The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Accelerating Information Technology Innovation (MIT AITI) is a multidisciplinary group that promotes software development skills and technology entrepreneurship in emerging regions. MIT AITI partners with universities in Africa and South Asia to offer mobile and Internet technology incubator courses instructed by MIT alumni and graduate students with MIT undergraduate teaching assistants. Additionally, MIT AITI builds networks of local investors, mentors, entrepreneurs, and developers centered on each program location that help our students to realize their startup goals.
During the summer of 2011, AITI, with the support of Google, organized programs in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. Over 170 students attended the programs in total. The technical curriculum focused on building software development experience, and introduced the students to real-world platforms such as Django, Google App Engine, and Android. The entrepreneurship curriculum is experience-based as well, with units covering ideation, team-building, pitching and presentation skills, and negotiation. Each course is organized around a group project, asking students to develop an innovative and viable mobile service startup. Each instructor team includes expertise in both technical and entrepreneurial areas, with mentorship an important component of the course structure.
The courses employed Android phones so that the students could get real-world experience with the Android platform and with mobile web. Students from each course used Android phones to test the prototypes for their projects, and to demo the prototypes for the public Demo Day at the end of the course.
The 2011 summer programs have already had high-profile outcomes since the short time since they have completed. Two student teams in Sri Lanka have signed partnerships with mobile operators to market and deploy their services. Four student teams in Rwanda have registered companies from their projects, and one team has won a Rwandan entrepreneurship competition and will be traveling to Europe to compete in an international competition. Finally, multiple teams from have been accepted into highly-selective local incubators to continue developing their startups.
posted by Michael Gordon of MIT