Advertisement Advertisement  

atelier-online-educationFacebook announced a new initiative called SocialEDU wants to bring collaborative online education to the nation of Rwanda. Part of Facebook’s previously announced Internet.org project, the new initiative will enlist the help of Nokia for hardware support, local carrier Airtel for data subsidy, and the Rwandan government for financing logistics. The classes will come from edX, a consortium of universities including Harvard, MIT and the University of Tokyo. The end result will be a simple application designed by Facebook to deliver a fast but meaningful education to anyone who participates in the program.

The application delivering the content will be integrated into Facebook, which suggests eager Rwandans will have to sign up for Facebook before they can start to take classes. The scope of the project is also unclear, since Airtel’s offer of free data expires after the first year. Still, Facebook describes the program as a pilot, and indicates similar programs may follow in other countries. “We know we have a long way to go to provide access to the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have it today,” Facebook said in a statement. “Rwanda is our first test of this approach, and our hope is that this will serve as a blueprint for other partnerships to follow.”

At its core, SocialEDU addresses five critical barriers to access by bringing together:

  • Free content
  • Free data
  • Affordable smartphones
  • Localized, social educational experience
  • A government that supports innovation

Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana said, “The Government of Rwanda is excited to partner with Facebook to open up a world full of content and interaction to Rwandan students. The social education experience will accelerate innovation and propel Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy. We are committed to doing our part to make sure SocialEDU has the greatest possible impact in Rwanda. This is fully aligned with the Government’s Broadband for All policy and the Smart Kigali Initiative, a public-private partnership that provides free wi-fi in Kigali’s most popular squares, buses, hotels, and public buildings.”