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Four Diaspora entrepreneurs in Forbes Innovators list

Four South Asian-origin Diaspora entrepreneurs have been named in Forbes Magazine’s 2012 list of ‘Classroom Revolutionaries’ who are using innovative new technologies to reinvent education for students and teachers around the world.  

The CEO of tablet PC maker Datawind Suneet Singh Tuli, 44, founder president of online university edX, Anant Agarwal, 53, Bangladeshi-American education pioneer Salman Khan, 36 and London-born CEO of digital textbook company ‘Kno’ are featured in the annual list of 15 education pioneers.

Forbes magazine said these innovators were “harnessing a slew of disruptive technologies to change everything from the way we teach grade school math to how we train the next generation of teachers.”

Tuli’s UK-based Datawind is behind ‘Aakash’, the world’s cheapest tablet computer which was specifically designed to take technology-based education to millions of Indian students. 

Forbes said the $35 tablet “has the potential to revolutionize educational access in the developing world”. 

The publication quoted Tuli as saying: “I don t care about creating the iPad killer. I care about the 3 billion people who can afford this device.”

Despite being beset by software and logistical glitches, more than three million tablets have been sold since 2011. 

Agarwal, a professor of Computer Science at MIT, has said he “aspires to educate a billion people” with edX, an online collaboration between Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas, which offers university courses for students worldwide, free of charge.

edX attracted more than 150,000 students at its launch in April 2012 despite previous attempts by other institutes such as Yale and Oxford at creating similar online portals. 

The project currently has 400,000 students following mostly science-based courses.

Osman Rashid was born in London but raised in Pakistan, before moving to the US in the early 1990’s to study electrical engineering in Minnesota. 

A serial technology entrepreneur, Rashid founded three software start-ups before launching ‘Chegg’, a university textbook rental service often described as the Netflix of the multi-billion dollar American textbook business.  The company’s ‘Kno’ tablet device is specifically designed to download and view textbooks.

Perhaps the most famous among the four is Salman Khan, not least due the fact that the Bangladeshi-American shares his name with the Bollywood superstar.

Khan, a regular on the Forbes list and one of Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2012’, is the founder of the Khan Academy, the educational website which promises ‘high quality education to anyone, anywhere’. 

The graduate of MIT and Harvard has so far created 3,400 videos, mostly science and math tutorials, that have been watched by more than 200 million people.

The Academy’s YouTube channel has more than 400,000 subscribers.

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