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MIT Ethiopia: An Opportunity for Google

I doubt anyone working for Google has ever taken the time to glance over Lamp Post Reports, nevertheless, this post presents what could be an enormous opportunity for the enterprising company.

Mekelle Institute of Technology, located in the city of Mekelle in northern Ethiopia is a small, private, strapped-for-cash university educating the top information technology and engineering students in Ethiopia. MIT’s vision statement reads,

“Mekelle Institute of Technology will be a center of excellence in technological training and research, contributing to sustainable development and the fight against poverty.”

The four departments at MIT are Computer Science and Engineering, Information Technology, Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Electronics and Communication Engineering.

MIT’s objectives are stated as such:

– “To produce high-level professionals in the fields of Science and Technology, who can invent and innovate.”

– “To produce professionals who can contribute towards our transformation to a self-reliant and vibrant society.”

– “To produce professionals who can apply research to enhance development of the country.”

– “To improve access to education and provide opportunity for students who aspire to build their careers in the fields of engineering, state-of-the-art communications and information technology.”

– “To make the Institute a center of excellence.”

Begun in 2002, MIT was originally the vision of Ato Araya Zerihun, but in 2006 he passed away after suffering a heart attack. Since his passing, the school has continued to produce highly qualified students, with a perfect, 100% job placement rate for all graduates.

As with any start-up however, over the next 5-10 years the school will need a significant amount of funding to continue to support current enrollment levels (120 students per class) and to expand facilities (classrooms, labs, dorms). Each year, over 450 students from Ethiopia qualify for admittance to MIT, but only the top 120 are admitted because of limited capacity. In addition to accepting more Ethiopian students, MIT is also interested in accepting qualified international students, but cannot do so due to funding.

Walking through the campus with Dean Soori, I noticed the grass had not been cut in some time. Before I could question Dean Soori about this, he told me the grass was allowed to grow throughout the summer, then cut and sold in order to generate income. Other creative, but desperate income generating schemes include renting out the largest lecture hall for around $75 USD per day, when it is not needed by MIT.

It’s hard to imagine an institute that churns out such quality, in-demand graduates (by companies such as Information and Network Security Agency (INSA), Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC), Mesfin Industrial Engineering, Ethiopian Electrical Power Corporation and in IT graduate schools in India, Holland and France) but barely has enough funding to stay afloat.

Dorm rooms, classrooms and labs are all in short supply. Currently, eight students are crowded into each dorm room (4 bunked beds), and the staff break room was recently converted into a dorm room. A temporary building (tin and stick construction) is used for extra lab space. Ten classrooms, which could be used immediately, remain half-finished due to inadequate funding.

Sports fields, common at most any Western university, cannot be found at MIT though the school has title to enough land to easily grade a soccer field; funding is not available for such a low priority item.

Inflation continues to severely strain the budget, especially the amount allocated to food, as cereals in the region have roughly doubled in the past year.

Acquiring quality teachers on a limited budget is quite a strain. The school has managed to do so thus far, but challenges remain in securing enough funds to pay appropriate salaries for highly qualified faculty and recruiting more faculty as the school expands.

It seems that an investment of a few million USD over the next 5-10 years would have a dramatic impact on the intellectual capital pool in Ethiopia for years to come. MIT graduates are highly skilled, hard working and employable at much more locally competitive rates than outsiders. Any IT firm interested in a presence in this area, or in hiring top quality IT professionals, should take a serious look at MIT and MIT students.

As Dean Soori stated of the highly driven students at MIT, “It’s not about managing here, it’s about teaching. All students have keys to the labs and can use them 24/7.”

The ripple effect of an MIT partnership with a firm such as Google, could be immensely positive and far reaching. There is a lot of talk of the opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid, but unfortunately not a lot of action. Sure, investing in such an institute, when a return is hard to measure in the near term, is a risk. But to a company of Google’s stature, $30 million USD over ten years (a very rough estimate) is minute compared to the possible return realized by extending their internet and software services to the 85 million people in Ethiopia, not to mention the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, and establishing a recruiting arena for top talent in this region.

The fight against poverty in Ethiopia is real; nearly 85% of Ethiopia’s population remains employed in the agricultural sector, and the income level and standard of living in Ethiopia remain among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.* The impact of an investment in intellectual capital would be invaluable to Ethiopia’s development. Unlike some developing regions, where top students strive to succeed in order to move away to a better life (a phenomenon known as ‘brain-drain’), the students I talked to at MIT were focused on developing their education in hopes of contributing to the overall development of Ethiopia.

Asmelash Teka, a 4th year student majoring in Information Technology, dreams of acquiring his masters in the US, then coming back to work in Ethiopia for a few years before returning to the US for a PhD. Long-term, he hopes to return to his native land and start a software company, based on Tigrinya and Amharic (two of the predominant languages in Ethiopia).

Asmelash, in perfect English, declared, “I dream big, short-term as well as long-term plans.”

I have no doubt Asmelash will succeed. He’s focused, driven, and highly intelligent. Thankfully, MIT has enough funding to make it through this year (he will graduate in the spring). It would be a shame, however, for more of Ethiopia’s top students not to have the opportunity to follow their dreams, just as Asmelash is doing.

JTV
Mekelle, Ethiopia

MIT’s website: http://www.mekit.net

Some pictures from MIT have been posted on the ‘Lamp Post Photos” link on the right.

*”Current Experience on Existing Small Scale Irrigations,” Yalew Belete, MoARD, Best Practices and Technologies for Small Scale Agricultural Water Management in Ethiopia, 2006.

55 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a really interesting blog post,I have added your blog to my bookmarks I really like it,keep up the good work!

    October 28, 2008
  2. y.h #

    i really like the blog that u posted about MIT and it’s graduate students.as MIT graduate i feel proud to hear such true history. keep it up!….by the way, may i know who you are please? do you know why?, coz i am so passionate to know such a responsible guy!!!!

    December 7, 2008
  3. MIT Graduate #

    I really appreciate your true and valuable story about MIT.I think you have already got some know how about MIT and this post will also probably enable other people to get some knowledge who didn’t get opportunity to visit MIT(Ethiopia).

    Feel free all to visit MIT.

    December 7, 2008
  4. Ambachew #

    it made feel sth special when I read this story!
    bravo MIT!

    December 9, 2008
  5. F.T #

    A friend told me about your blog
    Wow, great story!
    As an MIT graduate, I haven’t done what you did to publicize MIT. Thank you for writing about MIT.
    Keep it active.

    December 15, 2008
  6. MIT Graduate2 #

    feel proud when i read this story!!! it is very nice for ALL MITians. you have said it the exact points of MIT and please post about MIT again!!!

    December 15, 2008
  7. andegergsh #

    tehagushe eye tehagushe ,
    Tigray zaadey werki teshelemley

    December 15, 2008
  8. Thank you John. We will make MIT a center of excellence as its Vision states….

    December 15, 2008
  9. L.Z #

    well put. I, for one, can testify that the potential of the students that Graduate from MIT and that are still at MIT is enormous. For those who are far-sighted enough to invest on people, this is the perfect spot.

    December 15, 2008
  10. H. Tesfay #

    Dear All:

    I am very pleased to hear how MIT is progressing. Congragulations!

    I hope MIT will be a pioneer in science and technology. My experience in MIT was very sweet. Intelligent and very bright students who have great interest to learn more.

    My vision to MIT is to be a national center of excellence for Ethiopia. Ethiopia needs such centre of science and technology that produces graduates who are problem solvers. We need critical thinkers, equiped with the knowledge of science and engineering and also who appreciate the national values of tolerance and team work.

    We have to attract competent and high scoring students from all corners of Ethiopia and give them opportunity so as to come up with new and creative ideas to solve our multiple problems.

    I have seen myself with the limited resources at our disposal how the students and staff worked hard to achieve their goal.
    The MIT board also worked hard to realize the mission and vision of MIT.

    Wish success to MIT

    With regards,

    H. T.

    December 15, 2008
  11. Interesting! but has got some problems…
    1. Dean Soori is not such motivational and He is not active for such cases. Even He is not okay with lab rooms.”As Dean Soori stated of the highly driven students at MIT, ‘It’s not about managing here, it’s about teaching. All students have keys to the labs and can use them 24/7.'” But He is one of the Most Careless Peoples in this Campus in issues with Computer Lab rooms….
    2. The writer refers and interviews only one student, Asmelash Teka, when there are many similar students who may have another Vision(may be better). This could make the writer blog more Complete, and Diversified…..
    3. Topic tries to link Google and MIT, but the body of the blog is more about MIT’s Financial issues , The Campus’s and its students’ status…. About Google is only one paragraph and this paragraph is also not clear… Did Google and MIT talk? Does Google looking Students from Africa? Or was the Writer trying to Link Google and MIT(may be if He has something to do in Google)?
    General this Blog is very Interesting, Motivational! I am sure every student will be Happy to read this… Thank you John!

    December 15, 2008
  12. John T. Vaughn #

    Thank you all for visiting Lamp Post Reports and also for the comments on this post.

    In response to MITian’s comment #3 above, I do not work for, nor have I ever worked for, Google. Moreover, I know of no specific talks between Google and MIT or if Google is specifically recruiting students from Africa. Through the post, I was simply trying to make the case that MIT provides a substantial base of highly qualified students in information technology and related fields. I feel that an investment by Google in MIT Ethiopia would reap rewards for both MIT and Google – MIT would become financially more stable and Google would have a talent pool from which to develop a headquarters in the Horn of Africa, if they so desired.

    Again, thanks for reading and the feedback is more than welcomed!

    JTV

    December 15, 2008
    • freshman 2010 #

      I am freshman in 2010.And i found ur blog very nice. But the case is Dean Soori is not with at this time. Can u pls write a blog to get back Dean Soori into MIT. Or do something else to make him come back to MIT. MIT is incomplete without Dean Soori. MIT is awake but its half world is asleep without Dean Soori. So pls help MITians get our Dean Soori, the great man of MIT, back.
      yours sincerely,

      June 2, 2010
  13. MITGraduat@IITD #

    Dear JTV,

    Thank you for putting such an impressive and awesome post about MIT in your blog. MIT will be the hub of qualified IT professionals in Ethiopia.

    Keep it up the good work,

    December 15, 2008
  14. MIT graduate, NL #

    I am really excited to read this in your blog. I am sure, the visions and missions of MIT will come true even if it takes sometime.
    Thanks for your great contribution.
    Keep it up!

    Long live MIT

    December 15, 2008
  15. Hi!
    This is some thing beyond excellent.Know what, none of us, the pioneer graduates of MIT, have tried to talk about this very beautiful and homey campus of ours in the internet.
    Thanks for doing so.
    MIT is way outta center of excellence.These young visionary engineers coming out of the campus can do some thing unimaginable! may be some thing better than Google, ha ha ha.
    Who knows, lets leave it to time and God.
    Anyways, I gotta thank ya so much.
    keep the good work on.
    peace out::

    December 16, 2008
  16. Graduate #

    QQQQQQQQQQ JTV ,
    The key of z Existence and productivity of MIT are Z hope and strength of its students only, so it will be good opportunity for google and other company’s to have link with MIT to meet its vision

    December 16, 2008
  17. Graduate #

    QQQQQQQQQQ JTV ,
    The key of z Existence and productivity of MIT are Z hope and strength of its students only, so it will be good opportunity for MIT and google or other company’s to have link with MIT to expand ICT.

    December 16, 2008
  18. hotgirl #

    Let’s hope that this glimpse of expertise in science and tech will grow soon!

    December 16, 2008
  19. AS.BKL #

    Dear John, I pay my sincere gratitude and appreciation for your entire visit and exploration the one and sole higher institution established recently nevertheless prove to be the one intended to be by the giant founders. You express everything right on your blog about MIT quite naturally. But I tell this, some another dimension of the school. In every boy or girl coming out from the school the mentality of serving at most with diligence and proficiency is the thing I found on my self and many others graduates like me that still come forth only from the foundation of the great institution, the vision and dream of our pioneer fathers . It has been witnessed, the saying MITIANs are highly skilled, is not mere cant. It is fact that the graduates of MIT are serving their mother country and the field they are in, at best. With its infancy, the campus is at encouraging standing but it is clear pressing aid is very important to amplify the outcome, esp from the gradate.

    December 16, 2008
  20. Fab graduate #

    This is very nice of you to be concerned about MIT. MIT’s and its Graduate’s dream is becoming true since its first graduates joined the real world’s employment or after the graduates have started to make their dreams visible at least to them selves. MIT’s graduates are now at the top level national research centers in all around Ethiopia. I hope we will be making the country’s vision brighter with in decades after getting exposure from the developed countries if we all got an opportunity to follow up the evolving technology. I dream that we will be implementing our own new technologies and research centers with in the coming two decades.
    For sure our dream will be true.
    Fab

    December 16, 2008
  21. petros reda #

    hey !
    it is so nice idea and keep it to make mit femous evey where through ur knowdage and giving information about MIT

    thank u

    December 16, 2008
  22. I really like this blog about MIT!

    December 16, 2008
  23. An MIT Graduateraduate #

    Wow! Tnx for enabling me to read the truth I know and came through, actually.
    This is a Correct, Perfect, and a highly motivational blog about MIT, I suppose.
    I am certain MIT will grow big – much more bigger than what it is now – coz I can see what its fruits are doing already.
    There were not many advertisements about MIT so far.
    Its great deeds will testify and advertise it very recently – trust me!
    Keep it up

    December 16, 2008
  24. colonelJonathan !!!! #

    OH John!, I am really really gratified for what you have done to ethiopia so as to MIT !!.Thank you over and over again. But it is a shame to us for that we didn’t it prior to Mr.JOHN.
    Any ways there some other things to be done to MIT, like what Mr.John has done, so let’s not west a fraction of seconds!! Let’s rash rash !!

    bizi terfe bita’mi iye tahaguise! tahababeru, tefatewu, tesaneyuta……timhirtkum dima maximum abtsihwo!!

    I LOVE YOU ALL MITians, i love you now and then !!

    wa’e a’beyti ahwat dia kemizi iyom ziblu ember.
    bay !!

    December 16, 2008
  25. MAN OF ABBYSINIA #

    Bravo john.U are good judge.U write Wat u see.I am shure u will fill proud of yourself doing this.Cus u are doing something unforgetable.As far as I know u are the first to write about some thing which the rest the world donot care. U will be remembered as 1 of the influencial members in founding MIT along with beloved Araya Zerihun. Do n’t quit .U are n’t working for many but beyond that.

    your name will remain for generation .

    December 17, 2008
  26. teklichew #

    Thank u sir, u did great job. You are one one witnes of what MIT is.
    You are also one supporter of the mssion of MIT.
    Any way your name will rembered by MITian and by the whole Ethiopian people.
    thanks alot again.
    I love u MITians.
    you see “be storng, Accreditation will come it self”

    December 18, 2008
  27. solomon #

    Thanx more for giving this much information to the rest of the world, to make our institute very popular.
    I am aa student of thiss institute and i am very pleased
    with whaat u have wrote down here.
    solomon
    soleboy2000@gmail.com

    December 18, 2008
  28. hey it is great to see this realy true blog.
    I like your blog and realy i proud of the true history of MIT.

    January 23, 2009
  29. ohhh i left sth to say….
    I LOVE YOU …MITIANS

    January 23, 2009
  30. T.g #

    Hey,
    Thanks Jhon
    It is good to see as well as to hear MIT(Mother of Integrated Tigrians) with the vision of producing such intelegent students who can make their home land Ethiopia be searched and known by other pop all over the world.
    I ,as a member of MIT student will do some thing good for MIT.
    thanks

    February 3, 2009
  31. Graduate I #

    Hello Readers and I wish you all the best in your life.
    First I want to appreciate and thank John T. Vaughn for his doings.
    Nice people like you write about what they saw ,so they are also
    Mirrors of the real world.
    This is really a nice and motivational blog,I liked it very much.
    All in this entire article is real and truth.
    MIT is right a visionary campus and it can be even a reference for
    the rest Ethiopian universities especially in its curriculum.
    If we work hard, there is no doubt that MIT will be a center of research and intelligence.
    At this time MIT needs some funding i.e. financial help for the establishment
    Of facilities like classrooms, lab rooms, dormitories etc.
    I am sure that some non-governmental organizations will give their hand if they are
    Informed about this.
    At the end long live MIT and may the soul of our father Araya Zerihun(the founder of MIT) be in rest!!!
    Thanx again for your interesting blog John.

    February 11, 2009
  32. H.T #

    U KNOW MIT?A VERY FANTASTIC AND VERY PLEASANT PLEASE ?I HOPE SO.THERE ARE A LOT OF OPPERTINUTES FROM THAT COMPASS ,SO ENJOY AND VISIT FOR THESE OF U ,DONOT KNOW HER.I AM ONE OF THE MITIAN STUDENT .
    HAVE A GOOD LUCK STAING HERE AT MIT.
    H.T.

    February 27, 2009
  33. MIT is the vision of Arya ,may his soul rest in
    Heaven,the mission of every one of us and the goal of we youngsters.It should bet he concern all of us as much as we can.

    March 2, 2009
  34. Brook A.H(gc_2001) #

    What is written about MIT is very interesting.
    yeah
    MIT is center of excellence and much more is going to be done.
    Hope fully in the coming 2020 there will be a bunch of new projects that are going to solve a lot of brainstorming problems in the whole over the world.

    To your surprise students of MIT enjoy doing huge projects both in there mini and final year project this quality is the result of the habit of self teaching and starvation; this starvation is not actually about food rather it is about knowledge.
    we all MITIAN’s enjoy doing good projects for the best of ETHIOPIA and we will keep THE LEGEND ARAY’s vision forever,
    until our final goal is reached, which is ETHIOPIA >=CHINA IN TECHNOLOGY !!!!!!!!
    PLEAS KEEP ON POSTING ABOUT MIT THERE IS ALOT TO BE SAID

    May 14, 2009
  35. Tsegu g/yesus +2510910074688 #

    thank you John! Etiopia will be the home of prominent sceintists because she has briliant and ginius leaders

    July 1, 2009
  36. it is realy facinating to see such a bolog.

    November 6, 2009
  37. Tukue MITIAN #

    wow ,interesting to hear about My campus Mit. let’s work hard to make MIT more better .

    Thank you Mr JOHN

    December 30, 2009
  38. thank you john
    MIT student
    really i appreciate you for your true report.i hope you will continue such good things .

    January 9, 2010
  39. Senay #

    How to say…?
    I have a dream that MIT is goin to be class of tech. No ?.
    Anyways, let us be globe and hand for the better future.

    February 13, 2010
  40. yonas wedihagos #

    wow this is splendid i really like it mennnnnnnnnn
    lets be 2gether and workhard
    good to see this

    February 26, 2010
  41. Birhane #

    yeah the right the idea what I am hearing from you all guy’s
    thank you for all of you deserve the correct idea.
    I will post again.
    MIT undergraduate

    June 26, 2010
  42. MIT undergradaute #

    hello all MITIAN’S
    feel responsible & say something about the current issue of MIT together.
    It is a risk if MIT continues like what is today.

    August 28, 2010
  43. Yea there is Problem In MIT now! Specially the one who is assigned as a Dean!
    He is not deserved for that position!
    But it doesn’t matter! we will throw him away soon!
    the time to bring the changes in MIT is now coming soon!
    OUr sociaty who is in need of Technology will be satisfied soon! Instead of blaming those who are there, stay working hard and and it is easy to go into revolution!

    Lets work hard together! And Radical changes will come out!
    Lets plan and point out the main Goals of MIT! There are alreay plans and goals, lets see them as professional and responsible person!

    i will be here soon!

    September 25, 2010
  44. ethiopian #

    I am really interesting to get such an important technology institute in Ethiopia. I really appreciate but is it only for u tigrian guys i heared like that is it really true? if so i really disapointed. I need to know what is exactlly going on over there any one of you guys tell me that please.
    thank you

    October 14, 2010
  45. student #

    I have no doubt that MIT will suitable for studing for every one .This is what I have seen so far.

    October 17, 2010
  46. ethiopian 2 #

    Yea, so intersting to find such bright institute in Ethiopia. I’m so delited to hear that too. But, MIT(Mother of Integrated Tigrians)??!?? Give me a break, If the plan is to nail poverty, why tigrians only… A wise man once said “Every time you think you know it all, there is always someone who knows better!” It’s not only u “MITians” who could make the diffrence B)

    January 13, 2011
    • sol #

      @ethiopian 2, I guess the institute is open for all Ethiopians and even for international students, but the problem is the budget. Also about why only Tigrians , you start a journey by a foot step. If every region got one person like “Araya Zerihun” (founder of the institute), the country would have a better opportunity to eradicate poverty.So it is not only Mitians who are gonna make a difference, but add to make the difference.

      September 27, 2011
  47. Mehari Kirso #

    MIT is in it ruins now. Current Administration has only one mission and vision in mind. Get maximum money from EFFORT-( EFFORT is sponsoring MIT currently)and by some means get part into their pockets ( Vice Dean Administration is openly doing this) . Present dean is just a MSc in Biology and PhD in education has no knowledge about how an Technological Institute has to be. He creates some rules always shutting inside his office without having any idea. Many existing staff will go out of this Institute at the earliest. Borad of Governers have no idea about what exactly is happening in the campus. They blindly believe nicely prepared documents by this Dean. His plan is to kick out all the existing departments and have only the Biological and Chemical Engineering. All the staff members and students are unhappy with the current administration. Students do not have any voice in the current activities. They are totally out of focus. Now Dean is planning to start MBA, teachers education in Biology, Mathematics and all.
    If EFFORT is not going to monitor what is actually happening they are spoiling their hard earned money.
    Someone was telling through the current construction plans…
    both the Dean and Vice Dean are going to get large amount of money through the contractor…….
    And so many..such things……….
    MIT is in it ruins

    January 25, 2011
  48. woygud #

    I just came across to this blog when I was searching for MIT USA. I am from Ethiopia.I found some inaccuracies in your story, first Mekele Institute of Technolog is not for all Ethiopian, it is for Tigrian. I don’t have any problem with that as long as they don’t steal money from other parts of Ethiopia. but given the political situation of Ethiopia and their records, they never shy away from doing that.

    January 30, 2012
  49. mullexme #

    so lovely people. i really loved it.

    April 4, 2012
  50. Awesome blog. #

    Tnx Dear John for what u did to help for our campus. MIT is the one bright institute in Ethiopia. And you know Learning in the MIT with a variety of
    excellent people, laboratory facilities and the pool of dynamic researchers would be wonderfully stimulating. Long Live to our campus. Love u Mitians…

    July 2, 2012
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