August 22, 2013
The field of international development has been around for decades, but the Internet and mobile phones are bringing up some exciting opportunities.
In the field of mobile health, for example, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action can send text messages about prenatal care to pregnant women – women in remote areas who might have few doctor visits and no Internet access to answer the questions that keep them up at night.
Tons of innovative solutions like this are being developed by entrepreneurs, and TechChange is one of the organizations helping them gain recognition.
An institute for technology and social change, DC-based TechChange offers live online courses where the international development community, government officials, doctors, and entrepreneurs can learn skills and technologies for social change. Courses last two to four weeks, with around eight hours of class each week, and cost around $100 to $600. Here are some of the courses on tap:
- mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health
- Social Media for Social Change
- Tech Tools and Skills for Emergency Management
- Technology, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship
- Intrapreneurship – Innovating from Within
Traditionally, international development organizations fly in a live trainer to teach their staff how to use different technologies. TechChange hopes to expedite this process with their online courses, which teach around 50 students at a time. In just three years, they’ve amassed over 2,000 alumni working in 100 countries, from Africa to the Asia-Pacific to Latin America.
According to cofounder and CEO Nick Martin, organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank, and USAID are open to working with startups like TechChange who might provide this training more efficiently. He and his team eventually want to turn their courses into “MOOCs,” huge online courses that can handle tens of thousands of students. And they want to figure out ways to better teach people working in remote areas, without desktop computers.
“People in other countries, the main way they connect to the Internet is not over a computer but over the phone,” he says. “The learning experience has to reflect that.”
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