Eric Mibuari ‘06 was not discouraged by the few electrical outlets in the church room donated for the new Laare Community Technology Centre. He’d grown up in Laare, a hilly Kenyan area 200 miles north of Nairobi, so he knew that electricity was spotty. He also knew he would find no shortage of creative energy among community members and church elders. In fact, he soon had a local electrician adding outlets. And he knew he could count on the support of MIT faculty, administrators, and students. He had started the center in 2005 with an MIT Public Service Center fellowship and 12 used computers donated by MIT libraries.
An IT analyst at Citigroup in Boston, he knows the life-changing importance of education firsthand. “Seeing how much a good education has given me has inspired me to help others gain this advantage,” says Mibuari, whose parents struggled to send him and his five siblings to school in Kenya. “We have a lot of very talented kids who can benefit from exposure to even a fraction of the resources that are available in the United States.” With basic computer skills, “they can get jobs in the cities or run computer access points in their hometowns.”
Mibuari decided to start the technology center after working with MIT’s Africa Internet Technology Initiative (AITI) and Development Lab (D-Lab). Through AITI, he taught Java programming and entrepreneurship to undergraduates in Ethiopia. Through D-Lab, he helped establish a community-based radio station in Punjab, India. “My MIT education taught me how to bring diverse resources together to make things happen,” he says.
The center, which offers a course in Microsoft Office software and Internet browsing for just $26, has quickly garnered local interest. Recently, Laare community leaders donated four acres of land for an expanded facility. To raise $100,000 for construction, Mibuari is working with Imara, an outreach program at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. (Learn more online: laare.csail.mit.edu/giving.) “I hope to see construction start by the end of 2007,” he says.
While he gains experience with Citigroup, Mibuari, who plays table tennis and Scrabble in his spare time, feels the tug of his homeland. He plans to return eventually after earning an MBA. “I can see myself working on a combination of technology, business leadership, and international collaboration,” he says. “I want to continue to address economic disparities using technology, beginning at the local level.”