From 2001-2003 as a Senior Executive at Hewlett Packard I chaired a working group of the UN Information and Communications Technology Task Force. Our goal was getting technology into the hands of underserved populations around the world to improve education, health care and economic development.
NIIT’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Sugata Mitra had received international acclaim for his famous “hole-in-the-wall” experiment in the New Delhi slum of Kalkaji, fueling the belief that if kids had access to the internet they would essentially educate themselves. Technology companies, foundations and development agencies invested heavily in computers and internet access but the results were disappointing. The technology was not sufficiently integrated into the educational experience.
On visits to rural schools in Africa and India I was often taken to computer labs in locked and shuttered rooms with rows of idle computers protected under plastic covers. Curious students following me on my tour peered in from the door to see the carefully guarded spaces they were not welcome to enter.
Since 2006, I have been on the faculty at Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ("d.school") teaching innovation through user-centered design and experiencing the current disruption of education from the inside. This unusual background gives me complete confidence that the technology-enabled transformation currently under way WILL radically improve access to high-quality education across the globe. Here’s why.