Monday, July 28, 2014

Thank You, Gerardo!

The Benetech team has just bid goodbye to VP of Engineering Gerardo Capiel, who is moving on to his next adventure. A passionate technology-for-good advocate, Gerardo has made major contributions to Benetech’s social mission since he joined us over four years ago. As we are getting ready to welcome a new VP of Engineering, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Gerardo for his many contributions and their lasting impact on the lives of the people we serve.

Gerardo helped Benetech dramatically increase our capacity to benefit larger populations by scaling our services, revamping our innovation process, and establishing a thriving network of industry partners and volunteers. He oversaw the development of numerous products and services that allow us to drive social empowerment through technology across all our programs. He also championed an open source ethos so that our work can be broadly shared (you can view all our open source projects on GitHub). Gerardo’s contributions related to the Benetech Global Literacy Program include:
  • Overseeing the building of the tech infrastructure that has taken Bookshare from serving tens of thousands of members to over 300,000 members, with a rapidly growing collection of 280,000+ accessible ebooks.
  • Leading the engineering team behind an expanding portfolio of Global Literacy products and initiatives, such as:
    • Route66, our online instructional literacy program for adolescent and adult beginning readers;
    • The Poet image description tool;
    • Read2Go, the bestselling accessible ebook reader app for iPhones and iPads, and Go Read, the equivalent Android app;
    • MathML Cloud, a cloud-based app that automatically creates accurate images and image descriptions of mathematical expressions, while retaining the detailed math markup for reference;
    • Major new features and formats for Bookshare,  including audio versions of our ebooks; Spanish text-to-speech; web-based reading and organizational tools, and more. 
Former Benetech VP of Engineering speaking with team members during a brainstorming session in Benetech offices.
Gerardo during a brainstorming session in Benetech offices
  • Advising to and leading Benetech’s collaboration with standards organizations and groups that advance the field of accessibility in education, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the DAISY Consortium. These efforts helped drive Benetech’s new work on accessible widgets, experiments with scalable vector graphics (an open standard for rendering graphics in web browser, developed by W3C), annotation as a tool for accessibility, and more.
  • Overseeing the Accessibility Metadata Project, with which we led a collaborative effort to develop standards for accessibility metadata. As Gerardo explained in a recent blog post, Schema.org—the organization that keeps a list of agreed-upon tags that all search engines can use in common—adopted our proposed standards, so that search engine users can refine their searches to easily find accessible learning resources online.
  • Inspiring hacker-led efforts to collaboratively experiment to advance the field of accessibly in education through initiative such as an accessibility sprint with OERPub, or work on MathML protocol handler.
Additionally, Gerardo helped conceive our major new effort to ignite new tech social enterprise through Benetech Labs. Select examples of Labs initiatives in which he was instrumental include:
  • SocialCoding4Good, a major tech volunteerism initiative bridging the open source software, nonprofit, and corporate tech communities. SocialCoding4Good connects software developer professionals from companies like VMware, HP, and Google to volunteer their time and technical talent to open source social good projects at Benetech and our peers, including the Mifos Initiative, Wikimedia Foundation, Medic Mobile, and Mozilla.
  • Clean Water Project, an effort to strengthen the capacity of Latin American clean water organizations through enhanced data platforms.
Gerardo has shared many of his presentations on these and other topics, which are available via SlideShare.

On behalf of the Benetech team, thank you, Gerardo, for the immense impact you helped us create in the lives of multitudes around the world, and for establishing Benetech in such a strong position to create more impact than ever in the coming years!

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