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Google And Udacity's Mobile Application Launchpad Empowers Egyptian Youth

In an effort to make Egypt the centre of digital development in the region, the Egyptian government has invested heavily in the country's future with Google and Udacity.

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." – Malcolm X

Google has partnered up with Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and online educational institute Udacity to accelerate Egypt’s growth into a bastion of innovation and entrepreneurship with a Mobile Application Launchpad. By enrolling 2,000 young Egyptian students and graduates in Udacity’s Developing Android Apps course, Google and the Egyptian government are instilling the skills and knowledge needed to continue Egypt’s trend of entrepreneurial development in the tech sector. With the country’s youth demographic dominating the population, and the unemployment rate close to 13 percent, the lack of jobs for young people has led many to dream of starting their own businesses. The democratisation of information through technology has made those dreams easier to achieve than any other time in history. 

Google’s Android operating system is by far the most popular operating system on the planet, outselling Windows, iOS, and Mac OS powered devices combined. The open source platform provides companies a low cost and customisable solution for running high tech devices. The same qualities make it perfect for app developers who want to get their app out to as many users across a variety of devices. Udacity’s program for Android app development allows students the knowledge to take what may just be an idea and turn it into a functional - and hopefully profitable - application. Of the initial 2,000 enrolled in Udacity’s program, those with the most promise will be sponsored to continue into the advanced curriculum. 
Udacity first started in 2011 and in 2014 began its Nanodegree program accreditation, which can be earned entirely online. Citing ‘education for employment’, the Nanodegree syllabus is created in conjunction with industry leaders, such as Google, to make sure that the skills acquired by the student are in demand and make them employable almost immediately after completion. This is diametrically opposed to traditional universities, which typically teach to their own standards and often graduates are left hoping that the skills they’ve acquired are applicable and in demand by employers.

In 2015, Udacity began reaching out to the community on a global scale. India and China are among the other countries where Udacity is working and enabling students who might otherwise never have the opportunity for such an education. However, Egypt is the only country where the Udacity online learning environment is supplemented with real life study groups and one-on-one mentoring, thanks entirely to the MCIT and Information Technology Institute, which have provided the necessary apparatus. Egypt is a prime location for this endeavour with an amount of computer science graduates that dwarfs any other nation in the region.

This unprecedented collaboration between Google, Udacity, and the government of Egypt has already made the Mobile Application Launchpad (MAL) a massive success. “In Egypt, the program is much more comprehensive – hand-holding through the career search, actively encouraging people to build their own apps, and providing resources and support needed for entrepreneurs,” Hisham Elraby, Google’s MAL Project Lead says. “We also provide face-to-face coaching and mentoring."

Anyone who has taken an online class before knows that it can often be difficult to manage time effectively and keep focused when there isn’t a class you have to physically attend. “People lose motivation in a self-paced environment, life’s other priorities take over. So we set up weekly study groups of between 20 and 30 people with a study group leader who’s been trained by Google and ITI,” he says. Elraby elaborates on the need for real life group meetings: “Getting people together and focused, keeping up the pace, and getting discussions going encourages people to complete the course."

With the Udacity’s global graduation rate at around 10 percent, both they and Google were ‘completely mind boggled’ with Egypt’s graduation rate of 80 percent. Clearly, the support provided by the governmental entities is paying off. Likewise, the on the ground ‘real life’ support of Udacity and Google has clearly given the Egyptian enrollees an excellent framework on which to build their future.
When speaking to some of the graduates at the recent MAL graduation ceremony at the AUC, it’s impossible to overlook the palpable sense of optimism and hopefulness that they have for the future. The starry-eyed look in their eyes as they discuss their business plans, app ideas, and ambitions for entrepreneurship - it becomes infectious. Of the approximately 350 people who have graduated from the MAL program thus far, every single one of them has outright epic plans for the future - not only for themselves and their budding businesses, but for the future of Egypt as well.

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