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Image: Robert Castro

Alok Sharma, a telecommunications specialist and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who splits his time between Sarasota and San Francisco, first recognized students’ computer disparities in 2013 as a volunteer at Pine View School, which his daughters attended.

“Schools don’t have cutting-edge hardware,” he says, “while software is getting more complex. It requires more memory, more CPU, more graphics.” Plus, outside the classroom, 60 percent of his students went home to outmoded, hand-me-down computers, or no computer at all.

So, in 2015 he created MobileNerd, an app that allows outmoded computers to process even the most data-heavy software, which can otherwise only run on expensive, high-performance machines.

Using Microsoft Cloud, MobileNerd creates a virtual, personalized desktop from which a user can operate any application on nearly any computing device. Today’s advanced software programs are measured in gigabytes, but because MobileNerd’s computational power is remotely located, the user’s computer only needs to process a scant 10 kilobytes. “You can have a $50, five-year-old machine,” says Sharma, “and have the same computing power and software applications at your fingertips as Bill Gates gets.” 

Sharma began using an archetype of the program in May 2015 at Sarasota’s Faulhaber Fab Lab, where students, on their own devices, use state-of-the-art design software to interact with 3D printers and other manufacturing machines. Sharma says MobileNerd has endless uses for the $6 trillion global education market. Packaging it as a monthly subscription service, he and a handful of partners are discussing its implementation with select colleges and other entities. Sarasota remains the headquarters for the technology’s further testing and development. 

“We want Sarasota to be a hub of innovation,” Sharma says. “We’re eliminating the digital divide.”

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