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MIT Legatum Center announces inaugural class of Legatum Fellows

Entrepreneurs aim to scale up enterprise solutions in developing markets
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The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT announced May 20 that it has selected its first class of Legatum Fellows for the 2008-2009 academic year.

"The Legatum Fellowships bring extraordinary men and women to MIT to pursue enterprise solutions to some of the most difficult challenges facing low-income countries," noted Iqbal Z. Quadir, director of the center. "By empowering entrepreneurs, the business plans created by Legatum Fellows will serve to catalyze organic, bottom-up development."

The 12 students who form the inaugural class hail from across the globe, from Rwanda and Nigeria to Colombia and the United States. Their projects cover a range of endeavors--from generating clean, low-cost energy and increasing market access to food producers to developing mobile medical diagnostic devices and water treatment solutions.

Founded in September 2007, the MIT Legatum Center serves as a launching pad for a new generation of entrepreneurs who want to develop the technologies and skills necessary to launch innovative businesses in developing markets. The competitive fellowship is aimed at incoming and current MIT graduate students and provides funding and exclusive opportunities to engage with world-renowned entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and investors. The application for the 2009-2010 Legatum Fellowship will be posted online in September.

The 2008-2009 Legatum Fellows are:

Amy Banzaert, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and design, is developing an alternative form of charcoal--made from sugar cane waste products--that can provide affordable clean cooking fuel in underserved regions.

Robin Bartling's previous work in Indonesia employed market-based solutions to promote microinsurance policies for microborrowers. He is focused on building a business that provides small and medium producers from lesser-developed countries access to the U.S. market.

Derek Brine is pursuing dual master's degrees in city planning, at the School of Architecture and Planning, and in civil and environmental engineering. He is interested in incubating innovations in Kenya that help local enterprises to catalyze deeper social-structural change.

Craig Doescher will examine ways to leverage supply chain management and micro-distribution strategies that enhance the efficiency and operations of local shop-owners. Previously, he helped launch a Honduran company that manufactures toys for Western markets, providing opportunities for local woodcutters and tradespeople.

Nicola "Niki" Gomez will explore two enterprise solutions with a focus on promoting sustainability in her native Sri Lanka: increasing the recycling of technology products in low-income countries and investigating the viability of a cultural organization that promotes art and artists in South Asia.

Murali Govindaswamy developed the WiMAX Common Software Platform while an engineer at Ericsson. He aspires to bring WiMAX-based Internet connectivity throughout rural India and, in so doing, to increase access to education, medical care, improved agricultural techniques, cottage industry markets and e-governance in rural communities.

Nada Hashmi, a PhD candidate at the Sloan School of Management Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship Program, plans to develop remote diagnosis technologies to assist city hospitals in communicating with rural village clinics in the Middle East.

Ravi Inukonda, a former senior program manager at Microsoft who will be earning his M.B.A. degree at the Sloan School of Management, plans to build an IT infrastructure based on mobile phone usage in India that will foster growth of small businesses.

Jean Pierre "John Peter" Nshimyimana's previous work includes a cholera awareness campaign and multiple sanitation and water quality activities in Rwanda. Upon completing the Legatum Fellowship, he plans to return to Rwanda to start a company that provides engineering solutions to a range of water-related problems.

Natalia Maya Ortiz plans to spend her Legatum Fellowship focusing on ways that information and communications technologies can increase agricultural production and expand access to markets in Colombia.

Adnan Shahid is a Sloan Fellow in the Master of Science in Management Technology in the Innovation and Global Leadership Program at the Sloan School of Management. He is focused on creating a technical incubation center for mobile technologies in Pakistan that will advance commercially viable enterprises.

Oladapo Tomori received his medical degree from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and completed graduate residency training in psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As a Legatum Fellow, Oladapo plans to leverage mobile technologies to enhance healthcare monitoring, diagnosis and drug delivery in Nigeria.

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