Monday, October 4, 2010

TechBridgeWorld Provides Technology to Underprivileged People

Bernardine Dias has made it her mission since youth to provide modern technologies to underprivileged nations and she is now achieving her goal with TechBridgeWorld, a Carnegie Mellon research group.

After growing up in Sri Lanka at the base of the economic pyramid and seeing how the lack of modern technologies can damage a society, Dias has not stopped trying to change things.

Dias has seen the organization founded in 2004 grow from one person to many student and volunteer researchers with the goal of providing modern technologies to those nations without any.

"Our primary goal is to innovate computing solutions or create new computing solutions that address the needs and are relevant to people in underprivileged communities,” Dias explains.

Dias provided an example of one of TechBridgeWorld’s most successful works that is still being used to teach today. In 2006, TechBridgeWorld began working with a blind school in India to create a program that helps students read and write Braille and offers the functions of correction and audio feedback. The tutor has since been expanded to blind schools in the United States, China, Bangladesh, and others.

The organization has focused on small projects since it’s inception but hopes to have the opportunity to work on large-scale projects with bigger communities.

"We’ve sort of focused on smaller scale projects, how do we scale this up given the knowledge that we have?” Dias asks.

Dias earned her undergraduate degree in computer science and physics from Hamilton College and then began a graduate study at Carnegie Mellon University. With a Ph.D. in robotics in hand, Dias applied for a research faculty position at CMU and began the organization TechBridgeWorld in 2004.

The organization receives funding from multiple sources including individual donations, financial grants, and corporate donations from sponsors like Google and Yahoo, but Dias knows funding is essential to the growth of the team and it’s ability to help communities.

“Additional funding will take TechBridgeWorld to an entirely different level,” Dias says. “We would be able to impact so many more students and communities around the world.”

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