abrdn, the FTSE100 business previously known as Standard Life Aberdeen, donates one million pounds to the charity Hello World, providing digital education and internet connectivity where it is most needed.
abrdn’s donation will considerably advance Hello World’s invaluable work to reduce the global education deficit and the digital divide. Hello World will now be able to expand its programme and build a further 64 solar-powered, internet-enabled education Hubs in Uganda.
“Acting with courage and conviction, being optimistic about the future and building powerful partnerships are all important attributes of the brand we are creating,” said abrdn CEO, Stephen Bird. “That’s why I’m delighted that today we can also announce our partnership with Hello World – a charity that, like us, is solving the problems of today and tomorrow with innovative thinking, sustainable values and a futurist approach. Personally, I’m passionate about education and digital skills – and for me this partnership is a perfect fit with what abrdn stands for.”
Katrin McMillan, CEO and Founder of Hello World, added:
“We are delighted to be working with abrdn. Our collaboration will have an enormous impact on the work we do and will immeasurably improve the lives of the communities we support. To partner with a business and a team so closely aligned with our approach and values is an especial bonus.
“Even before Covid-19 hit, 258 million children were out of school, equivalent to 1-in-5 globally. This figure rose to 800 million children during the pandemic. We work with communities in Uganda and Nepal to enable them to build their own digital solar-powered hubs, loaded with education software and connected to the Internet. Schools in Uganda have been closed since March 2020, denying a further 15 million pupils an education. Many are unlikely to be able to resume their schooling, so our work is meeting an even more critical need. Our Hello Hubs are a practical and affordable solution to the global education deficit and, with the support of abrdn, we will now be able to expand our programme and work with many more communities.”
Established in 2013, Hello World has focussed on breaking the mould of traditional development work by putting community decision-making and expertise at the centre of its work, from the initial planning, through the building process, to the ownership of and responsibility for the completed digital Hubs. Built by the community, for the community, the Hubs bring people into contact with the rest of the world and provide unlimited educational resources.
Even before COVID-19 forced schools to close, affecting 90% of students globally, 258 million children of school age went without an education. Founder, Katrin McMillan, became preoccupied with the lack of educational opportunities when she lived in Nigeria. “There are derelict school buildings which were built by well-intentioned philanthropists, but built in places where no teachers will go”, she says. “Even if we combined all of the available education funding across the world, we would not come close to meeting the need for schools and teachers. It was clear that a new paradigm for learning was needed, one that could reach every child and could be sustained in an efficient and practical way.”
When Katrin saw Professor Sugata Mitra’s TED talk in 2013, she realised that he had come up with one possible solution. Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment, in which out-of-school children were given untutored access to computers in a public space, demonstrated their ability and hunger to learn. Despite using the computer for the first time, receiving no help whatsoever, and even having to master a foreign language in some cases, the children achieved astonishing results. This was the answer Katrin had been looking for: a means of giving children the opportunity to teach themselves which could be easily coupled with her ideals of true, unfettered community-led development. Hello World was born.
Hello Hubs are Wi-Fi-enabled, solar-powered, computer kiosks loaded with world-class education resources. Each Hub has eight screens, free Wi-Fi, free community charging, and is fully lit twenty-four hours a day. They are built right in the heart of the community and children flock to them to learn and play. “The internet has been recognised by the UN General Assembly as a human right”, says Katrin. “It provides access to the world’s body of knowledge: resources that can help people to solve problems and learn new skills, stay in touch with loved ones, play and create, access the news and be able to to contribute to it. It is a resource that we take for granted but which is too often denied to the people who could benefit the most.” Despite its life changing potential, internet access only recently passed 50% penetration globally. In Uganda, only about 24% of the population have access.
“Connectivity has such an incredible effect on people’s lives,” says Fiona Komugisha, Hello World’s Uganda Team Leader. “Children use their Hello Hub to learn, and adults benefit too. People have started their own businesses, worked towards degrees and learned countless new skills. At one of the Hubs in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, refugees have learned new languages to help them settle in host countries when they arrive. This life-changing initiative connects people globally”.