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- 1.High potential under-resourced students across Africa do not have access to the resources, both knowledge and infrastructure, to seize the opportunity presented by the shortage of IT professionals in the West.
- 2.Philanthropic donors seeking to support these under-resourced students don't know how much of it actually reaches the intended beneficiary and how much was lost to corrupt middlemen.
- 3.It takes a lot to succeed as a remote software engineer - talent, dedication and resources. For some, this opportunity will be transformational, but for most, it won't. Failing to identify those who would make the best use of this support leads to a waste of resources.
- 4.Even beyond completing their training, students need to be able to prove their learning credentials. In the status quo, the value of credentials diminishes in the eyes of employers due to how easy it would be to fake these certifications.
- 5.Even if students are successful, charities often fail to be economically sustainable because they are unable to recapture the value they produce for their beneficiaries.
We call our 3-part programme "the Rocketship". The ship has a broad base of students symbolising how we give everyone a chance. However, not every part of the rocket is destined for space. In other words, we give all students a chance, and then gradually invest more of our resources into the students for whom a career in professional software development is suitable. You can learn more about the details of what students are taught here.
Our programme is free to attend for students at partner institutions who meet our merit-based intake threshold. But not all families have laptops, WiFi or the economic means to pay for tutors. The Access Scholarships ensure that all students, regardless of family background, can participate by providing them with the economic resources they need to partake.
Eligibility to Access Scholarships is determined through a multi-faceted process. We consider factors such as family income, number of parents, number of older and younger siblings, current living situation, and the existence of alternative means to access the necessary infrastructure needed to participate in our course. Applicants must also obtain a signature from a local religious leader, village chief or person of similar standing to verify the authenticity of the claims made. We rank-order students by neediness and distribute scholarships to students in accordance with this.
The vast majority of the Access Scholarship go to the purchase of laptops and WiFi router which our scholars are allowed to borrow as long as they are part of the programme.
As an extra layer of assurance, parents and students sign a laptop and wifi lending agreement at the alma mater of the student (high school partner), after which the devices are handed over to the students.
Once our smart contract is audited, we plan to facilitate part of the Access Scholarships using learning-milestone-based smart contracts. Specifically, students receive data stipends conditionally on reaching the relevant milestones.
Meaningful transparency must be balanced with the right to privacy. Our goal is therefore to combine the privacy-preserving properties of Decentralised Identifiers with the transparency benefits of a public blockchain.
For us, this means that a student could present a Verifiable Credential which proves that the student attended a certain school and achieved a certain grade. In the future, this could be integrated through a decentralised oracle network which could perform the verification and generate the necessary on-chain token as one of two necessary pre-requisites for eligibility of the scholarship.
We are currently only testing the use of this technology as a proof-of-concept. However, as the Ethiopian Ministry of Education fully expands its use of educational credentials throughout its secondary school system, we will be able to fully use this.
We fundraise for specific partner high schools and form alumni groups with the graduates from those schools. Once the first cohort of students successfully goes through our impact pipeline and finds remote jobs, they will look back at a student who was in their shoes and gain a sense of wanting to recontribute - supporting a student like himself to help them make the same journey. This is what creates economic sustainability.
It is naturally difficult to create credible cost-benefit estimates for a groundbreaking novel initiative. However, our preliminary back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest a $66 return per $1 donated.
This number refers to the additional amount of lifetime earnings of a student relative to a control group. Some of the crucial assumptions include:
- Kenyan salaries have been assumed
- No positive or negative spillovers included
- 1000 students enter the bootcamp
- 20% of bootcamp students get paid full-time internship positions
- 50% of full-time interns become "success story" students
- The difference between average lifetime inflation-adjusted earnings for Success Story students ($12,000/yr) and Control Group students ($7,200) is $4,200/yr (66% income difference)
Returns to the programme
The best place to learn more about the programme motivation, cost-breakdown and expected impact, head over to our donation portal, and the whitepaper (update in progress). You can find FAQs, monthly newsletters, research reports and much more on our public Notion page. We also encourage you to join our Discord channel, jointly managed by DirectEd and the Web3 User Group.