Solution overview

Our Solution

The Future is Offline

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Tagline

Two innovative organizations in Europe unite forces to bring higher-education opportunities to 1 million refugees all over the world.

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Pitch us on your solution

We aim at unleashing the potential of refugees by providing them with access to learning and skills development opportunities. We will impact the lives of 1 million refugees who will be trained via MOOCs and receive certification. 


Our solution will yield positive outcomes on 3 levels:
- The empowerment of young refugees and their integration in the host country: by providing refugees with training opportunities, we aim at empowering the most vulnerable populations so that they can shape their future,
- The economic development of host countries through the inclusion of new talent in the workforce: once trained and with recognized certification, refugees can be employed by local companies and participate to the economic growth of the host country,
- A shift in the perception of refugees by the host communities: by transforming the narrative on refugees through the demonstration of immigration's positive impact on a country's economy.

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What is the problem you are solving?

Despite tremendous talent and existing qualifications, young refugees face numerous obstacles when enrolling in universities: language barriers, lack of degree recognition and financial resources.

Technologies open up learning opportunities through MOOCs. But more than 50% of refugees do not have access to the Internet. In rural areas, only 22% of refugees are connected. And when they are, their connectivity is often very poor.

While Kiron currently serves above 6000 refugees, there are beyond 2 million refugees of tertiary-education age. The major barrier to the program's dissemination is refugees' lack of access to connectivity.

Libraries Without Borders (LWB) and Kiron partner to provide offline access to digital learning for refugees. We have designed a double-tiered strategy for the diffusion of MOOCs to refugees in off-grid regions:

1.Providing individual offline access to MOOCs and certificates from the world top-universities using SD cards. Through a free Android app, they access dozens of MOOCs, watch the videos, do exercices, and validate the tracks using SMS-data even when they lack connectivity.

2.Equipping collective learning spaces with local servers uploaded with MOOCs: groups of learners can gather in learning spaces and connect onto these servers to access MOOCs.

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Who are you serving?

We target young refugees across the world who are currently disconnected: in refugee camps, in off-grid rural settings or refugees who cannot access the Internet because of the costs of connectivity.

More than 2 million refugees are of age of attending tertiary education (between 16 and 24 years old). Most of them attended high school and were forced to drop out of university or vocational training because they had to flee their country.

During the first year, we will be focusing on the Middle East region, which has been particularly affected by the Syrian conflict and ISIS. LWB and Kiron have a strong presence in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq with regional offices, dedicated staff, multiple partners and extensive experience administering educational programs. With practically no formal livelihood opportunities and diminishing humanitarian assistance, potential students are forced to do informal work--subject to lower wages and exploitation--instead of continuing with their educational and skills development path. Secondary education drop-out also remains high among refugees. Thus, alternative, digital educational interventions are especially promising for young refugees as they provide up-to-date, relevant learning content in a flexible and accessible manner.

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What is your solution?

Our solution leverages the expertises of LWB and Kiron:

- LWB brings its experience in developing offline internet solutions (content, software and hardware) for remote off-grid areas including humanitarian and post-emergency contexts,
- Kiron brings its expertise in aggregating MOOCs from the top-universities around the world, connecting them to a wealth of support measures and additional resources.

Our solution is two-fold:

The production of SD cards uploaded with MOOCs that will be distributed to every refugee student who cannot access the online Kiron experience, because they lack high-quality connectivity. These cards can be inserted into their smartphone. A free Android app will emulate the content and enable them to study MOOCs in an offline LMS. Using GSM SMS-data technology, students will validate the MOOCs without needing any internet connection and receive official certification from universities.

Because we know that students learn more efficiently when they benefit from a group dynamic, we will equip collective learning spaces with servers. Students can connect to the servers using their own devices and validate MOOCs locally. Whenever the server is connected to the Internet, data is synced with university online servers and certification is delivered to the students.

The solution is highly scalable: once the Android app has been developed, the cost for deploying the solution in a specific context comprises only the cost of integrating new content from local universities. The cost for the production of SD cards and servers is quite low and decreases with the volume (around 5$/card and 300$/server).

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Select only the most relevant.

  • Create or advance equitable and inclusive economic growth
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Where is your solution team headquartered?

Montreuil, France
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Our solution's stage of development:

Growth

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More about your solution

Select one of the below:

New technology

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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

The main competitor for our solution would be online connectivity systems. However while broadband companies predict global internet coverage in 10 years, experts at the Alliance for Affordable Internet report that universal access is at least 30 years away. And even then, the costs and connectivity-quality will likely prevent the most fragile individuals from accessing the same opportunities than the more privileged populations. 


Kiron is the only free online education provider with such an extensive reach and broad offer. Other digital education providers are either too expensive for refugees, or focused on one specific region (such as refugee camps in the case of InZone or Jesuit Worldwide Learning) or a specific topic (such as entrepreneurship in the tech sector in the case of for instance the ReDi School).

Our solution constitutes a unique opportunity to provide access to high-quality education to refugees who are disconnected from the Internet.

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Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.

Technology is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that technology can create a more equitable future. However it can also intensify existing social inequalities. We chose to create technology to fight unfair access and accessibility to knowledge, and therefore to personal development and economic opportunities.


LWB has developed offline internet infrastructures, giving access to the potential of the internet to those who are disconnected. Our software and hardware technologies provide digital content, learning environments and the possibility to upload content to the internet using low-bandwidth connectivity or GSM-data. We created with 20 other organisations the Offline Internet Consortium (e.g. Arizona State University, Learning Equality Foundation) aiming at establishing the standards for offline internet and facilitating interoperability. We supplement this approach by designing digital literacy programs to ensure that everyone has the resources to safely use technologies to empower themselves.

For Kiron, technology is the key to access higher education content. We have built a single-sign-on, digital education platform, the Kiron Campus, where refugees can access MOOCs, tutorials, mentoring, counselling, digital classrooms, and our digital community spaces. Students can study in five longer study tracks (Computer Science or Business and Economics) or in smaller short programs (Web Design or Start your own Business). We plan to extend our digital offers and grow our student numbers globally.

The project will also rely on the augmented connectivity technology developed by Be-Bound to transfer certification tokens through SMS-Data even when refugees are off-grid.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Internet of Things
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Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?

Our project aims at providing young refugees with the possibility to pursue their education or their vocational training leveraging technologies and accounting for field constraints. The young refugee can use our solution in 2 ways: 

  • Through the SD card distributed to her/him by local partners (community-based organisations, iNGOs, community centers, information centers…). Using their smartphone - our solution is compatible with any Android OS - the user can learn at his own pace, and receive official certifications, using GSM-data, without consuming any data, thanks to partnerships with local MNOs, 
  • Through servers uploaded with content that will be placed in local partners’s community spaces, as to enable groups to come and learn together. 

 Using either technology, the refugee student will be able to access a personalized learning experience, on a broad array of subjects (Business & Economics, Computer Science, Engineering, Political Science, Social Work) and contextualised content. He will also be able to train and test himself, and finally acquire certifications that can be recognised and provide access to local educational institutions. Our innovation consists in providing these services even in the most challenging contexts: changing environment, with low-connectivity and low-availability of students due to socio-economic challenges.

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Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.

  • Refugees/Internally Displaced Persons
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How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?

Since 2007, LWB has impacted the lives of more than 6 million people around the world. Its programs for refugees, in particular with the Ideas Box program - a portable media center hosting low and high tech equipment including offline internet technologies - have shown significant impacts on:


- Academic achievement: +23% increase in academic scores for students attending classes within the Ideas Box,

- Psycho-social impact with the strengthening of resilience in refugee populations and positive feelings about the future bolstered by 20%,

- Peace building: +15% increase in conflict resolution abilities in adults,

- Community participation: +31% increase in youth leadership.

Impact studies for Kiron have shown that through their extensive support measures and their online community, course completion is ten times higher compared to other online education providers. In 2019, almost 1200 courses were completed already (May 2019). Our students report a 94% satisfaction rate with courses and a 96% satisfaction rate with their newly acquired skills. Students also report having gained additional skills that are useful for their future career path and the majority declare that attending a program increased their self-confidence when applying to jobs and improved their knowledge in their respective fields of study.

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

We will measure our success in completed courses, university transfers, student satisfaction, and increased job-market readiness through backend data tracking and data-sharing agreements with our partners. Both LWB and Kiron engage in extensive quantitative and qualitative research as a foundation for future adaptations to our product. 


Our goals are (1) expanded outreach activities and (2) an increased portfolio of our offers to serve more communities globally related to 21st century skills and lifelong learning. We also plan (3) a business model that will allow us to decrease our dependance on external funders.

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What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?

One external risk to our solution is student retention and engagement. Since Kiron students face difficult circumstances and usually have to engage in wage-earning or care activities, they might find it hard to commit to a program. Support services in the form of office hours, help center support, digital classrooms and community-building activities, aim to engage with students and ensure their retention. Kiron delivers counseling services, which cater to the students who experience any kind of trauma or social/academic/personal challenges. 


An internal risk is a turnover in staff and loss of institutional knowledge. Internal mitigating actions include: developing systems for documenting learning, regular progress reports and the development of a system of shared files for on-going project work will facilitate shared knowledge and, in the case of staff departure, ease the resulting knowledge-transfer process.

Outreach obstacles constitute another set of risks. Refugee students may be difficult to reach due to an unstable environment, geographic movements caused by administrative constraints, lack of centralised support system... LWB and Kiron have build over the years a tight-knitted network of community-based organisations supporting refugees. We will rely upon existing connections to make our solution available to refugee students. Based on SD-cards technology and an Android app downloadable from the Play Store, our solution does not require a heavy infrastructure for dissemination and will rely on NGO and agencies active on the field. Adjustments to optimize the diffusion of our program can be operated swiftly, without heavy mobilisation of staff and partners.

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About your team

Select an option below:

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

LWB hire 100 staffs operating in 50 countries providing access to information and education in humanitarian contexts, developing countries and underprivileged neighbourhoods of industrialised countries (US, France, Belgium). 

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For how many years have you been working on your solution?

5 years

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Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?

LWB and Kiron can rely upon a deep knowledge of their audiences and fields, and a resilient network of partners, even in the most challenging contexts. We are therefore uniquely positioned to successfully achieve our mission.

LWB was co-founded in 2007 by Patrick Weil and Ashoka fellow Jeremy Lachal, who had just graduated from Sciences Po and has led the development of the organisation since. 

Markus Kressler and Vincent Zimmer founded Kiron in 2015, when refugee numbers in Germany surged and with few support measures. Since 2018, Kiron is led by a management board of experts in education, product design, humanitarian aid and research: Dr. Tobias Ernst, Dr. Renata Suter, Laura Marwede, Luise Mueller and Simon Rieser. Markus and Vincent remain engaged with Kiron in active advisory board roles.

LWB's headquarter is based in Paris, France, hosting the management team, and the technical departments supporting the field operations (Education & Content, IT, Logistics). Regional offices in Burundi for the African Great Lakes, Jordan for MENA, Colombia for Latin America, and Bangladesh collaborate closely with local organisations, international NGOs and public authorities to deploy our programs. 

Kiron's staff are experts in education and instructional design, psychologists, teachers, software engineers and product designers - their diverse backgrounds at the intersection of tech and education, our experience in the MENA Region and Europe, and our expertise in administering digital education initiatives, together with the input and feedback from our large student body - allow them to successfully reach their mission. 


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With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?

Both LWB and Kiron have developed over the years a strong partner network consisting of governmental funders, foundations and corporate partners.

Both LWB and Kiron have received multiple awards, which they have leveraged to scale their programs, increasing the volume of activity and strengthening the quality of their interventions.

LWB: Ashoka Fellow, Google Impact Challenge 2015, Wise Award, "La France s'engage", Clinton Global Initiative, Humanitarian Education Accelerator, Library of Congress Award, Share-IT Accelerator and Open Education Consortium Award.

Kiron: European Leadership Award 2019, AWS City on a Cloud Award 2018, Google Impact Challenge 2016, member of various agencies and networks (CLCC, UNHCR-UNESCO and UNRWA clusters on Higher-Education)

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Your business model & funding

What is your business model?

82% of LWB's revenues stem from private donors and corporate partners. LWB is preparing the launch of a social business, owned by the NGO, that will provide access to information to bottom-of-the-pyramid populations in emerging countries and for underprivileged populations in industrialised countries. This will generate revenues that will be reinvested into our social missions. Kiron shows a similar financial structure, with roughly 80% of their funding grant-based, with the rest made up from individual or corporate donors. 

Together with partners, they are currently working towards the creation of a business model that would increase non-grant funding. With stable and long-term partnerships as well as a diverse portfolio of funders, Kiron is well positioned towards future growth.

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Partnership potential

Why are you applying to Solve?

If selected as a Solver, the prize would be invested to improve the solution prototype. LWB and Kiron will share the prize both contributing to making our solution available to the highest numbers of refugees.


LWB will invest in technology development, hiring another developer for the Android app, and in the production and dissemination of SD cards for the Middle East.

Kiron will allocate the funds towards increasing student support measures (through personnel and technological solutions) and to continuously adapt the digital Kiron Campus.

A developer will be hired to implement campus features and create measures/adaptations that increase study success and learner motivation.

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What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?

  • Technology
  • Distribution
  • Talent or board members
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Media and speaking opportunities
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If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.

We hope to leverage AI to accelerate and improve the selection of digital content for the SD cards and the server: based on needs assessment from the field (language, level, needs, pre-requisites, etc.), the algorithm would select the most relevant content from the Internet, and automatically extract the metadata describing the content.

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If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

The prize would be invested to improve the solution prototype. LWB and Kiron will share the prize both contributing to making our solution available to the highest numbers of refugees.

LWB will invest in technology development, hiring another developer for the Android app, and in the production and dissemination of SD cards for the Middle East. 

Kiron will allocate the funds towards increasing student support measures (through personnel and technological solutions) and to continuously adapt the digital Kiron Campus. 

A developer will be hired to implement campus features and create measures/adaptations that increase study success and learner motivation. 

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If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

We are committed to ensuring that female refugees benefit equally from our project. Outreach towards girls and women has been a constant effort for both LWB and Kiron. LWB launched a global initiative for the empowerment of girls and women in our Ideas Box program (portable media center created to provide access to education, information and cultural resources in even the most challenging contexts, in particular in humanitarian settings).

Inspired by the experience of the Ideas Box For Women initiative, we will ensure that:
- the community spaces hosting the servers are secure, easy-to-access and welcoming places for girls and women so that they can easily stay there to study, and feel safe coming to receive the SD cards,
- the facilitators and the local partners’ staff are trained to encourage women to sign up for the program, promote female participation within the community sensitizing both women and men and to ensure that women feel comfortable participating and overcoming logistical, psychological and social barriers to access,
- awareness and training sessions will be organised for women, to ensure that their questions are answered.

Continuous data collection - passive and active - will enable monitoring of gender equality in the program, and allow adjustments if required.

The prize would be used to promote outreach efforts towards girls and women: partnerships with secondary schools, NGOs promoting gender equality, capacity building of local organisations working for women empowerment.
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If you would like to apply for the Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

The prize would be invested to improve the solution prototype. LWB and Kiron will share the prize both contributing to making our solution available to the highest numbers of refugees.

LWB will invest in technology development, hiring another developer for the Android app, and in the production and dissemination of SD cards for the Middle East. 

Kiron will allocate the funds towards increasing student support measures (through personnel and technological solutions) and to continuously adapt the digital Kiron Campus. 

A developer will be hired to implement campus features and create measures/adaptations that increase study success and learner motivation. 

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If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.

The prize would be invested to improve the solution prototype. LWB and Kiron will share the prize both contributing to making our solution available to the highest numbers of refugees.

LWB will invest in technology development, hiring another developer for the Android app, and in the production and dissemination of SD cards for the Middle East. 

Kiron will allocate the funds towards increasing student support measures (through personnel and technological solutions) and to continuously adapt the digital Kiron Campus. 

A developer will be hired to implement campus features and create measures/adaptations that increase study success and learner motivation. 

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If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

The prize would be invested to improve the solution prototype. LWB and Kiron will share the prize both contributing to making our solution available to the highest numbers of refugees.

LWB will invest in technology development, hiring another developer for the Android app, and in the production and dissemination of SD cards for the Middle East. 

Kiron will allocate the funds towards increasing student support measures (through personnel and technological solutions) and to continuously adapt the digital Kiron Campus. 

A developer will be hired to implement campus features and create measures/adaptations that increase study success and learner motivation. 

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Solution Team

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