In true Wikinomics spirit, every year Microsoft’s Imagine Cup challenges students around the world to dream up new ways to use technology to solve some of the planet’s toughest problems. Participation in the contest has soared from less than 1,000 student competitors when the competition began in 2003 to more than 325,000 students in 2010.
All of the winners from this year’s competition display tremendous creativity, but one of my favorites is the OneBeep software program from New Zealand. The clever code was the work of four final-year undergraduates of the University of Auckland, who are studying computer systems and electrical engineering. The group focused on the goal of universal primary education, and developed a way to send educational data over standard radio waves to far-flung, impoverished communities. For example, a 10-page Word document could be distributed to 5,000 students scattered across Rwanda in less than 10 minutes.