London, November 12th: From using mobile phones to teach millions how to speak English to providing a world-class university education for free, inspiring uses of technology to improve access to education have been revealed as part of a new social enterprise initiative.
The Nominet Trust 100, or NT100, is the most comprehensive, up-to-date and authoritative global list of the most inspiring applications of digital technology for social good – and projects improving access to knowledge make up almost half the list.
In total, there are 45 ventures on the NT100 list that tackle 'access to knowledge' and education issues, six of which are based in the UK.
An illustrious steering group, led by innovation expert Charles Leadbeater, compiled the NT100, which identifies ingenious uses of technology changing lives in various areas, including tackling issues in healthcare, poverty and human rights.
Nominet Trust, the UK's leading social tech funder, said the NT100 initiative is designed to inspire social entrepreneurs to follow in the footsteps of the world's leading social technology pioneers.
Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust and part of the steering group, said social entrepreneurs finding compelling ways to open up access to education was one of the "key themes" of the list.
For example, US-based Coursera, which partners with the world's top universities to offer free courses online, is aiming to give anyone in the world access to the kind of world-class education that has so far been available to a select few.
BBC Janala, meanwhile, is helping millions of Bangladeshis to learn English through three-minute lessons and SMS quizzes delivered to their mobile.
In South Africa, the FunDza Literacy Trust is publishing stories and poems and distributing them via mobile phones, helping users deal with social issues, facilitating education and engage in meaningful conversations provoked by the content. The project gets up to 1.3 million page views a month and has been called one of the world's most innovative education companies.
Ms Small said: "Digital technology has already transformed how we communicate, how we work, how we buy and sell. But we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of ways that technology can be used to transform how we address complex social challenges including those around education.
"The Nominet Trust 100 is designed to celebrate the people who are using digital technology to change the world for the better. In seeking people who are coming up with creative answers to the big issues of our times, we were bowled over by the scale of the response with hundreds of nominations from all over the world. But the NT 100 is not a definitive, final list – it's the foundation for a dynamic resource that will inspire and inform other social entrepreneurs."
Other education projects on the NT100 include Raspberry Pi, the UK-based venture which has developed a low-cost credit card-sized computer to boost technology skills and Young Rewired State, an independent global network of kids aged 18 and under who have taught themselves to program computers.
The NT100 will form the basis for a growing online resource for social enterprises called "The Social Tech Guide". It is intended to be a dynamic public database of social tech innovators around the world that will accelerate the use of technology as a tool for social change - and inspire more education entrepreneurs.
Charles Leadbeater said: "The NT100 highlights how digital technologies can make a real difference to some of the most pressing social challenges we face. We want to offer the NT100 as a growing public source of information of social tech innovators around the world, searchable by anyone seeking a solution to a social challenge."
The steering group chaired by Mr Leadbeater also included Lord Jim Knight, the former Schools Minister who specialises in the use of technology in education and employment; BBC technology journalist Rory Cellan-Jones; Madhav Chavan, a leading Indian educator, social activist and social entrepreneur; and Jeremy Heimans, founder and CEO of Purpose and Avaaz.
The NT100 can be found online at www.socialtech.org.uk