This is the second article in a series of blog posts that describe how Cisco enables nonprofits to maximize technology for greater scale and impact. Our introduction to the series is available here. To read more articles in the series, click here. Stay tuned for next week’s post on how a nonprofit that focuses on critical human needs uses technology to scale.

Connecting the Unconnected to Free Online Educational Resources

According to the World Economic Forum, more than four billion people lack access to the internet. At the same time, Open Educational Resources (OER) are changing the way people learn by offering free opportunities to anyone with an internet connection. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations, advocates that basic digital literacy is crucial in developing countries as a prerequisite for connecting the billions of young people to take advantage of opportunities opened by internet access.

Aware of how half of the world’s population is unable to access these educational resources, World Possible developed a solution called RACHEL, which stands for Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning. Regardless of internet connection, RACHEL ensures that 52 percent of the world that doesn’t have internet access can connect to the best educational content to offline communities. “Cisco is privileged to partner with World Possible as a bridge to overcome common education barriers such as geography, language, culture and access to connectivity to bring STEM skills to students globally,” said Kyle Thornton, manager of the education investment portfolio for Cisco and the Cisco Foundation.

Ansu Kandeh using the RACHEL deviceAnsu Kandeh lives in Sierra Leone with limited to no internet access. As a student in Kabala Secondary School, he is a frequent user of the RACHEL device. Ansu’s favorite modules to access through RACHEL are Khan Academy and GCFLearnFree.org.  Public speaking is a big part of Ansu’s academic work, and through the RACHEL device, he was able to access TED Talks. Having access to materials like TED Talks helped him become one of the best debaters in his school and local district. Ansu even won a competition on the regional level. “I have experienced a lot of positive changes in my life and my academic work since I started using the RACHEL. Due to the increase in my academic performance in school, I was featured to be the senior prefect of my school,” Ansu said. Ansu would like to attend university and someday pursue a degree in information, communications and technology.

Norbeto Mujica, a Cisco Systems Engineer, was inspired to start World Possible after he taught classes at a university in Ethiopia that did not have reliable internet access. Norberto had an idea: to put together a collection of educational materials and store them on a server that all students can access. RACHEL has now reached an estimated 500,000 offline learners. “There are a lot of developing countries that don’t have internet access, and we are trying to serve those groups,” said Jeremy Schwartz, Executive Director of World Possible.

OER2Go is World Possible’s collection of educational websites that are re-packaged for download and offline use.  There are over one-hundred modules on OER2GO, including offline versions of Khan Academy, Wikipedia, CK-12, and Moodle. OER2Go allows teachers, schools, and other educational organizations to utilize Open Education Resources, where internet access is limited or nonexistent by providing a downloadable copy of those resources. World Possible sells its solution to other nonprofits that do most of their deployment. They work with 180 NGOs in 48 countries so far.

Cisco is funding a new program for World Possible that will allow the organization to gather data from all of the RACHEL devices around the world. When someone from World Possible visits a community with a RACHEL device, they will be able to upload usage data from RACHEL devices onto their Android phone and aggregate it for analysis. “This is an exciting next step for us,” said Schwartz. “It will allow us to analyze what is being used and bring that data back to the content providers.”

For nearly a decade, World Possible has been using technology to change the way that we can deliver educational content to regions without internet access. “When other nonprofits tried to do this, it was about getting textbooks and shipping them to a village,” Schwartz said. “They were using old and dated materials that aren’t relevant. What we have done is a different approach.”

Want more? Here are the other pieces in this series: 




Stacey Faucett

Manager, Sustainability Communications Governance and Compliance

Chief Sustainability Office