WeRobotics secures more funds for STEM education in Global South

And WeRobotics has gone and done it again.

We think it is allowed to run out of superlatives to applaud the lengths the non-profit drone and robotics humanitarian organisation is going – through its Flying Labs network – to empower children and young entrepreneurs in the global south with the kind of technology opportunities they might never have dreamt of.

In the past, the Flying Labs network has helped young people with STEM education programs in Tanzania, Zambia, Benin and Fiji. Flying Labs teams in Papua New Guinea, India, and Panama even beat the COVID-19 challenges last year and forged new pathways in online training to keep youths engaged during lockdowns in the respective countries. These projects also included training educators and getting the relevant ministries involved to ensure sustainability.

Now, the organisation has bagged another grant from Fondation Botnar, a Swiss-based foundation concerned with improving children’s lives in urban areas of the developing world.

“We’re very pleased to announce that Fondation Botnar has selected WeRobotics and Flying Labs for a three-year grant to advance young people’s health and wellbeing,” WeRobotics announced in a statement. “Fondation Botnar is a Swiss-based foundation which champions the use of artificial intelligence and digital technology to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in growing urban environments. To achieve this, the foundation supports research, catalyses diverse partners, and invests in scalable solutions around the world.

“As Fondation Botnar rightly notes, young people are some of the earliest adopters of emerging technologies. This presents a significant opportunity to bridge the digital divide and, more importantly, the opportunity divide. As we’ve witnessed first-hand, even when youth have access to new technologies, they are often sidelined and excluded from participating in and leading social good projects that leverage emerging technologies. Why? Age discrimination and the pervasive, dangerous notion that the foreigner is the expert. To this end, the context for our three-year project with Fondation Botnar is the pressing need for systems change.”

The grant – whose exact figures had not been made public at the time of writing – will go towards funding a wide range of youth training and youth-led projects across seven Flying Labs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. There are 31 Flying Labs in total, and since December last year, labs that include the Zimbabwe Flying Labs, Senegal Flying Labs, Benin Flying Labs, Kenya Flying Labs have been conducting STEM education for local youths as well as drone lessons for various industry professionals.

Funds from organisations like Fondation Botnar are welcome if these lessons are to be extended to all young people in the third world, and there has never been a more perfect time for the foundation to join ship.

“We want to shift power to local youth and to transform attitudes in the process. The historically entrenched conviction that “West is Best” and “White is Right” has led to a dominance of foreign-led, top-down, and techno-centric projects across the Global South—the Majority World. As a result, most so-called “Technology for Social Good” projects exclude local youth from meaningful leadership opportunities. And yet, local youth are best placed to transform the pervasive colonial ideologies into ones that recognize and celebrate the “The Power of Local,” their power. The context for our project is thus the need for radical equity and inclusion. The more inclusive and-thus-locally led social good projects are, the more sustainable and impactful they become. The more we can collectively transform attitudes, which is key to systems change.”

The grant – which will be dispensed with in conjunction with Australian geospatial and STEM education provider, She Maps – will also fund career guidance, job placement, and advocacy for youth who seek to pursue their interests in the locally-led application of emerging technologies for social good.

Besides their latest benefactor, WeRobotics has in the past also secured funding from partners that include the Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Autodesk Foundation, Jansen Family Foundation, Atlassian Foundation, Omidyar Network, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the World Bank.


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