TechEd founder driven by passion, not profit
When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti in 2010, a volunteer aid worker from Queensland saw an opportunity to realise an ambitious vision for humanity – bringing books and literacy to the world’s most vulnerable children through the power of technology.
Rebecca McDonald, a program manager leading a billion-dollar Queensland Government housing development project, relocated to Haiti with her former husband, deeply moved by the ruin and human suffering. As she worked in the disaster ravaged communities, she was shocked by how few books were available in the schools she visited. She soon discovered that this deficit had already been a contributor to illiteracy and endemic poverty before the earthquake.
A long-time bibliophile, Rebecca launched Library For All, a non-profit, cloud-based digital library providing culturally-relevant, age-appropriate books for children in some of the world’s most remote and low income environments.
“Library For All was built around the premise that every child, everywhere, deserves access to knowledge,” Rebecca said during a TEDx Talk in New York City.
In the 11 years since LFA’s founding, Rebecca has realised her vision with impressive milestones – establishing digital libraries and eLearning tools in 14 countries and 17 languages.
In 2020, the organisation merged with Save The Children Australia, solidifying LFA as a global force in education and improving the lives of children around the world.
So, what’s next for Rebecca and LFA? Rebecca recently handed over the reins of her thriving tech-based charity to a new CEO and is now focused on her most ambitious goal yet – ending world illiteracy.
With a phase-one fundraising target of $100 million, Rebecca aims to bring knowledge resources to 95 countries in desperate need.
“I could totally fail and fall flat on my face,” Rebecca candidly shared, “but there are around 800 million kids who won’t learn to read and write otherwise. Frustratingly, we know how to fix this problem. We are just not currently investing enough in the right places.”
To date, LFA has reached more than 560,000 users, delivering cost-effective solutions like robust solar-powered tablets. A massive project is in progress for war-torn Ukraine where the organisation hopes to reach
at least one million children.
“We’re doing some great work in Australia too,” Rebecca said, “working closely with communities to publish books written and illustrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island creators.”
Rebecca’s vision earned her the inaugural WiT Community Award, in 2019. Through WiT, Rebecca met 2020 award winner and former Queensland Government Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp, an internationally-renowned pioneer in emerging technologies. Leanne has helped advise Rebecca on some of the new opportunities for global technology businesses.
“If you want a career in technology these days, you don’t have to work in the commercial sector,” Rebecca said. “You can decide you want to live a life of impact. Money isn’t the only measure of success when you get up with passion every single morning.”
Thank you to ABC News for sharing Rebecca’s story in 2019 after she won the inaugural Community Award at the 2019 WiT Awards. Rebecca was recognised for her impact on leveraging technology to empower millions of the world’s most underprivileged children learn to read as Founder and CEO of Library For All.