- 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.
We plan to facilitate these access scholarships using milestone-based stipends implemented with smart contracts. This enables donors to not only observe where their funds went but also under what conditions. Students get clear incentives and the need to trust an administrative middleman is removed. More details about our smart contract can be found in our open-sourced GitHub repository. The milestones that students need to pass will also be viewable through our GitHub.
Meaningful transparency must be balanced with the right to privacy. By using Decentralised Identifiers as our identity layer, we enable students to share zero-knowledge proofs. This means that students are able to prove properties about themselves without revealing the actual knowledge. In our case, students can provide proof that they are a student of a partner school and have passed the necessary exams. The technology is in a nascent stage but we will be piloting it with our partner schools in Q2-Q3 2023.
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. We have made a first attempt together with a team at 180 Degrees Consulting. This analysis puts the return at $130 per $1 donated, counted over the lifetime of programme participants. If spillovers are included, this number increases to a bit over $300. The above analysis does not take any non-monetary benefits such as mental health, knowledge transfers or general equilibrium effects into consideration. You can find the cost-effectiveness estimate report here.
The best place to learn more about the programme motivation, cost-breakdown and expected impact, head over to our donation portal, and the whitepaper (an update is 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.