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Project Earnie - Artificial Intelligence unlocking community-driven content creation. Enabling personalised, impactful learning outcomes.

Leveraging scalable cloud technology and innovation to enable children to continue their learning in the face of emergencies

Photo of Luke Ma

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Mother Tongue Content - Children in emergency settings are often faced with a lack of vernacular educational material. This ultimately impacts dropout rates, literacy and numeracy levels. (Ensuring quality education for young refugees from Syria, 2014, Oxford University). Personalisation - Strain on teachers means that resources are often not matched to student ability. Documentation and tracking is difficult across borders. Children often move countries more than once. (UNHCR, World Bank, 2015)

Explain your innovation.

Project Earnie is a cloud based software solution that enables the creation and delivery of culturally relevant, interactive, multi-lingual content. Our software is further enhanced by the inclusion of an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) engine, developed on the IBM Watson platform. A.I. allows for rapid assessment, learning analytics and automated curriculum generation.
- Our easy to use content creation tool uses a drag and drop interface.
- Built upon Amazon Web Services infrastructure.
- Online and offline modes.
- IBM Watson engine ensures users are continuously delivered content in mother tongue, that is culturally, age, gender relevant; levelled to their literacy and numeracy levels.
- Real-time content delivery (when in connected environment). Our real-time delivery engine is robust enough that the Transport Accident Commission, Victoria (TAC) are currently using our platform for freeway digital signage.
Our included videos demonstrate a scenario where our content creation tool is being effectively used to support the Ara Irititja Project in a remote central Australian indigenous community. The project was established inter-generational transfer of Aboriginal cultural information, traditional ecological knowledge, family, community history and language.
As we continue to enhance our product, we aim to deploy globally, working alongside education, aid, foundation and government partners - for the benefit of children in emergency settings.

Who benefits?

Our innovation benefits children by enabling them to continue their learning in the face of emergencies, equipping them to thrive in the future. This in turn has positive knock on effects for communities experiencing and/or recovering from emergencies.
Teachers and education providers benefit by being empowered to deliver tailored and measurable syllabuses to students. Giving teachers advanced tools to do their job better reduces burn-out and increases their interaction with their students. Please refer to our personas for further details.
Due to our innovations ability to scale, it can also be adapted to aid beneficiaries in other sectors, such as aged care, healthcare, disability and remote learning, to deliver deliver highly relevant, personalised content.
Finally, the business model supporting Project Earnie is an innovation in itself. Showing the technology community how tech can 'do good, while being good for business' will challenge others to follow suit.

How is your innovation unique?

A New Business Model
As we approached 2016, the global aid appeal required US$20.1 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to over 87.6 million people across 37 countries, most of which are in conflict (“Global Humanitarian Overview, 2016”). Pressure is building to alter the way we respond to crisis. Our innovation model demonstrates how cutting edge private sector technology, in co-operation with aid, government and education, can offer innovation to not only support children in emergencies, but also address wider humanitarian challenges. Core technology can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure via API’s. Rapid deployment capability and low maintenance costs means reduced technological strain (personnel, cost of ownership, ongoing support). Having access to global, real-time data and predictive learning patterns, means greater confidence and accuracy in decision making, especially around policy, financial investment, and continued innovation opportunities

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Data Privacy -Both the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNHCR have published policy papers on data privacy related to refugee communities and peoples of concern. We do understand the risk involved if personal information were illegally distributed. It is imperative that extreme vigilance is observed before region deployment. Content Creation and Moderation - Child protection and risk mitigation are a priority. Unlike social sites, our cloud based software has tiered access and strict approval protocols. When identifying a region or an aid partnership, we must adhere to strict ethical guidelines. We would look to partner with a specialist education institution in order to develop and administer an ethics guideline.

Tell us more about you.

We are a team of cross discipline design practitioners. The experience of our core team ranges from entrepreneurship, innovation strategy, product design, sustainability, urban planning, publishing, full stack development and visual design. We are passionate about utilising human centered design to tackle complex social challenges, delivering solutions across aged care, e-waste, disability, healthcare and human rights.
We are based in Sydney, Australia plans to establish a presence in Europe

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Extreme drought

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

As our solution works independently of network coverage and grid, as well as in places where teachers are hard to come by, it makes customised education accessible to people in a variety of situations, from overcrowded classrooms to crisis settings. This would make our solution applicable both for people currently on the move as well those in a specific location, be it refugee camp, make-shift shelter after a natural disaster, or within a war zone where schooling is no longer available.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

We have currently identified 3 delivery zones based on country networks;
Jordan – Learning center for Syrian refugees one rural (70-100 students), one urban (500) students.
Uganda – Working with an aid partner who have set up a library to deliver digital interactive content.
Myanmar – Rohingya Crisis – Working with an international aid partner who has established education facilities on the Thai / Myanmar border region.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Some of our early stage advisors include
- The International Centre for Social Franchising
- Andrew Tyndale, Social Impact Investment Advisor
- Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
- McMillian Education
- Foundation for Young Australians
- Save the Children Australia
- The University of Western Sydney
- The University of Technology Sydney
- Save the Children Uganda
- The World Literacy Foundation
- Private sector childcare group (36 centres across Sydney & Melbourne)

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Our core team have on average, 10 years, individual sector experience in the area of entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability, communications, urban planning, humanitarian aid, publishing and technology.
We are a diverse group of individuals who have delivered innovation and support services for organisations such as Cisco, Qantas, Patagonia and UNICEF; as well as on-location humanitarian program experience in Jordan, Lebanon, Nepal, Malawi and Cambodia.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

  • Other

Organization Location

Our key product teams are currently based in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. We plan to establish a European office for access to the Middle East.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Discussions with in-region aid partners have highlighted the need for cloud software that enhances the education capability of field teams. Feedback around scale have also highlighted the risks in hiring field team expertise in-house. We have recently formed a partnership with the World Literacy Foundation and Save the Children to create and deliver mother-tongue content for children in Uganda. This reinforces the feasibility of our alliance scale model, outlined in the attached documentation.

Who will implement this Idea?

Project Earnie currently have dedicated product teams based in Sydney, Melbourne and Europe who would support the training, delivery, maintenance and improvement of the platform on a full-time basis. We are currently in discussions with international aid partners and education service providers to provide in-region classroom access, learning outcome and content curation capabilities. Our teams are prepared to scale depending on partnership requirements and focus region. Further details can be found in our additional partnership strategy, scale and distribution methods documentation.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Based on discussions with a Jordanian school, we have included an updated persona and user map.
Curriculum - The teachers understand the importance to abide by their host country’s (Jordan’s) curriculum. This brings challenges as the students start on a Syrian curriculum, it also is problematic when they migrate.
Work and School - Besides or instead of school, children and teenagers work petty jobs to help with the family finances. Education has to be especially relevant and interesting for these students.
Accreditation and Employability - Related to above, there is a great need for the students to see the real benefit of their education. Cross border certification and an understanding of how their studies increase their employability or allow them to go to university is important.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

The following pathways highlight our primary sustainability models.

Multiple partners with common or complementary interests work together to drive scale-up. Feasible due to the innovation addressing a well recognised global humanitarian priority that galvanises the attention of a group of donors, governments and other partners

Licensing rights to parties to drive commercialisation and generate a financial return. Feasible due to compelling commercial value, such as the potential size of the global audience, partners’ willingness and ability to pay for the product.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2021, we have made available a personalised, continuous learning tool kit for the 235,000 Syrian school age children in Jordan, with plans to reach 1.7 million Syrian children in neighbouring regions and 2.1 million in Syria.

How do we transition from a business model of emergency funding, to one of long term sustainability that allows for the mass deployment, continuation, quality programming and sound monitoring of education for refugees and children in global emergencies?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

Speed – The time in which we can respond to, configure and deploy our software in emergency settings
Accuracy – The continued improvement of our technology to assess, personalise and deliver the right content to students based on their profile
Quality - Expanded library of curated mother tongue content
Accessibility – Improving global coverage and continued access for students on the move
Profitability – The automation, replication and scale of business operations

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Yr 1 - Establish key alliance partnerships with a specific region focus in Jordan
- Establish funding model and execute infrastructure assessment for deployment
Yr 2 - Expand in region networks, improve coverage to include more audience and persona types
- Improve product capability, continuous roll out of new innovations based on field experience
Yr 3 - Automate and replicate core business systems in preparation for expansion
- Move towards license out and sustainable funding model

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Between 10-20 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are seeking registration in order to implement in additional countries.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
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Attachments (2)

Project Earnie - Scale and Distribution Models - Supporting Document.pdf

Supporting documentation containing information around scale and distribution.

Education In Emergencies - Idea Submission - Project Earnie - Supporting Document.pdf

Supporting documentation containing all images and slides included with this submission.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rebecca Petras

Your initiative is a very interesting one and is crucial for providing quality education for numbers of children especially minority groups who are not receiving education in their native languages.

I am the Deputy Director in Translators without Borders (TWB); a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts worldwide. We recognize that the effectiveness of any aid program depends on delivering information in the language of the affected population. By maintaining a global network of professional translators, we help non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services while fostering a climate of understanding, respect and dignity in times of great need. We invite you to learn more about our work through this link. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization supported entirely through our volunteers, grant funders and generous donors and sponsors.

TWB’s current translation capabilities exceed more than 190 language pairs with over 20000 translators. So far we have translated over 45 million words as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education services. We have also provided basic translator training to over 250 trainees in our translator training centre.

Since 2010, Translators without Borders (TWB) has played a crucial role within the humanitarian and development sectors leading on localization and translation of complex and lifesaving information into more than 190 languages, especially for populations in crisis. TWB has contributed to building the capacity of local translators in different parts of the world including in Kenya, Guinea and Greece.

Translators without Borders is expanding its program to support Mother Tongue Education programs. We want to work in collaboration with education providers to overcome the language barriers to mother-tongue education. TWB has the expertise and to:

Translate and adapte educational materials in local language, including training translators in local languages
Support Ministries and education providers to develop materials to support teachers in teaching in mother-tongue languages

We believe that our expertise around language and localization when coupled with your expertise and efforts in Education will expand the outreach to marginalized populations unable to benefit from quality education opportunities. It would be our pleasure to connect with you and learn more from you on your ongoing projects and discuss possible ways of cooperation together.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Luke, just wanted to share that you've been featured on our blog! Check it out at:

Photo of Dave Hughes

Hi Luke, this is a great idea! My name is David Hughes and I am the Project Director for the Bendigo Inventor Awards.

Now in our 7th year, the Bendigo Inventor awards have as our focus inventions that address needs in the Emergency Services and Disaster Management space, and we offer a AUD$10,000 prize for the winning entry. The Bendigo Inventor Awards has also created an environment for inventors to obtain support for their ideas by bringing together a coalition of partners with the knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate the progression of ideas from concept through to commercialisation. Major Program Partners include Engineers Australia who are providing technical feedback, KPMG who are offering advice on commercial viability and the path to commercialisation and Red Cross, who are providing their perspective on the relevance of many inventions to disaster relief efforts. Our judging panel also contains representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, who are able to provide similar feedback on the applicability of inventions to the emergency services.

I believe your idea would be a fantastic entry into the awards. Applying is easy and can be done through our website Simply select the category that your invention applies to – ‘Concept’ or ‘Product and Prototype’, and answer some questions about your invention. All judges are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so your idea is protected. Entries close 5pm Friday 29th September 2017 AEST.

I very much look forward to seeing your invention go on to great success, and hope we are able to assist you in enabling that to happen. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch on the phone number above, or via my email at

David Hughes
Project Director
Bendigo Inventor Awards

Photo of Lisa Kovacs

Hi Luke,
I am new to this website but love your idea, how can I be included on this challenge?

Photo of Luke Ma

Hi Lisa,
Thank you for showing interest in supporting our initiative! We'd love to learn more about you, your background, experience and areas where you'd like to contribute.
Feel free to post a reply here on the OpenIDEO page.

Photo of Lisa Kovacs

Hi Luke,
Thanks for your reply.
I am Sydney based, currently studying my MBA, work full time in sales and business development. I am currently volunteering for a charity called the 'Love Mercy Foundation' (Ugandan based). I am particularly interested in how the platform is going in your first initial stage, Jordan in year one is it? How is the technology being embraced from a ground level? Are you finding any road blocks whether it be legal/ governmental etc
Thanks Lisa

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Luke! Thanks so much for all the great details, can you share a little more about the implementing team and how the tech is being built out (in-house, contracted out, etc.)?

Photo of OpenIDEO

Expert Feedback Question 4: In your expert opinion, does this Idea pass the ‘do no harm’ principles? Do you believe that there may be any unseen or undocumented risks?

- An expert shared, “This is a great idea. The risk here is as the project grows to different communities, how will the educational content and stories be tested for quality. I.E not reinforcing harmful traditional practices. How content developed would fit with the existing education system, will be important.”

- Another expert shared, “It depends about the privacy protections built into the system but the team seems to be taking this very seriously as they outline in the "unanswered question" section.”

Expert Feedback Question 5: Based on your experience and expertise, is this an Idea that you’d like to see brought to life? Why or why not?

- Experts shared, “Yes this is a great idea in principle and could provides access to another source of educational content.”

Looking ahead in the development of your Idea, the following are some questions that may be helpful to consider and integrate into your contribution!

- What might a sustainable business model for this look like?
- How would do you intend to make sure that the teachers learn how to use the software?
- What is the distribution plan for this to be used by learners in emergencies? How are children expected to access the platform?
- What's the path to scale?

Join us for Storytelling Office Hours Tuesday, July 25, 2017 from 8:30AM - 9:30AM PST! RSVP at by Monday, July 24, 2017 Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an Idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - August 6 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your Idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Luke Ma

Hi OpenIDEO,

Thank you for your expert feedback, we have definitely benefited from your comments and have incorporated points around scale, distribution and business modelling into our submission.

Regarding feedback point (Question 2) around internet coverage & low resource environments;

There is a common perception that refugee communities live in areas that do not have internet connectivity. Recent UNHCR research has determined that this is simply not the case. Developing countries host 80% of the world’s refugee population.

“Using the most recent data, UNHCR has found that 93 per cent of all refugees live in places that are covered by at least a 2G network, and that 62 per cent live in locations covered by 3G networks” (Connecting Refugees, UNHCR 2016 -

A secondary challenge would be to deliver the program to refugees living in rural communities. Whilst infrastructure is continuing to improve, we are aware that 20% of refugees in rural communities do not have access to internet connectivity. However, for the purposes of immediate scale and deployment, there is an opportunity to reach refugees living in urban settlements, 90% of whom are are covered by 3G connectivity.

Referencing expert feedback (question 2), if we were to look at Jordan as a deployment region; based on UNHCR Data on Syrian Refugees from 2017 (, 78.8% (519,757) of Syrian refugees in Jordan are hosted in Urban settings and 21.3% (141,079) in camps. School age children (5 - 17) represent 35.6% of the total population.

When we calculate potential student reach in Jordan based on available connectivity (student age, in urban settings, with access to 3G), the number would amount to approximately 166,540 students (excluding camps).

Another challenge would be device availability. Considerable effort and successful initiatives are currently underway by NGO partners and governments to improve device availability. This would need to be explored on a case-by-case basis depending on the region, program and existing infrastructure. Device deployment falls outside of our immediate operating capability, however, our software supports the device deployment function in emergency settings by providing a robust, cloud based learning application.

Our software is designed to be able to be used across operating systems and hardware devices; including tablets, desktops, laptops and mobile phones as a minimum requirement.

Based on UNHCR research and observations by a team member on a humanitarian mission in Serbia, refugees rely heavily on their mobile phones for survival and wellbeing whilst on the move. Connectivity is prioritised for activities such as communicating with friends and family, knowledge exchange, health, money transfer and document storage. This informal communications "ecosystem" presents another delivery opportunity for students to continue to access educational material and remote teaching (either via an artificial intelligence chat bot or remote teacher) whilst on the move.

Users can download the application via a variety of delivery methods. Alternatively if connectivity isn’t available, software can be downloaded via a secure local area network (LAN) or even USB keys if required.

Once downloaded users can work either online or offline. The only requirement for connectivity would be occasional updates as well as the tracking of learning progress and learning activity. This data can be stored securely on devices until connectivity becomes available. Small packets of data can then be sent to our cloud based servers. These data packets on average are the size of a standard SMS or MMS.

Whilst we have designed the product to take into account flexibility and scalability within low resource environments - we can continue to learn and improve based on in-region deployment.

Thanks again! Please let me know if you'd like further clarity around this topic.


Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Luke Ma and Team!

We’re excited to share feedback and questions from our experts with you. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your Idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your Idea. Your Idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Our expert reviewers were particularly impressed your Idea leverages technology in creative way to address a pressing issue in the education space!

Expert Feedback Question 1: Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the Challenge question?

- Experts shared, “This application offers a online alternative to access local stories and educational content. This platform could play an important role in supplementing defined educational criteria, with local content. As far as I am aware this is a new idea, directly targeting learners with local content.”

Expert Feedback Question 2: Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. We are seeking to support Ideas that consider desirability, feasibility, and viability. How does this Idea measure up? How does this Idea consider user needs?

- An expert shared, “The case studies make a strong case for the user needs both on the side of the learners and the teachers. The technology seems to address the need for teachers to be able to resort to a content curation solution as well as tools that enable them to quickly evaluate the level of their students.”

- Another expert shared, “This project is developed in Australia. There would be a significant challenge to implement in this in other countries, where mobile communications are poor, or where there is no access to the internet. Furthermore the cost of generating content in a new environment would take significant resources, as participation (visiting communities) is expensive. i'd love to see a trial of this program in refugee camps in Jordan for example. However, there would be significant ongoing costs in vetting and sourcing content.”

Expert Feedback Question 3: If this Idea is submitted from a larger organization, does it have a sustainable funding model? If this Idea is submitted from an early stage Idea, does it have the potential to develop a model for sustainability long-term?

- Experts shared, “Encouraging that sustainable business model is addressed. Further explanation is still required. Is it mainly based on a step change in efficiency and targeting that therefore frees up resources for ongoing operations and scale.”

[Feedback continued in next comment]

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Luke, thank you so much for contributing to the Challenge!

Would love to learn a little more about your high level goals for the next 1-2 years? What are some of the big things you need to be set up for success?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Luke Ma

Hi Ashley,

Thanks for getting in touch, we're really excited to be part of the next phase of the Challenge.
I have listed some of our key goals over the next 24 months. Hopefully this provides further insight into our program priorities.

3 - 6 Months

We’re currently in discussion with 3 education aid partners with sites in India, Jordan and Rwanda who run education programs within the EIE context. We aim establish on-site teams to run user acceptance testing (software), ethnographic research, education pathways, workflow planning, network infrastructure assessments and further persona mapping.
Data, metrics research and testing learnt from our pilot zones will aid in establishing ongoing measurement & evaluation criteria on which to benchmark and track our social impact against.

- Improve and iterate our software prototype based on learnings from extended pilot zone testing.
- Prioritise launch features (UX, Language, Interface, Content, Architecture).
- Begin to clarify assumptions around content creation, delivery and data privacy.

- Establish advisory and governing board.
- Formalise partnerships with content providers, technologists, researchers, educators, learning facilitators and on the ground aid organisations.

6 - 12 Months

Commercialisation & Operations
- Develop licence pricing structure and revenue model. Finalise projected financials for a 12 month period.
- Establish international business operations including: technology, creative, content, education, legal, accounting and logistics.
- Ready product from MVP phase to deployment, available for global usage and licensing.
- Understand the vital elements necessary for scaling to be a success.
- Develop a clearer picture of organisational changes needed to achieve scale.
- Develop systems, processes & materials required for scale
- Develop recruitment & support functions.
- Document systems & processes.
- Develop legal documentation.

12 - 24 Months

Scale & Distribution
- Roll out to multi-region EIE settings.
- Continue to acquire distribution partners, technology, aid and education partnerships.
- Continue to refine the options for scale & improve the model that is working for us.
- Develop a plan for communicating with our global implementers.

Cross Sector Scale
The educational software has diverse cross-sector potential. Scaling the software product beyond emergency settings, to disability, aged care and remote community sectors for example, we would consider alternative scaling models and partners.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Luke, great to have you in the Challenge! The Ideas Phase closes June 25 at 11:30PM PST. Make sure your idea is published so others can see it! Only published ideas are eligible. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.

We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge!