Let us tell you a little story. A few years ago, Peng T. Ong was invited to give a speech at the Africa Innovation Summit in Cape Verde. He asked a provocative question: what would happen if we could bypass the industrialization stage of economic development, and jump straight to the knowledge-based economy? It prompted vigorous discussions, but soon, a light bulb went on: we cannot have a knowledge-based economy without knowledge workers! We shifted gears and spent the next couple days discussing the state of global education.

After talking, we listed out some of the issues (there are many!):

  • Today, hundreds of millions of young people face barriers to education linked to poverty, diversity politics, gender, disability, armed conflict, and displacement.
  • Inadequate access to quality education keeps inequality alive by preventing disadvantaged youth from attaining the skills to take their economic situation into their own hands.
  • By 2020, 70% of the world will have a basic smartphone and intermittent internet connectivity. The education technology industry sees this opportunity and has responded with lots of new software. However, there’s a problem: the families who can pay for this technology are not the ones who need it most! Even worse, a lot of existing technology is built for users who are already motivated by their communities to learn. When we look at children who already don’t have hope for the future, that approach is not going to work.

We left the Innovation Summit inspired and motivated. These were big challenges, but someone had to take them on. And at the end of 2015, Solve Education! was born.