My Startup World speaks to Mike Dawson and Varuna Singh, the Co-Founders of Ustad Mobile, about how their solutions can help the regional education sector
Tell us about Ustad Mobile.
We make open source mobile learning apps that enable learners to access and share educational content offline via the devices they own. Ustad Mobile is a social enterprise that helps organizations get realtime information on attendance and results from schools in low income, rural and remote areas.
Teachers can mark student attendance on paper sheets and the app will automatically recognize it and send the results as soon as a mobile phone signal is available (with the option to add a fingerprint scanner to combat absenteeism). The app can also deliver educational content with or without an internet connection to almost any phone (smartphone or feature phone).
What milestones did you hit this year?
In September, Ustad Mobile launched the Mobile Soft Skills Training app in Afghanistan in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FHI 360, a US-based non-profit organisation, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education. The idea is for students to complete interactive, video-based course modules on their phones in their own time prior to attending a face-to-face course.
The app reduces the time students need to spend in classes, and make classrooms more accessible to female students. Teachers therefore have increased capacity to reach out to more students. The app and modules can be completed and shared offline to other phones without requiring additional connectivity or hardware.
What’s next for Ustad Mobile?
We are looking to collaborate with non-profit organisations to make early childhood learning material available and shareable offline to benefit students, teachers and parents in low resource and emergency environments. In Afghanistan, we are also working with World Vision to make adult literacy content available in remote areas.
Why is diversity needed in a startup environment?
Being part of a diverse and multi-cultural ecosystem is crucial because it offers unique perspectives and ideas to tackle challenges. At in5, there is great diversity in terms of the sectors represented as well as the entrepreneurs’ backgrounds including nationalities, past professions and age groups.