Graz University of Technology

Indian youth’s prosperity through App development skills, innovation, and entrepreneurship

Lead Organization

Graz University of Technology

Graz, Steiermark, Austria

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

We help eradicate poverty, starting in India. A sustainable prosperity depends on an economy of innovation, which in turn depends on creativity and technical skills. Smartphones with Internet enable even young people to sell apps to a worldwide market. Our already collaborating team includes the Play Learn Foundation India, with a decade of experience teaching especially rural youth and girls literacy and app programming skills, and three university partners (MIT, Berkeley, and Graz University of Technology) who are the developers of three complementary visual programming platforms (App Inventor, Snap!, and Catrobat) that enable intuitive first steps to allow anyone to develop code using their native language. All of the young people we work with develop computational thinking skills and an innovation mindset, which will benefit them in their careers and entrepreneurial endeavours; some will gain immediate reward through worldwide app sales. In post-grant years we’ll extend this work beyond India.

Problem Statement

The lack of information technology skills among teenagers and young adults results in stalled innovation, hampers employability, limits fundamental understanding of technology, and has a depressing impact on prosperity, especially in developing countries. But there are seemingly insurmountable hurdles to providing these skills: Poverty, lack of resources for the majority of the world, gender stereotypes, inadequate education. Yet, at the same time, there is a growing shortage of software developers in the West. Other projects that address this conflict concentrate on the wealthier members of the world’s population, leaving behind those who are less privileged, especially the poorest and illiterate, thus exacerbating the widening gap between rich and poor, with all the problems that ensue, from social unrest, lack of positive perspectives on life, up to wars and terror. Previous approaches like the One Laptop Per Child project, suffered from a lack of infrastructure, high costs, an ineffective focus on younger kids, rapid obsolescence of the provided hardware, and thus, despite enormous efforts and costs, had no long-term impact. Efforts cannot reach those members of the world's population who do not have the necessary hardware --- PCs, laptops, or tablets --- nor education. But there is now a game changer: Adolescents and young adults everywhere, even among the poorest, increasingly do have smartphones. Our software allows them to learn real coding in a fun and engaging way, in their own languages, without the need for teachers or schools, and earn real money on global app stores, without or very little costs.

Solution Overview

Increasing numbers of adolescents and young adults have smartphones with internet access. The grant will give millions of Indian kids, in an economically feasible, self-sustaining, deep, and long-lasting way, the necessary skills which allow them to actively take part in the ongoing digital transformation. Through our apps, we teach them in a playful, one-on-one, human, peer-to-peer, and AI-based way, three important skills, in their own languages: reading and basic math to increase literacy, which are necessary for the third skill: coding. Tens of millions of kids in 198 countries are already learning to code visually with our tools. Coding of apps is immediately relatable to kids, since they are already users of games and social platforms through their smartphones. We will additionally empower them to create and distribute apps through worldwide App stores to form virtual companies. Coding of games and other apps can be a huge motivator, a wonderful experience, and a chance at a better life. Even the poorest increasingly have their own smartphones, and especially they will get the chance to become innovators and prepared for an increasingly digital worldwide economy. Innovation, even on a small scale, has a disproportionate chance of lifting populations out of poverty in a lasting way. Since everything will be app based and connected, we can measure, in an privacy-respecting way, the effectiveness of our approach. We will use GPS and analytics to measure the spreading of innovative uses of our technology in a community, allowing an objective evaluation of our impact.

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Project Funders

  • Google (MIT / App Inventor)
  • National Science Foundation (Snap! & Beauty and Joy of Computing) 2014 - 2019
  • European Commission (Catrobat / No One Left Behind)

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