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Kwame Owusu-Kesse and Geoffrey Canada Discuss Expanding Access to EdTech for Underserved Students at Alef Education Summit

Five people sit on a large stage talking with white background at Alef Education Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harlem Children’s Zone deployed innovative approaches around education technology – empowering our scholars to continue to learn and thrive amid the transition to remote learning.

Our CEO Kwame Owusu-Kesse and Founder and President Geoffrey Canada shared those experiences – and lessons learned – with hundreds of leaders in EdTech at Alef Education Summit. Hosted by Alef Education, a leading global education technology provider, the annual gathering in Dubai, United Arab Emirates explored the latest innovations reshaping the global #EdTech sector.  

Removing the barrier to access

At the summit, Mr. Owusu-Kesse joined leaders from Microsoft and Google in a panel discussion, “Future Trends in Technology Based Education,” to explore ways of broadening access to EdTech. He shared HCZ’s experiences with technology-based learning, innovative approaches to online education that we used during the pandemic, and how we incorporated those lessons into our instruction once we returned to in-person learning. Most critically, Mr. Owusu-Kesse advocated for our scholars, emphasizing the importance of expanding access to EdTech for under-resourced young people.

“Removing the barrier to access EdTech allows us to equip our young people with the necessary resources to navigate a very challenging time,” Mr. Owusu Kesse said. “It is imperative that we mitigate the barriers under-resourced young people face in narrowing the digital divide.”

Closing the digital divide

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Harlem Children’s Zone transitioned to remote learning – working quickly and creatively to adapt our classes and programs to a virtual environment. We distributed 5,700 devices for remote learning, including laptops, hotspots, and headsets, and reshaped our curricula and offerings to keep our scholars engaged (following the 2020-2021, 100 percent of our HCZ Promise Academy High School scholars were accepted to college). 

On the national level, HCZ partnered with a coalition of best-in-class companies, led by Procter & Gamble, to lead One Million Connected Devices Now, a nationwide movement to bridge the digital divide. 

Our work to close the digital divide was part of a National Covid Relief and Recovery Effort, led by our William Julius Wilson Institute, to support Black and brown communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Together with our partners, we served more than 250,000 youth and adults across the country.

Making an impact locally – and globally

Reflecting on his experience at the Alef Education Summit, Mr. Owusu-Kesse stressed that the work at HCZ is not confined to Harlem.

Said Mr. Owusu-Kesse: “I’m leaving Dubai inspired, energized, and grateful for the reminder that an unrelenting pursuit of innovation and excellence on the ground in Harlem can truly have global impact.”