Many girls in rural Africa lack access to education due to factors like gender inequality and familial poverty. But for the past 10 years, a social entrepreneur and former educator in Ghana has been working to change that.
After observing the difficulty many young girls have while trying to access education and stay in school – as well as the lack of innovation in the educational system – social entrepreneur and Ghana native Kafui Prebbie believed he could improve education through technology – so he did.
Prebbie founded TECHAide, a technology company working to digitally deliver educational content to those typically unable to access education in Ghana.
TECHAide provides affordable hotspots, servers, mobile devices, interactive educational software and community computer labs to deliver educational lessons, videos and other content that can be leveraged in rural communities that traditionally lack these resources.
Recently, Prebbie launched the company’s newest product – ASANKA – a mobile hotspot and content delivery system named with a dual meaning: Community Bowl, a Ghanaian reference, and an acronym for All Subjects and New Knowledge Access.
Founded 10 years ago, Prebbie shares the company has reached more than 100,000 students in Ghana. And while TECHAide’s reach validates need, Prebbie wanted to take his technology to a new level – leveraging personal mobile devices to bring education to even more young students across Ghana, a goal that required the help of a strong corporate partner.
A Partnership Formed
The IBM Corporate Service Corps is IBM’s philanthropic program similar to the Peace Corps and allows employees to travel to different countries across the globe, using their expertise to help social entrepreneurs, governments, nonprofits and NGOs increase their impact.
According to IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, Gina Tesla, once internal IBM teams are selected, the company works with worldwide nonprofit partners to select social entrepreneurs to partner with.
In February 2016, 12 employees were deployed to Ghana to help with local initiatives. A team of 6 staffers partnered with Prebbie, helping him with a marketing and product development plan for ASANKA. According to Tesla, the support offered to TECHAide holds a market value of more than $400,000 when considering the talent, time and expertise offered from IBM – skills including finance, sales, engineering, legal and more.
While traditional philanthropy is important to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs like Prebbie, the value of shared expertise and relationship building is what the opportunity prides itself on the most.
“When our team was on the ground with TECHAide, there was rich energy and enthusiasm as we worked together. That energy helps feed long-lasting relationships to solve social problems in a deeper way,” Tesla says.
And while this partnership has certainly benefited the TECHAide team and other recipients of IBM’s support, Jennifer Ryan Crozier, president of the IBM Foundation, shares that IBM teams deployed across the world are equally impacted.
“Many people say this is one of the best experiences – if not the best experience – of their career or their life,” she says.
The program has also been foundational in IBM’s recruiting strategy of young, millennial employees who build their careers with a desire to make an impact.
“We don’t think of our social impact as separate from our business – we weave this type of work into the fabric of our leadership,” Crozier says.
An Inspiration for Women in Technology
Today, with the help of IBM, Prebbie is working on a number of partnerships with the Ghana Ministry of Education, local nonprofits, and local banks that can provide financing for rural schools to purchase TECHAide’s technology, bringing hotspots, computer labs and other educational tech resources to communities that need it.
Although Prebbie shares that time spent with IBM was pivotal to TECHAide’s next chapter of operations, Prebbie says one of the most inspiring areas of partnership was seeing the number of strong, influential women at IBM.
“We’ve made a deliberate attempt to employ women as a key part of our process,” Prebbie says. “We were inspired to see strong female leaders come to Ghana from IBM, and it helped us rethink how we inspire women.” Prebbie shares the TECHAide team recently welcomed their first female technologist, who helps install the ASANKA boxes in communities across Ghana.
“It’s important to us to empower women – they become role models and mentors to girls who might not have seen these as jobs they could do in the past,” Prebbie says.
Recently, the TECHAide team created the ASANKA Girls Network, a group that works to inspire young girls to code and work in technology.
“When we hire more women, it translates to income for families, mentorship for young girls and encouragement for others in the community,” says Prebbie.
One of the most valuable elements of a corporate partnership like that of TECHAide and IBM is the dual benefit extended. For TECHAide, leveraging the world-renowned expertise, and for IBM, to create fulfilling work for employees who can learn to use their talents for social impact.
But most importantly, IBM and TECHAide’s partnership brings tangible benefits to young girls all across Ghana – the reality of education and opportunity at the intersection of technology and the empowerment of women.