Hyperion Development, a social enterprise supported by the Cambridge Social Ventures programme at the Centre for Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge, won a $150,000 top award from the Internet.org Innnovation Challenge in Africa, established by Facebook.
The awards honour initiatives in education and economic empowerment in Africa, with Hyperion Development winning top honours in the education category.
Founded in South Africa, Hyperion Development has built an online course platform for computer science education supported by the largest community of software developers in the country. Hyperion allows anyone to take online courses in coding with a personal computer or mobile phone, even without a broadband connection – which few Africans have.
“Across the African continent, only 28 per cent of the population has access to the internet,” Internet.org by Facebook said in announcing the winners. “We need to help people understand the possibilities available to them online.”
Hyperion was founded by Riaz Moola, and the venture focuses on three areas: offering the online courses for programmers, helping programmers get jobs and start their careers in software development, and promoting computer science in schools in different African countries.
Riaz said that in addition to the $150,000 prize money, Hyperion Development had also secured additional financial or in-kind support from Facebook, Google and the South African Department of Science and Technology, bringing such total support to $270,000. He said a year-long mentoring relationship will enable Facebook and Hyperion engineers to work together to adapt the service better to the mobile market in Africa.
Riaz said the award money would also help Hyperion expand its service to the UK, with the aim of generating sustainable revenues to subsidise free education in Africa. This social model also entails employing people in poorer countries such as South Africa, where youth employment is very high, to mentor students taking the courses in the UK.
In a Facebook posting, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Hyperion and the other award winners “are all examples of the great work being done by entrepreneurs across the African continent to strengthen their communities and create opportunity.”