My eyes were glued to the Keynote presentation. I quickly scanned the room as Google made more announcements about their global Android expansion, most people appeared disengaged, waiting to hear more about products that would affect them immediately. Android One, a smart phone that would use less cell data with faster speeds for spotty third world networks struck an empty chord with the crowd. However, I grew excited about the possibilities this would bring to areas that lacked true access to the grid.
Google is truly trying to encroach their software and technology in developing countries to help inspire innovation, by providing as many assets as they can, so individuals can help themselves become entrepreneurs. Many pockets of the world have yet to reach their full potential, areas such as Indian, Indonesia, and the Philippines are experiencing intense mobile growth. Google is ready to take these regions by storm and help individuals modernize their countries with the help of their tech and software. Let’s start by examining Google’s strategy in these developing countries and how one person can become an entrepreneur with just a phone in their hand.
Over 1.2 Billion phones are expected to ship to developing countries within the next year, the majority of which will be Androids. Not surprising considering the cost of an Android is extraordinarily cheap compared to an iPhone. Possession of a smartphone is still considered a luxury in rural areas, where ten percent of a person’s income goes to the phone itself. The technological needs are so great in these areas there are reported businesses where individuals race over to nearby towns with electricity to simply charge phones.
Google’s release of Android One is but a stepping-stone, the software giant also announced changes to its features allowing Maps and Youtube to work offline. Thereby diminishing cell data usage for impoverished users, many of which still rely on SMS. Imagine poor farmers saving videos on agricultural upkeep without economic detriment, or refugees crossing foreign lands using offline Maps to safely guide them to their asylum. The kicker here is that Google and Android will go one step further and give the entrepreneur an online market place and the educational tools necessary to succeed in the global market.
Android Nano Degree, and the Cloud Test lab were also announced at Google I/O. The ramifications of which are enormous. Individuals who aspire to be developers can take a Nano Degree course for $200 dollars online and pursue scholarships if they lack the economic resources. This is an enormous push for online education especially in areas that lack access to human resources that can teach these valuable skills. While the Cloud Test lab allows full-fledged developers to test their apps, without having the device on hand or even phones allowed in the country! The costs in savings are enormous in resource strapped areas.
Google also announced the creation of Developer pages, were people can view apps by person, similar to a market place where people can walk around and see what is laid out virtually by stand. Well what about marketing? Have no fear. Google also announced the Universal App campaign that will automatize the marketing for home made apps. Imagine new developers across the globe creating apps for their people, because access has become easier and supportive. A girl in Indonesia can purchase an Android One phone, take the Nano Degree course online, and within a few months test her app idea in the Cloud Test Lab. If she is successful she can create her own Developer page and have Google market the app for her. Just within the course of a year, she can become an entrepreneur.
As much as Silicon Valley continues to praise itself for innovation, very few companies have managed to create substantial change in developing worlds. Change has to come from within. You can create an amazing app in a first world country and transfer it over to a third world, but basic access, resource constraints, and cultural obstruction continue to hinder expansion. Android and Google will pave the way for more and more entrepreneurs across the world to enter the digital global arena in their own terms. If you are someone who lives in a developing country it is worth your time and money to invest in the Android/Google ecosystem. The technology, support, and resources are now available to use and implement. Go change the world. Your world.
We have an amazing organizing team filled with former teachers, entrepreneurs, startup weekend graduates, and people 100% dedicated to finding solutions to education’s most persistent challenges.
Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) San Francisco Team
- Jessica Falkenthal is an edtech startup aficionado and marketing guru.
- Kristina Lawyer is a former elementary school teacher in Hawaii and Quantitative Research Analyst at Stanford University.
- Evan Samek is an education entrepreneur and Founder of ImagiLabs
- David Shackelford is a former classroom teacher in San Francisco and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is a Product Manager at Education Elements.
- Maggie Croushore is a former middle school English teacher in DC and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is the Founder of KidFit Academy.
A Life-Changing Experience
Early on in our planning conversations, my Co-Organizers and I knew that we wanted to do a special workshop just for teachers leading up to our SWEDU San Francisco on Nov 22nd. Three out of five of us are former classroom teachers, so it made sense for us to hold an event specifically for educators to prepare them for the weekend. And for me, in particular, this idea hit close to home.
I remember when I attended my first SWEDU as a teacher last year. I was incredibly nervous, as I had never before been exposed to entrepreneurship and had no idea what to expect. However, as I drove to the event, I gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone in a room full of complete strangers and pitch an idea that had been ruminating in my mind for some time. And I am so glad I did! I ended up creating KidFit Academy, and I can honestly say that SWEDU changed my career path. I would not be where I am today without it. And so my Co-Organizers and I wanted to make sure other teachers get the same opportunity to play a leadership role in creating great solutions to their own problems in the classroom.
From the beginning, we knew that we not only wanted to recruit some amazing teachers for our event, but we also wanted to connect teachers to the growing education technology sector in a real and meaningful way. After some conversation, we decided on the following overarching goals for the workshop.
- Introduce educators to the concepts and skills needed for startup weekend
- Begin cultivating a community of educators dedicated to entrepreneurship
- Empower educators to use entrepreneurial skills to problem solve pressing educational issues
- Provide a safe and supportive learning space for educators to brainstorm and practice pitching business ideas for upcoming SWEDU
A Big Success
Through our event, we were able to accomplish several of our key goals. First, we were able to recruit some amazing teachers for our event. After participating in our dynamic workshop, these teachers will be even more prepared for an amazing SWEDU experience. Also, by exposing teachers to the power of their voice in the education innovation movement, we were able to open the dialogue for future conversations bringing together education startups and teachers.
It is important to communicate to teachers that SWEDU is not just for those that might be thinking of joining or founding a startup. Classroom teachers do not have to leave the setting of a school, in order to make an impact in the edtech world. I know that as a teacher, I was intimidated by these type of events; however, throughout the weekend, I quickly realized that I not only had a lot to add to the conversation, but I also was an asset to my team. Only us teachers have the experience of seeing many problems up front, on a daily basis, and that experience is a value-add to anyone interested in solving those problems.
At the end of our workshop, it was inspiring to see some attendees share their problems and proposed solutions. Just imagine! If they can come up with such great ideas in less than hour, what could they come up with over the course of a 54-hour weekend?
Replicating the Model
After a while, those of us in the startup scene sometimes forget that not everyone speaks the language of entrepreneurship and that can be incredibly intimidating. Having a teacher-centric event not only shows teachers how important they are, it acts as preparation for the weekend. By hearing from former educators-turned-entrepreneurs and participating in a startup weekend mini-simulation, teachers walked away from the event with a better understanding of entrepreneurship, as well as a strong pitch for the weekend or beyond. Teachers already engage in the thinking behind entrepreneurship; they just might not realize it, because they call it something different—good teaching.
I would absolutely recommend that future SWEDU Organizers implement this type of workshop prior to their event. Teachers need to be in the dialogue when it comes to education products and startups, as they always think of their students and have the ability to see things that others may not. Teachers are an essential part of the SWEDU puzzle, and the better you prepare them for the weekend ahead, the more empowered they will be to contribute their experience and skill-set to the development of solutions to some of education’s biggest problems.
Join us this weekend at SWEDU San Francisco, Nov 22-24