It was a privilege to be a part of the audience for Bill Gates' keynote speech at the ASU GSV Summit in San Diego in April this year. Hearing his view of the future, it was hard not to feel the groundswell of optimism currently taking hold around the world. Gates still believes that technology is a force for good, opening a world of opportunity for us all.
As Gates put it himself, "in terms of impact, and we hope in terms of good success stories, I put [education] at the top of the list of things that technology can and will surprise people with over the next 10 years."
He's right. At its core, education, like technology, is about unleashing potential, which became the founding principle of my company Prodigy Finance back in 2007. Struck by the obstacles facing talented students from around the world looking to study at business schools from Harvard to Oxford, Boston to Paris, it was clear to me that technology was the only way to remove these hurdles.
Unsurprisingly there are a number of barriers to entry for international students looking to attend business schools, but one of the most crippling is funding. Around sixty per cent of MBA students simply would not be able to attend without accessing a loan or grant. This situation becomes even more complicated for international students.
Most banks will only lend to students applying for loans in their own country of residence. The bank's risk model means that cross border lending simply doesn't compute.
That means that an Indian or a Nigerian student looking to attend a prestigious institution such as Harvard Business School is going to find it impossible to convince an American bank to fund their MBA. And yet, these students have such clear potential.
Such a situation is ludicrous and, during my own MBA, I set about trying to solve the problem.
Many months and many sleepless nights later, Prodigy Finance was born. We have developed a truly borderless lending model, bypassing the banking system to allow alumni and other individuals to invest directly in the potential of postgraduate students from 150 separate countries around the world. We look at people's futures, not where they happen to have been born.
The benefit to the world is clear. As it stands currently only a select lucky few have access to the word's best institutions. Imagine what we could create when we open these institutions up to the whole world, creating a community of immensely talented, truly borderless individuals. The possibilities are endless.
I'm proud to say we're not the only ones harnessing technology to open up education to the world.
I've long admired Busuu, a social network that connects students looking to learn new languages with native speakers around the world. The platform is built on the idea that technology is at its best when it united people beyond borders. It is indicative of the changes that we could be making on a global scale. It already boasts over 60 million users speaking 12 different languages with one another.
Technology, like education, works best when it shows no regard to state borders or arbitrary barriers. Bill Gates is right - we, and many like us, are already working on opening up education to the world. The next 10 years are going to be tremendously exciting.
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