Vision and Mission of Direct Ed
At DirectEd their purpose is to provide low-cost, scalable and evidence-based bootcamps for under-resourced high-potential students in Africa, equipping them with the most sought-after digital skills on the global market and realize their potential as leaders of Africa’s digital transformation.
What do they do?
“We solve three important problems.
First, there’s high demand for IT professionals in the west but the talents in Africa lack the resources and training needed to fill the gap. We facilitate resources to high-potential students so they can fill the existing digital skills shortage in western markets. We are developing our bootcamp using freely available high-quality content and in close collaboration with leading online course providers, tech companies and local education institutions in order to create a cost-effective, scalable and evidence-based programme of the highest quality.
Second, smart contracts cannot be used for most real-world use cases. We bridge the gap between decentralised identity and crypto through our open-sourced research and development efforts. This combination gives us transparency and accountability by design. Our scholarships are distributed only to students who can present proof of milestone completion in the form of a verifiable credential issued by professionals in the field. This means donors not only see where their funds are going, but also that the funds are being used for the intended purpose. Impact or your money back!
Third, donating is impersonal, unengaging and you don’t know what difference you made. We solve this. In the short run, milestone progression reporting data is directly fed into our donor portal dashboard. In the long run, we produce independent and robust quantifiable measures of the impact of our programs.
**WE ARE INNOVATORS**
How do we achieve economic sustainability? When our top scholars graduate and find employment, part of their salary is being transferred directly from our tech partner companies back to the scholarship funding pool. By donating to the first cohorts, you help us bootstrap this self-perpetuating cycle of funding for future scholars! We are also exploring other novel ways to raise funds. For example, by giving digital art pieces with background stories written by our students, naming rights of each scholarship cohort and invitation to an annual donor’s event held in Oxford.” – DirectEd
Why start DirectEd?
“I am the CEO and one of the founders of the project.
I first saw the failings of our economic system when I was 14 years old. Slowly, I began to see how unsustainable the current economic system is – not just environmentally but also socially and financially. But criticizing is easy. Providing an alternative is harder.
This was what put me on the path of studying economics.
Another piece of the puzzle that put me on this path in life relates another pivotal moment in my life. When I was 15 years old, I went to China for an exchange year. During that time I saw how difficult life was, how hard my peers in this normal Chinese high school had to work.
During that exchange year, I met a group of American students who were part of something called SKYS – Stony Knoll Youth Services. SKYS was founded by Daniel Ybarra, a Harvard Law alumni who had chosen to work as a public defender and to start an NGO to help at-risk youth. He said to these kids: stay in school, stay away from drugs and come to our regular meetings. If they did so, Daniel would bring them on a trip somewhere in the world. Hearing this, I couldn’t help but to offer Daniel to help. I invited him to come to Sweden and two years later that’s what happened so that during my second year of high school, I organised two weeks of programming and housing for all. To selflessly dedicate time to show that there’s more out in the world for them is what creates meaning.
Fast forward many years and I am studying the first year of the MPhil in Economics at the University of Oxford. A friend of mine who is in the crypto space sent me a video of a special cryptocurrency – Cardano. It is academically rigorous, sustainable and has a sharp focus on economic empowerment. In January 2021, I created a Cardano wallet.
After slowly learning more and more about blockchain and Cardano over the next 6 months, I eventually learned about Project Catalyst. A few of my friends and I decided to propose in Fund 6, leading to the proposal Direct donations for Education.
We won support from the community. This gave our developers time and space to learn how to develop on the Cardano blockchain, and for us to further refine our idea.
By fund 8 our team was composed of a solid core team. Rohan Mitta (CTO) with dual masters in mathematics and in computer science from Cambridge and Oxford had completed the Prism pioneers and Plutus pioneers. Fasika Belay (Ethiopia lead) a PhD student at Addis Ababa Universit and lecturer at Kotebe University of Education. Moses Kahure (Kenya lead), YALI alumni, founder and COO of Save a Youth Africa.
Thanks to the support in fund 8, Simon and Rohan were able to commit to the project and go full-time from September 2022.” – Simon Sällström
“My personal story can be heard here in this vlog
Here is an article we’ve written (to be published at the YALI blog post) that tells part of the story” – Simon Sällström
Problems blockchain helps solve
“Transparency. Donors can see where the money is going. This increases trust and willingness to donate. It also reduces room for fraud and money going to middlemen who do not provide value.
Accountability. We do not just give students money. We divide it into milestones which must be completed. The students’ progress is reported in the form of Verifiable Credentials held by students in their Self-sovereign identity wallets.
Cost efficiency. We remove the need for an administrator dealing with payouts to students by having a smart contract deal with this overhead. The cost of international payments are reduced to a few cents.“ – Simon Sällström
Direct Ed chose Cardano because…
- Academic rigor and putting security first
- Also focused on Africa, a continent where financial services are underdeveloped and middlemen often cannot be trusted
Connection to the Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action by all countries. This enables countries to create global partnerships that work towards achieving these goals. The goal is to achieve the SDGs, which are built upon decades of work by countries and the UN.
Blockchain technology is a key technology for the SDGs because it enables stakeholders globally to have the ability to track, record, and share data that is immutable, timestamped, and verifiable. The traceability of data can only be proven from data that is added on a chain.
Direct ED is strongly aligned to the SDGs and represents a connection to the goals…
SDG 4 – quality and inclusive education for all!
News to Share
“We are giving donors digital art pieces with various utilities depending on the level of donations.
These will be released as part of our main fundraising launch on January 21st!
So far COTI CEO Shahaf has offered to support the first cohort of students
We’ve also signed MOUs with both Kagumo National High (ranked 6th in the country) and Kotebe University of Education to pilot and develop our program.
We are looking to expand to more high schools and institutions in the next year.”
Who they would like to work with within Cardano
We’d love to work with more Cardano education and Africa focused projects!
Donate, follow us on their social media of choice or newsletter, or get involved as a volunteering contributor!
The main launch for the general public is happening on January 21st (preliminarily). The best way to express interest to get involved as a volunteering contributor (marketing, smart contract, UIX, examiner, you name it!) is by contacting Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org