The Rumie Initiative: launching Nov 2013

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Ambassador Harvey Lam and Tariq Fancy on the importance of education and the inspiration behind the Rumie Initiative.

Harvey’s story

Education saved us.

With funding from a Canadian government training program, my mother enrolled in a computer programming class. She had been raising my sister and me with money earned from odd jobs, but knew it wouldn’t be enough.

With her newfound knowledge (and certification), my mother found a job, eventually built a successful career, and most importantly, left a physically abusive relationship. She raised her son and daughter to become a lawyer and a doctor as a single mother. Her commitment to learning shaped my view on education as a gift that can change lives.

My mother was a teacher at a school in Hong Kong. When we moved to Canada, she dedicated her free time reading to me. She instilled a passion for learning that led me to become the first in my family to study law at one of the world’s best law schools, the University of Toronto. I’ve been able to explore the world from North America, Asia and Europe and found two non-profits.

These experiences led to my selection for the One Young World Summit 2012. I met youths from over 180 countries dedicated to helping their communities, and saw that our ideas could turn into real positive change. This faith in our interconnectedness that animated the Summit has inspired me since.

These are the reasons I decided to build The Rumie Initiative after meeting the founder, Tariq Fancy. The Rumie Initiative is a non-profit using innovative technology to facilitate access to education in poor communities globally. We’ve developed low-cost tablets preloaded with free educational content to distribute to students via local partners.

Just as access to education shaped my family’s dreams and enabled me to achieve my goals, it can do the same for others. I am also fortunate to work at Accenture, a global consulting firm thinking deeply about education and technology. Accenture supports me to build this initiative.

Education is a key issue, and is a subject I will be discussing at this year’s One Young World Summit in Johannesburg. Today, over one billion children lack access to a quality education. I look forward to collaborating with other Ambassadors to change that and to share our journey.

 

Tariq’s story

Of the eight siblings in my mother’s family in Kenya, Anjam stood out. Raised with academic overachievers, Anjam received no formal education. Yet when he passed away in his late 20s we lost our brightest light.

Anjam’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis caused him to lose the ability to walk early. Wheelchair access was poor and he could not attend school, yet he read voraciously and learned everything he could – eventually becoming unbeatable at the trivia game Trivial Pursuit. I wonder what he may have achieved for the world with the same access to an education as his peers.

Access to education has troubled me since Anjam’s passing. Over 50 million children lack any access to schooling. Afghan girls denied education is heartbreaking.

Education transformed my life. After high school in Toronto, I studied at universities in the US, Europe and Asia, primarily on generous scholarships. After school, I became a Silicon Valley tech investment banker and then turned around failed tech companies at a private equity firm in New York, where I became the firm’s youngest Partner.

I found a notable investment in 2004 in Central America – urging my firm to invest in emerging markets cellphone operators. I saw a perfect storm of market forces set to unleash explosive growth in cellphone use, enabling a ‘leapfrog’ moment over inadequate landline infrastructure and straight to wireless.

A perfect storm of market forces is gathering to transform education for underserved communities. Digital educational materials cost nothing to reproduce – one book becomes one million with the press of a button. This will change the lives of children with access to a device and an Internet connection – which most of the world’s children lack. Our sub-$50 tablets are highly intuitive, use little power and come fully preloaded with content worth over $5,000 (in textbooks and lectures).

But we can’t do this alone. The Rumie Initiative is not just an NGO or a tablet – it’s your movement. Teachers will find the best content from an avalanche of online options. Developers will create apps for children to improve their reading and math skills. Translators will ensure that our materials reach the children who need it most.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Together we can ensure that access to education is a fundamental human right.

Join us.

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