Meet Rangan Srikhanta, the Former Refugee Who Wants to Change the World One Laptop at a Time
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
He came to Australia barely two months old with his family fleeing war in Sri Lanka.
Now 31, the Tamil migrant with a broad Aussie accent acquired in Homebush, NSW, wants to give back.
Rangan Srikhanta wants to ensure every child has a free, modular computer to last throughout primary school, in the process teaching them self-reliance and allowing Australia to contribute to changing the world.
A University of Technology Sydney computer science and business graduate, the passionate social entrepreneur’s path first led him to auditing at global firm Deloitte, but his origins kept his feet firmly on the ground.
“With war ravaging in Sri Lanka, Homebush was Tamil central. That was a massive influence with many of my friends. They were very vocal, seeking independence for the Tamil people. Much of it influenced me: what if similar things were happening to a minority in Australia – to indigenous people?,” Srikhanta recalls.
“We came to a country where people had open arms. As much as we wanted for Australia to do something for the Tamils, [we asked] what could we do for Australian society?”
He saw the opportunity when American entrepreneur and author Nicholas Negroponte spun the One Laptop Per Child project out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab in 2005.
The non-profit produced low-cost rugged laptops to be distributed to poor children around the world. By 2008 it had distributed 600,000 XO machines throughout Asia, Africa and South America, and Srikhanta was hooked.