As Project Manager of Hello World, Drew Edwards is at the heart of the organisation’s operations. He liaises with communities, government officials and suppliers, and he orchestrates logistics.
"Every organisation in our sector is working with fewer resources than they need and carrying heavier workloads than they ought in the pursuit of worthy missions. Recently, we got a glimpse into the output of our work, seeing impact beginning to blossom." The Hubs have now become an integral part of each community’s education system. So successful have they been that parents and teachers alike are now pushing for the Hubs to play a bigger role in schools, which is exactly what was hoped for when the initial concept was formed.
“Our Hubs are assembled by the communities that use them, creating a sense of ownership and appreciation that is instilled right from the beginning”, says Drew. “Each Hub is a complex and intimidating machine at first, and the process of putting one together can often take a couple of weeks. During this time communities are taught not only how to repair it, should it break down, but they can ask questions about what they can achieve with the Hub. The two-week build period gets them excited about the prospect of learning."
"Hello Hubs are active for an average of 19 hours every day."
Hello World’s figures indicate that the Hello Hubs are active for an average of 19 hours every day, which is remarkable given that they are located outdoors and placed in communities that do not always have electricity. On average there are eight people around the Hub during any one session, something which Drew regards as “very encouraging”. He adds, “Not only does this show that people are looking to absorb knowledge even if they are not at the helm, it also means that sharing and collaboration are being successfully fostered, and it is likely that discussions and debates about the content are happening during these sessions."
Drew also believes the Hello Hubs are helping people gain knowledge, while also ensuring that everyone becomes more aware of the idea that not everything should be taken at face value, that it is good to ask questions. “The Internet is extraordinary, but an important lesson is learned when people realise that not every article or statistic should automatically be regarded as accurate”, says Drew. “Once people, and especially children, begin to question the reliability of the information they are seeing, they start approaching all matters of life with a more critical eye, and it is amazing to see such a development taking place."
According to Drew, something that has become clear in each of the communities is that children are often taking the lead on how the Hello Hubs are used. Children are beating the adults in acquiring new skills like computer proficiency and competency in typing—and so they are taking charge.
The staff of Hello World speak at length with each community prior to a build so that they understand what a Hello Hub does and what its potential benefits are. Drew believes this to be a vital means of building trust, forging relationships and discovering how the Hubs will be used. “What we have seen is that, not only do the Hubs have the capacity to expand school curriculums, but they are also being used to find and apply for jobs hundreds of miles away”, says Drew. “Something as simple as access to the Internet can genuinely increase opportunities and expand horizons."
"The Hubs have the capacity to expand school curriculums."
The next big Hub-related challenge will be to analyse the data that has been collected from the current installations. By understanding how people are learning, what they are learning, which features they find valuable and which are not being used, Drew and his team will be able to tailor the Hubs to make them as beneficial as possible.
“We are taking steps into the unknown with this project”, admits Drew. “Every day I am gaining a better understanding of what can be done and how we can make the most significant impact. There are a lot of other objectives we would like to hit further down the line, such as measuring literacy progression and determining how we can customise each device to better serve individual communities.
Drew is confident that the Hello Hubs will become even more valuable as improvements continue to be implemented. He also believes that the success of the Hubs shows that there is an appetitive for this form of education, and that it works.
“What we have done so far proves the concept is valid. What we now want is to be able to go to investors, or possibly even government officials, and show them data that backs up what we have been saying for years: that our Hello Hubs are a viable educational tool, and they have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives.”