A passion for travel and for computers has taken Ben Cole '10 halfway around the world and back. His interests also have led him into a career devoted to making the Internet -- and technology at large -- a pervasive, positive and integral part of people's lives around the world.
While pursuing his degree in information science at Cornell, Cole spent a semester at Oxford University that shook him loose from his Long Island roots.
"It was at Oxford that I discovered my love of traveling, of experiencing different cultures, and of living in interesting places," he recalled. "Though the idea had been marinating for some time, it was this period that granted me the certainty that it was something I had to do."
So he decided to take a "gap year" after graduation. Over the course of 2010 he managed to spend time in 20 countries spanning four continents, backpacking through Europe, visiting China and, finally, working for Google in Africa as a "technology pioneer," launching new technologies aimed at effecting positive social change. He helped to organize communities of African techies and taught business people there how to get the most out of the Internet.
His goals, it seems, mesh with those of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Cole has received a Gates scholarship to pursue a master's degree in computer science at Cambridge University. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates scholarships are awarded to about 80 individuals each year, including about 30 from the United States.
Cambridge, Cole says, offers a world-class program in computer science that will expand the technological skills he will need to empower people in the developing world.
"I believe that with universal and unconstrained access to information and communication, human potential is endless," he said. "I want to open these doors for people."