A partnership between the Missouri Economic Development Through Green Entrepreneurship, LLC, (EDGE) and the Missouri University of Science and Technology has entered a second year of pilot testing job creation in rural Kenya.
Villagers in southwest Kenya have been working on donated laptops for the past 12 months as a means of earning a living through human computation.
“A surprising result of our first year of pilot testing shows that villagers spent more than 50 percent of their additional income paying school fees for themselves, their children or children of relatives,” said Andrew Schriner, a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati who collaborates on the project.
In the past, rural villages have suffered a “brain drain” with capable workers leaving their historical employment as subsistence farmers to pursue lucrative employment in urban centers.
This disturbing trend of urban migration has contributed to overcrowding in the cities and has brought illness and disease back to the rural villages when some men return after acquiring sexually transmitted illnesses from sex workers.
To reverse this trend, Schriner has collaborated with Daniel Oerther, the John A. and Susan Mathes Chair of Environmental Engineering at Missouri S&T, to create Pula Cloud as an internet-based workplace for income generation.
“In our opinion, connectivity to the information economy is one of the best ways to provide development assistance to rural Kenya, and to rural Missouri as well,” Oerther said.
Schriner continues to modify Pula Cloud to allow villagers access to online jobs including the analysis of health implications of indoor air quality for clients in the United States.
Sarah Oerther, owner of Missouri EDGE, who is collaborating on this project shares, said, “We were pleasantly surprised to learn that villagers chose to invest in the education of the next generation. That completes the loop for our program by empowering development choices and placing the responsibility for those choices completely in the hands of the villagers.”
Montana Puckett, a senior in civil engineering at Missouri S&T agrees. Puckett just returned from an implementation trip to Kenya. For the past year, he has established MST Works helping people in Newburg and St. James also earn money through online services.
“Seeing the immediate connection between our work in rural Missouri and our work in rural Kenya was awesome,” Puckett said. “It’s a wonderful addition to my classroom education, and just goes to show that Missouri S&T provides so much to their students both inside and outside the classroom.”
The multi-faceted partnership between villagers in Kenya, townspeople in rural Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio and Missouri S&T as well as EDGE brings university innovation from the laboratory to the field. By utilizing a for-profit, income generating model, the partnership aims to continue economic empowerment working at the level of the individual
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