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The MBA Student Empowering People Against Fake News

The MBA Student Empowering People Against Fake News main image

Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has massively impacted countries all around the world.

From the Asia Pacific region to North America and Africa, as world leaders implemented lockdown measures to protect the most vulnerable members of the population, workers and volunteers from a wide range of industries mobilized to support local communities in the fight against Covid-19.

Steve Tchuenté Kayo, an MBA student at HEC Paris, is one of them.

In April, as France entered a new lockdown phase, Steve was encouraged by his MBA mentor to look for opportunities to make a positive impact – unfortunately that was when the virus had started to spread in Africa and within Steve’s home country, Cameroon, where his family still lives. Steve says he started noticing a pattern in their communications, which ultimately was the catalyst for his entrepreneurial venture.

He said: “I started receiving a lot of messages from my family and friends about coronavirus. When going through those messages, I noticed some information that was being shared that didn’t sound right at all. It was quite astonishing.”

Steve says misinformation in Africa was spreading faster than he had expected, with people resharing fake news they had found on the internet about home remedies, infection rates and how the virus affected people’s health.

After speaking with colleagues and fellow b-school students, Steve quickly realized this wasn’t an isolated incident – a number of people he knew had experienced something similar with their own families from other parts of the world.

He said: “There was a gap between people’s ability to critically analyze information about the coronavirus and what was actually being shared. It looked really dangerous. That’s when I realized how powerful the misinformation had become.”

As he began trying to find a way to tackle this issue, Steve was told by a friend about MIT’s ‘Africa Takes On Covid-19’ Hackathon, a b-school initiative that aimed to empower entrepreneurs from different countries to take action during the pandemic. That is when Steve, encouraged by his mentor, decided to participate. He quickly assembled a team of six friends across five countries to create a project that would help people from all over the world validate the accuracy of information provided surrounding  coronavirus.

In just 48 hours, Steve and his team had completed a prototype for a fact-checking smartphone-based software named AccuroLab, which in May was recognized by MIT in the ‘Flattening the Curve’ category of the Hackathon.

However, while this business venture denotes great entrepreneurial spirit, Steve says he never planned to become an entrepreneur.

He said: “I come from a consulting background, and when I joined the MBA program at HEC my goal was actually to move into strategy consulting. I wasn’t planning on becoming an entrepreneur.”

Steve says joining HEC’s TEC Mentorship program – an initiative reserved for 10 percent of the school’s top MBA students – is what really pushed him to pursue a different path and try something new.

He said: “One of the key takeaways from the TEC program is what you have to leverage your MBA and get away from your comfort zone, try something different. So, I said to myself – you’ve never tried entrepreneurship. Take a look at what’s out there. So, I moved forward with the Hackathon.”

But Steve’s goals don’t stop there. The AccuroLab team is currently in the process of testing the platform through different users in Europe, Africa, and the US, collecting information on how effective the platform is, as well as garnering people’s feedback. Steve says he plans to officially launch the software in late July, hoping it will soon act as an intermediary channel between cellphone users and trusted health organizations, helping them fight the spread of fake news across the world.

He said: “The timing is right, and we’re really excited. My MBA experience definitely opened up another perspective for me. There are a lot of things happening around us, and it’s important to stay aware because in everything there’s opportunity.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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