Giving Corporate Solutions New Meanings | By Tiffany Cao

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AirBNB’s refugee philanthropy banner. Source: blog.airbnb.com

A spate of corporate announcements have been made in the last month, publicizing private sector relief efforts for the Syrian migration crisis. The most recent, Airbnb’s extension of its current commitments to relocation and donation-matching on October 3rd. A day prior, Hatem Sallam, CEO of ITWORX Education, committed ITWORX’s financial support of the Education Cannot Wait fund for students in crisis situations. It seems like President Obama’s Call to Action at the Leaders Summit on Refugees on September 20 is being heeded.

This latest corporate response to education in migration has primarily taken a technological bent. A look at the White House’s press release detailing committed corporations and their plans reveals that variants of “digital educational content” and “technological solutions” show up fairly frequently. With technology’s ease of mobility, it is no wonder that for students far from the physical spaces of formal education, technology addresses an important barrier: access.

Theirworld’s report “Exploring the Potential of Technology to Deliver Education & Skills to Syrian Refugee Youth” makes the distinction, however, between viewing technology as a tool versus the solution (20).  Technology solves the problem of children not having materials and readily-available teachers, but it has the potential to be seen as more for refugee students. In the United States, a country whose students have little to worry about in terms of access, technology serves more as a bridge to information and a means of communication (“Partnership,” 2007). In other words, technology is a tool. Digital technology can be viewed as an access point for displaced children too to acquaint themselves with a wealth of Internet resources from which to learn and to connect to a 21st-century world, both through the skill sets that are acquired and the modes of communication and social networking used. More than a mode of curriculum dissemination, technological solutions become forms of capital to integrate students into the global economy and to seek knowledge for themselves.

In Bintou’s post “Catch and Release: Examining Colonial Practices in Migration and Education Initiatives,” she mentions the Slovakian education policy of teaching migrants through the host nation’s educational system. The system’s aim is for the migrant children to graduate, go back, and enact change. Bintou makes the point that this system perpetuates the global North as the fortress of knowledge and reason and the global South as the recipients of Northern intelligence. Unfortunately, popular technologies, social networks, and websites are predominantly from the global North. In 2012, the United States hosted 43% of the top 1 million most-visited websites in the world. Facebook is the dominant social network used with 1.6 billion global users. Though there are not many immediate solutions to the imbalance of content and software creation among the global North and South, the technological solutions that corporations have come up with can make up for a lack of formal education and serve as one avenue for displaced children to gain knowledge and competencies.

Sources

  • Airbnb (2016, Sept 20). President Obama’s Call to Action: Responding to the Global Refugee Crisis. Retrieved from http://blog.airbnb.com/
  • Cosenza, Vincenzo (2016, Jan). World Map of Social Networks. Retrieved from http://www.vincos.it
  • Diallo, Bintou. (2016, Sept 5). Catch and Release: Examining Colonial Practices in Migration and Education Initiatives. Retrieved from https://edinmotion.wordpress.com
  • Gulf News Journal (2016, Oct 2). ITWORX CEO leads presentation to address educational needs of refugee children. Retrieved from http://gulfnewsjournal.com/
  • Partnership for 21st Century Learning (2007, Oct 14). Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
  • Pingdom (2012, July 2). The US hosts 43% of the world’s top 1 million websites. Retrieved from http://royal.pingdom.com
  • The White House (2016, Sept 20). Private Sector Participants to the Call to Action. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/
  • The White House (2016, Sept 20). Remarks by President Obama at Leaders Summit on Refugees. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov


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