Social Startups

Taking Khan Academy to Mongolia, in Wireless Routers

A former Cisco Engineer, Neil Dsouza is packing all the great educational content available online such as Khan Academy, Open Courseware from MIT, Stanford, CK-12 to name a few into a tiny wireless router and delivering it to the orphanages in disconnected areas of Mongolia, India, Indonesia.

His aim is to make accessible quality education which is freely available online to children in developing countries who are unable to take advantage of free online educational resources due to poor or no internet connectivity.

Having developed expertise on wireless technology while at Cisco and realizing that a lot of orphanages in developing countries have old, donated computers which are sitting idle, Neil developed a plan to put the two together. He came up with Edu Hotspots, a self-contained mini wireless network that comes with educational content built in. Since this devise is meant to be deployed in rural settings where internet access is not possible, Neil has filled the box with relevant educational content that he downloaded himself from the internet. With Edu Hotspots, children in orphanages now have access to educational content over their own little wireless intranet. Though Neil has come up with this ingenious idea , he realizes that for the tool to be used effectively, teachers need to be trained on how to access the material and to modify it as per their needs. “I don’t believe in just handing over the technology, adoption is key and though easy to use, I want to make sure teachers are trained on how to use the device and add to the content as they go along”, Neil Dsouza.

While Neil has introduced the Edu Hotspots only in few select orphanages in Mongolia and Indonesia as of now, his work has caught the attention of big development agencies. He has just completed a pilot with World Bank and Mercy Corps has requested for deployment in 15 of its centers. Neil is also gearing up to take the Edu Hotspots to India, where he is really excited at the potential of using the newly launched $35 Android tablet, which has a powerful video processing card, as a great device for imparting education from his Hotspots. He is currently in the midst of setting up an office there and is in talks with two major players, in the field of education for under privileged children, Teach for India and Akanksha Foundation.

The developed world has wildly benefitted from Khan Academy and Open Courseware material from ivy league universities, Neil’s Edu Hotspots is helping unleash these powerful resources to children with no internet connectivity. Combined with teachers facilitation, Edu Hotspots are all set to redefine how online resources can be delivered in remote, disconnected areas.

Neil has set-up a nonprofit, Teach A Class under whose banner he is carrying out his work and is currently supported by a team of volunteers. To learn more visit, Teach A Class Facebook page or their website.

You can reach the author, Deepa Chaudhary via Twitter