Digital learning for emerging markets

CGAP and Mastercard Foundation

Gateway Academy's homepage

CGAP and Mastercard Foundation are rethinking learning in digital markets. In 2015, they began to research how to build the capacity of Banks in emerging markets to meet the needs of the poor.

In 2016 we brought together a team of technologists and learning experts to build a new type of learning experience, designed specifically to meet the needs of these emerging markets. After an exhaustive search and selection process, we started work with the CGAP team since 2017 and designed, built and launched Gateway Academy.

Working from the ground up, we partnered closely with the CGAP team to create a new, digital-first organization with its own product, brand, business model, operations and growth strategy. In 2020, the now branded Gateway spun off outside of CGAP into a South African based learning organization

Creating a digital organization

The first modern learning platform designed for emerging markets

The way people learn has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Digital platforms have allowed learning to become more decentralized, accessible, and scalable, though it has been largely developed for highly educated, affluent learners in developed economies. Gateway Academy to respond, instead, to the needs of learners in emerging markets so that the learning experience is consistent regardless of the technology available, and access to the internet.

Culture-led digital transformation

In the early phases of the program, we identified that organizational culture would be just as critical, it not more so, than getting the technology right. Our target audience, Banks in Sub-Saharan Africa, have traditionally done learning in person and for a select few individuals, but with the growing youth boom in Africa, bringing digital learning is the most scalable and effective way to build the capacity of their employees.

Similarly, very few courses were ready for digital learning that reflected African learning experiences, so we partnered with local Training Service Providers to build their capacity and understanding of digital business models.

Design-centered learning

Creating a learning experience that embodied values of trust, consistency and quality required creating a design language for digital learning. This design architecture was used for every course that was included onto the platform to ensure that they meet the quality standards for high-quality learning experiences.

Innovative impact business modeling

Creating a start-up within some of the world’s largest bureaucracies has its challenges. We had to design a business model and approach that reflected the impact focus and mission driven goals while being financially viable.

The platform

Gateway Academy web application

Lightweight & extensible

To make the learning experience as seamless and effortless as possible, we designed the technology to get out of the way of the learners. We designed the platform to be able to respond to three types of courses: Self-paced, Cohort-based, and Workshop-based. We architected the platform to provide data analysis on learning, offer white-labelling and allow for learner data to be portable so that their data travels with them as they switch organizations.

Offline access

No shortcuts were taken. To build an app that is simple, enjoyable, and fast, we envisioned a new strategy for cross-platform mobile app development. We ran a design workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with users and partners to really design and focus on the needs of Gateway Academy’s target users. We learned that most users would benefit from being able to take courses on their phones. Access to computers is usually only available at the place of work, but all learners had smart phones and limited data plans. Learners also wanted to learn on their commute, and in response we designed both an offline and mobile experience.

Two native apps, less code

We developed iOS and Android simultaneously. In order to speed up development and reduce maintenance, we created a shared layer of business logic for all platforms. So when we have to make a change, it updates across every platform.

Gateway Academy web application

The most interesting thing was the research tools and talking to clients. Coffee with clients. The assignment was to talk to customers and staff to get their views on savings accounts. It gave me interesting insights and we are launching a new program as a result, to address a need. In talking to our clients during the assignment, the need to have a kids savings account came up. We are now looking to launch.

AB Rwanda

Gateway to the future

Incubation and spin-off

Gateway Academy was always planned to spin-off and become its own organizations. From the initial design we planned for Gateway Academy to become its own, financially viable organization. We led the design of the business model, advising on expansion strategy, fundraising and set up of the Board of Advisors. Currently, Gateway Academy is raising $10 million from strategic donors and looking at further expansions globally.

More work

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