability to accomplish such goals as Africa’s first mobile personal development platform. It allows people to complete courses and study materials online for all types of professional careers, connect with other learners and form a community and share personal progress with others. The company advances free content, cloud computing and both international and distinctly African content through its product Gidimo.
Siyavula similarly allows free online access to their line of published and curriculum-aligned math and science textbooks, alongside practice and teaching capabilities within the program. These are unlike restricted, copyrighted materials but adaptable without incurring costs, and allow educators to create and share accessible and open-licensed Open Education Resources (OERs). Both have in turn supported the unstifled digital education of over 400,000 underprivileged students in South Africa and Nigeria.
Through Google.org, almost $110 million has already been committed in the last five years to nonprofits in Africa and even other parts of the world that center around closing the education gap. Looking to their current portfolio, they are hoping technology will bring kids the right materials, as those who grow up in low-income areas have less access to books or are forced to use outdated, irrelevant texts. Around 221 million students today are taught in a language foreign to them, and 130 million do not learn basic math or reading despite placement in a four-year or more school system.
Moreover, 4.3 billion people lack consistent access to the internet. Technology can help solve this issue in bringing in more resources to students they can adapt to while remaining engaging and not being a financial burden. One of the first groups to win a grant in this area is the Foundation for Learning Equality, whose new platform Kolibri has brought 7,000 videos and 26,000 interactive exercises to offline students in 160 countries. This year, Google technicians are expanding Learning Equality’s content library and working with them on UX/UI, content integration and video compression technologies.
Next, Google is looking to keep teachers trained and engaged through such technology and is helping local leaders invest in tools offering such. In 2015, only 13.5 percent of teachers passed the India Central Teacher Eligibility Test. The first grant to address this went to the Million Sparks Foundation’s ChalkLit, which utilizes an app to share public curriculum-aligned content to teachers. And in 2016, the Delhi State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) selected Million Sparks as their online capacity building partner to offer in-service training for 60,000 teachers.
Lastly, Google.org hopes to reach students in conflict zones, as 32 million primary-school aged children cannot reach traditional classrooms due to crisis or displacement. One of their grantees, War Child Holland, addresses this with a game-based system that allows for a year of lessons and exercises that align with that host country. When deployed in Sudan, results showed students learned at equal and worthy rates from the approach. War Child Holland is hoping to expand to reach 170,000 children by 2020 and reach significant numbers in the Middle East and Africa.
In order to stimulate technological promise across this region, Google.org is launching an “Impact Challenge” in Africa in 2018, where the most innovative and worthwhile ideas can earn almost $5 million in grants. Similar challenges have been completed in Brazil, India and the U.K. in the past. With the support and backing of major companies like Google, such already influential nonprofits in Africa and beyond will gain further means to improve lives and educate all those otherwise lacking access to adequate education in developing parts of the world.
– Zar-Tashiya Khan