Professor Richard Coll, USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services addressed the participants.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Atlassian Foundation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) organised Solve-a-thon workshop on 11 July 2017 at the Holiday Inn, Suva.
Solve-a-thon is hosted by Solve, an initiative of MIT that identifies and supports lasting solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. It is a community that brings together technologists, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, non-profit leaders, policymakers, researchers, and other change agents to unearth and implement solutions to specific, actionable challenges around learning, health, sustainability, and economic prosperity.
The Solve-a-thon challenge seeks to find the best innovative and scalable ideas which address the question: "How can disadvantaged youth learn the skills they need to prepare them for the workforce of the future and thrive in the 21st century?"
While opening the workshop, Professor Richard Coll, USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services thanked the organisers for bringing the competition to the Pacific.
He added that it would be fascinating to see the kind of solutions participants would come up with as part of Solve-a-thon.
Talking about the ‘question’, Professor Coll said that with the power of technology, people can do things differently, and persons with disabilities can do things they could never do before because technology could help them.
And USP, he highlighted, has invested heavily in supporting its students with disabilities.
Professor Coll said the question does not have a simple and easy solution.
Mr Gordon Burns, Counsellor Regional Development Cooperation at DFAT thanked Professor Coll and the University for the Partnership.
Mr Burns advised participants to come up with solutions that include innovations in learning with technology, new educational models and concepts to improve quality of learning, tools and strategies that will teach skills that help give people the ability to be entrepreneurs and come up with innovative solutions that will ensure more equal access and inclusion of all genders and people with disabilities, to attain a quality education to develop the skills that they need for the future workforce.
DFAT has committed up to AU$1.4M to the best ideas that impact developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, with a particular focus on ideas that address the needs of women and girls, and people with a disability. Atlassian Foundation has committed up to AU$1M to the best ideas from charities globally.
Ms Alzima Elisha Bano, USP staff and participant said that the workshop was a very good initiative where they got to give in their ideas and get feedback from other participants. She added that it was also interesting to note what the others had to pitch in on the question.
As a university staff, Ms Bano said they work with students on a daily basis to help prepare them join the workforce once they graduate.
Therefore, she said that the ideas exchanged as part of the Solve-a-thon helped her understand the needs of young people from different perspectives and how they can better work with students using technology to prepare them for the future.
Staff and students of USP, representatives from non-government organisation, ministries, private sector and the general public attended the Solve-a-thon.
The finalists of the challenge will be invited to New York to pitch their ideas to a judging panel in September and also have an opportunity to attend a boot camp in MIT.
The challenge is now open and will close on August 1, 2017.
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