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School of Business's Third IT Forum: Education 2.0, with technology we can make a difference

AUC's School of Business hosted its third and last IT forum of the semester, welcoming Wael Ghonim, an Internet and political activist, who served as Google’s marketing manager for the Middle East and North Africa. Ghonim also founded an NGO, NABADAT, which works to enhance and improve education in Egypt and across the Middle East. Held in Mohamed Shafik Gabr Hall, Ghonim’s lecture tackled the importance of utilizing technology and social media tools to improve Egypt’s education and educational systems. “Education in Egypt is not going to be solved by the government, it will be solved by generations who want to make a difference,” Ghonim stressed.

Ghonim, who was immensely optimistic about Egypt’s future, argued that empowerment is only feasible through education. However, he emphasized that empowerment is dependent on the quality of people’s critical thinking, which Ghonim believes needs to be improved drastically and not be limited to what is learned in a classroom. Ghonim blamed the root of Egypt’s education problem on the myth of free education in Egypt; in reality, the private tutor system meant that, "every year, Egyptians pay LE 16 billion in education.” However, individuals can triumph over the past and this flawed system by developing ideas and concepts to spread across Egypt and get people educated. “Ideas are more important than individuals, and if the idea is brilliant a lot of people will start to follow,” Ghonim stressed. 

Ghonim continued by stressing the power of technology and the Internet in positively shaping education in Egypt. With 15 million people on the Internet -- seven million who have Facebook accounts -- Egypt has a unique platform on which to launch the notion of change. Ghonim affirmed that, by having access to Internet, possessing knowledge is inevitable, Thus, as IT-savvy individuals have a golden opportunity to reach out to younger generations and transform the internet into an educational hub.

Ghonim supported his argument using the case of Khan Academy, with which he became acquainted during his time working at Google. Salman Khan began helping his niece learning mathematics by posting videos on YouTube. The testimonials of other appreciative students prompted Khan to quit his job in finance and focus on the tutorials. The idea gained so much traction that Khan established the Khan Academy, to which Google announced they would be providing $2 million to support course development and efforts to translate Khan Academy curricula into the world’s most widely-spoken languages.  With a simple idea and the Internet’s high visibility, “[Khan] revolutionized the concept of education” Ghonim said.

Ghonim then offered his own straightforward idea: that offering online videos to explain and simplify complex subjects for an Arabic-speaking audience could help solve the problem of education in Egypt. In essence, the “Tahrir Academy” will serve as Egypt’s answer to the “Khan Academy,” wherein filmmakers, narrators, and animators come together to work on a project to help students understand the concepts of the subjects in an artistic and approachable way.

Ghonim wrapped up by stating that making an effort to work on this project and making videos publicly available online will enable an increased and improved flow of information. “We hope by doing this [that] we contribute a bit to the whole view of education in Egypt,” he concluded.