Voiceless faces and missed Cases – Operation ASHA bridges TB and technology

The road to recovery for a Tuberculosis (TB) patient in Cambodia can be long and arduous. For three months, 65-year old Mr. Nou Pov suffered from coughs, fatigue and night sweats, all of which are symptoms of TB, without being able to obtain an accurate diagnosis. “I became weak. I could not work, so I just sat at home,” recalled Nou. Only when an Operation ASHA staff stopped by his home while screening for TB door-to-door and recognized his symptoms was Nou brought to a local health center for testing. Upon being diagnosed with TB, he finally began his 6-month long treatment course.

Nou was lucky to ultimately obtain a diagnosis, but an estimated 36% of TB cases, or 21,060 individuals, remain undetected in Cambodia, according to the Cambodia Ministry of Health. A socioeconomically disadvantaged patient in Cambodia, like Nou, faces many barriers when it comes to TB detection, such as a lack of awareness about TB and healthcare resources, a lack of access to knowledgeable and trained staff, and a lack of means to travel to health centers.

Operation ASHA seeks to minimize the barriers that TB patients face in seeking timely TB care. In 2014, we implemented a new technological solution called eDetection, an app which would strengthen TB case finding and contact tracing. eDetection uses GPS-mapping to help Operation ASHA field staff locate areas with potential TB suspects. Operation ASHA field staff then travel door-to-door through these regions, prompting individuals to answer TB screening questionnaires that have been programmed into the app in accordance to WHO guidelines. By bringing TB care directly to the doorsteps of the underserved, Operation ASHA hoped to minimize the challenges that keep disadvantaged patients from receiving care. Based on an in-built algorithm, the app prompts the field staff to follow up on certain individuals whose responses suggest that they may have TB. Paper-based monitoring methods, the standard method of keeping track of patient screening, is often compromised by human error, thus resulting in patients being lost to follow up. With our app, when a patient is not followed up with, the system generates an alert to the field team, ensuring that each patient gets the right care at the right time.

 

With backing from ISIF Asia, Operation ASHA launched a small-scale eDetection pilot in Prey Kabas Operational District, Takeo Province, in 2014 (download report here). Although our concept was simple, bringing the app technology into rural Cambodia proved to be very difficult. “Most field staff do not begin with any previous experience with using tablet technology and require much training,” said Ms. Sinoth Lay, a Team Supervisor responsible for overseeing the activities of Operation ASHA’s field staff. “None of them had even used smartphones before”. Many rural areas also lacked reliable 3G access, resulting in inconsistent connections with the central server system that sometimes hindered the field team’s work efficiency. Additionally, the vast majority of patients lacked prior exposure to technology and many were initially hesitant to share personal health information with the field staff until they became more familiar with OpASHA’s work.

Despite the initial challenges of implementation, eDetection proved to be a valuable asset for TB screening and detection based on early pilot results. In one year, Operation ASHA managed to screen over 17,000 individuals for TB in Prey Kabas OD, of which 406 people tested positive for TB and were enrolled for treatment. Areas in which the technology was used resulted in 10% more patients being screened and 16% more patients being sent to health centers for diagnosis over areas in which paper-based monitoring systems were used. Most of the field staff also viewed the app positively, praising it for increasing data authenticity in the field. Although still in its early stages, eDetection shows great potential in being both easily scalable and financially feasible. Combined with Operation ASHA’s door-to-door TB care delivery model, it holds much promise for providing high-quality, low-cost care to TB patients across Cambodia.

Hear from Nancy, a woman entrepreneur transforming traditional art through technology

By Nancy Margried, Batik Fractal

Nancy working with a traditional artisan

Nancy working with a traditional artisan

As a woman entrepreneur in technology, I have a unique perspective on running the company. I believe in nurturing  and rely on my own organization’s strength on sustaining the business.

Commonly nowadays, as a startup, it is easy to be carried away on the trend where startups rely on investments to create traction or to scale-up and grow. I started my company with my two co-founders from scratch and decided to sustain the company on its own. Since the first time, rather than using investment money to gain traction, we rely on the trait of our product (jBatik Software) and our paying customers to grow our business. We realized that only if our customers happy with our service, will then our company be successful. In other words, our success is integrated with the success of our software users.

jBatik is a pattern generator software that we use to empower the traditional textile business in Indonesia. Our main customers are batik artisans where they use the software to create endless of new batik patterns to increase their productivity and of course, their profit. To date, there are more than 2,000 artisans who have been using our software which we reached out through direct training to the rural areas of the Indonesia, the places where they live. All of them are paying customers, and we are very happy to see that their income has increased 20-25% through the utilization of jBatik Software.

ISIF Asia Award has leveraged our business in term of visibility and credibility. The opportunity to network with the fellow ISIF winners has given me a better perspective and an improved point of view on addressing the pain points and needs of our beneficiaries, which are the traditional artisans. All of these are very important to continue and grow our social business. After winning the award, we have been able to improve our software training, reaching to more organizations to collaborate to acquiring new users within new strategies and we have successfully secured funding from Indonesia government to build new software to serve more traditional artisans.

Our work is far from perfect. With the focus on progress, we believe that collaboration is the key to our innovation. Only by collaborating with each stakeholder, then we can create a breakthrough to solve our problems.

Why you should apply for the ISIF Asia Awards: advice from past award winner

By Robert Mitchell, APNIC

With nominations for the ISIF Asia Awards 2016 now open, we thought we’d check back with some of our previous award winners to understand how the award benefitted their projects and get some advice on what to include in your nominations.

Khairil Yusof is the cofounder and coordinator of the Sinar Project, which received an ISIF Asia Grant in 2013 in recognition of their work using open source technology and applications to systematically make important information public and more accessible to the Malaysian people.

Established in 2011, the Sinar Project aims to improve governance and encourage greater citizen involvement in the public affairs of the nation by making the Malaysian government more open, transparent and accountable.

Sinar project in action

Sinar project in action

What are the benefits of these kinds of Grants/Awards?

Here’s what Khairil had to say about ISIF Asia’s Grants and Awards:

These awards and grants recognize the difficult and highly technical work that a few civil society organizations do, which is often not understood or appreciated by other traditional awards or grants (for Rights) programs.

Also, being invited to an award ceremony at large event such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), provides you with lots of exposure in an environment where you can meet potential partners and donors that understand your work.

 

What were three key outcomes that the ISIF Asia Grant allowed you to achieve?

  1. The money from the Grant helped our part-time/volunteer effort to register as a proper organization.
  2. It also helped one of our founding members to work full time on funding applications.
  3. Attending the IGF in Turkey provided us with the opportunity to speak with potential donors, which eventually led to initial funding for the establishment of Malaysia’s first fledgling civic tech NGO, and allowed us to continue our work full time.

How has your project progressed after receiving the Grant?

The opportunity to showcase our work to donors led to further funding, which helped with consolidating open standards government data. In turn, this provided open data via REST APIs.

Other achievement include:

  • Powering Malaysia’s Open Parliament efforts [1,2] and the same in Myanmar [1, 2, 3]
  • Uncovering corruption and promoting transparency [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
  • A civil society led open data approach, combining civic tech and open data with traditional social audits
  • Starting a Digital Rights initiative backed by a team with technical capacity, and funded by Access. We are now building partnerships with the TOR Project to collect and report on network interference data and build Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) like alerts for digital rights incidents. We are also providing policy input on Internet and digital rights issues such as trade agreements

What should nominees include in their applications?

  1. Don’t be shy with sharing your methodology and the insights you’ve learned along the way, even if you might think it is trivial. If you’re a very technical team, run your methodology by non-technical friends or family members to get their insights. What you think is mundane, might be inspiring to others.
  2. Review all the outputs you have done; blogs, reports, software, photos, etc. If you’ve been passionately working on your ideas and project, you will be surprised at how much you have achieved. List the highlights in your proposal and reference the other outputs in an appendix or link.
  3. Do Google alerts for mentions and links to your project. It might feel a bit narcissistic, but again you might be surprised at who is referencing or mentioning your project internationally or is inspired by your project work.

ISIF Asia 2016 grant recipients announced!

ISIF Asia 2016 Grants

The first CERT in the Pacific, a Peering Strategy for the Pacific, and a mobile app reader to access books in Thailand’s Karen dialects are just some of the initiatives that will receive funding.

This year ISIF Asia will award its largest ever grants pool, across four categories, to support research and development of Internet technologies for the benefit of the Asia Pacific.

APNIC Internet Operations Research Grants

Around AUD 115,000 was awarded to support the following projects:

  • Realistic simulation of uncoded, coded and proxied Internet satellite links with a flexible hardware-based simulator. The University of Auckland, New Zealand. The main focus of this research is to establish realistic satellite simulator of UDP flows. It also automates experiments run on non-coded and coded configurations. The project builds upon a 2014 ISIF Asia grant to improve connectivity in the Pacific islands (see report).
  • Rapid detection of BGP anomalies. Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures (CAIA), Swinburne University of Technology, This research focuses on producing techniques for the real-time detection of different types of BGP anomalies that can be used by an operator. The evaluation of this tool will be carried out with a controlled testbed using BGP Replay Tool (BRT) to emulate past BGP events.
  • A Peering Strategy for the Pacific Islands. Telco2 Limited, New Zealand. This research continues and expands a set of Internet measurements of latency to Pacific Island telecommunications providers from various locations around the world, that when evaluated in conjunction with submarine cable availability, can be used to determine a metric for efficiency of transit that can be considered along with the economic impact of having an efficient transit. The measurements will be made available in real-time via a web interface to help operators, regulators, and funders understand the physical routing of network traffic, availability of content, and benefits of peering to improve availability, reachability and security of the Internet in the Asia Pacific region.

Internet Society Cybersecurity Grant

With the support from the Internet Society, one grant of AUD 56,000 was allocated for this category, plus additional Monitoring , Evaluation and Communications support valued at AUD 2,500 and a travel grant to participate at the Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico where they will be one of the speakers at the workshop “Cybersecurity – Initiatives in and by the Global South“.

  • Developing Tonga National CERT to the Department of Information & ICT under the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Environment, Climate Change, Information, Communication, Disaster Management (MEIDECC), Tonga. The Tonga Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) launched recently, is the first national CERT in the Pacific region. Tonga CERT was launch with a long-term goal to expand its services to the greater Pacific once fully operational. Tonga CERT will conduct incident handling; perform vulnerability handling; and provide security consultation and advice. Read more from Andrew Toimoana, Director of MEIDECC, Tonga.

Community Impact Grant

The AUD 50,000 Community Impact Grant was awarded to:

  • Equal Access to the Information Society in Myanmar, the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation, Myanmar. This project focuses on women and youth, and benefits 500 people through 20 libraries across the country. The curriculum, developed specifically for Myanmar, focuses on critical thinking in a digital environment of smartphones and tablets. It develops the skills of young female leaders by providing them with specialized information technology training, leadership and job skills, and opportunities to engage in critical public discussion. Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation will also participate in a three-week mentoring program in Singapore, facilitated by JFDI.Asia, valued at AUD 25,000 plus expenses during their stay.

Technical Innovation Grants

Just over 195,000 AUD was allocated to support five projects under the Technical Innovation category.

  • Khushi Baby, India. This project improves digital medical records for mothers and children by streamlining data collection, improving decision making in the field, aiding in district resource management, and delivering effective dialect-specific voice call reminders to mothers. Khushi Baby will also participate in a three-week mentoring program in Singapore, facilitated by JFDI.Asia, valued at AUD 25,000 plus expenses during their stay.

Four small technical innovation grants of up to AUD 30,000 were awarded to:

  • My Community Reader: a Mobile-First Distributed Translation Tool and Reader for Ethnic Minority Languages. The Asia Foundation, Thailand. This project will build, test, and deploy a tool to translate text into minority languages books, significantly expanding the available online library of digital and printable mother-tongue children’s books. It will also deliver a mobile app so people can search the library and download titles on local Android devices.
  • UAV-Aided Resilient Communications for Post Disaster Applications: Demonstrations and Proofs of Concept. Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. This project will design and demonstrate UAV-borne radio payloads as critical network nodes in the development of a post-disaster resilient, delay tolerant communications system, using both multi-rotor and fixed wing platforms with long range radio payload to demonstrate the concept. The UAV will act as data aggregators and wireless store-and-forward relays for collecting important information and providing connectivity to evacuation centers, ground teams and concerned agencies. Data can be gathered from multiple sources below and delivered to another ground team or to a central station, while it can use the wireless link to broadcast messages to the ground nodes. Relayed information can include survivor profiles, food supply audits, medicine requests, and images of victims. This system will be used to assist response team coordination, hasten rescue efforts, and deliver timely updates, among others.
  • Legalese. Legalese Pte. Ltd. Singapore. This is a web application that will enable the growing Asian population of first-time entrepreneurs and first-time investors to transact seed-stage financing with confidence and without expensive legal fees.  The app educates end-users about entrepreneurial finance, facilitates choosing and configuring investment agreements, manage signatures through to completion, and develops libraries of contract templates for Asian languages and Asian jurisdictions.
  • Deployment of Collaborative Modern HoneyNet to improve Regional Cybersecurity Landscape (CMoHN). Institute of Systems Engineering, Riphah International University, Pakistan. The project will deploy and establish the core skills required to manage and integrate different honeynets and design new honeypots for countering cyber-attacks. The project will connect with other honeynets in the region to form a regional collaborative honeynet network, and promote R&D activities to secure network infrastructure through publications and conducting community awareness seminars.

Seed Alliance completion report 2012-2015 published

Back in 2011, APNIC and LACNIC were interested to join efforts to strengthen their regional programs for Internet development. Both ISIF Asia and FRIDA had many stories to tell and supported many projects since they were established. Although they operated in different ways, there were several areas where collaboration was possible. As they discussed the benefits and challenges of a collaborative partnership, AFRINIC was also considering the possibility to establish its own program, so an idea started to take shape.

APNIC and LACNIC approached their main donor, IDRC, to explore possibilities for support such partnership. A whole year of negotiations, planning and strategizing followed, to align the objectives of these three Regional Internet Registries operating in very diverse regions, but with a common interest to give back to their communities, with those of IDRC. During the IGF 2011 in Nairobi (Kenya), a meeting was planned to discussed a final draft proposal document, cementing the idea of establishing a partnership to support valuable research and development initiatives that showcased innovation and technical knowledge, through Internet technologies, for social and economic development. The Alliance for Internet Development and Digital Innovation was born.

DSC00270

Laurent Elder from IDRC facilitating the conversation. From left to right: Phet Sayo & Fernando Perini (IDRC); Hisham Ibrahim, Adiel Akplogan & Vymala Thuron (AFRINIC); Paul Wilson & Louise Flynn (APNIC) and Alexandra Dans (LACNIC). Not in the photo, although attended the meeting were Raúl Echeberría (LACNIC) and Sylvia Cadena (APNIC)

 

The Seed Alliance started operating with contributions from all three RIRs and generous support from IDRC, and contributions from regional sponsors. The initiative attracted the interest of other players, looking for a way to talk about innovation, scale and growth on the Internet, from a regional perspective, to support social an economic development. To use technology for good, not necessarily for profit. A year later, the Seed Alliance hosted its first awards ceremony, at the IGF 2012 in Baku (Azerbaijan). By then, Sida, joined the alliance as a new funding partner and thanks to their generous support, the Seed Alliance started a three years program cycle, that concluded last year at the IGF 2015 in Joao Pessoa (Brazil).

Sida-joins copy

Raúl Echeberría (LACNIC), Paul Wilson (APNIC) and Anne-Rachel Inne (AFRINIC) welcome Jens Karberg (Sida) as a partner of the Seed Alliance at the awards ceremony at the IGF 2012 in Baku

2015 Awards

Seed Alliance partners, sponsors and supporters with FIRE, FRIDA and ISIF Asia awards winners at the awards ceremony 2015

This report, published on the Seed Alliance website, offers an overview of the Seed Alliance’s work completed under the three-year program cycle 2012-2015, funded by Sida and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) which supported a total of 116 projects across 57 economies for around US$ 2.2 million of funding in Grants and Awards throughout Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, helping to strengthen and promote the Information Society within these regions.

From 2012-2015 ISIF Asia was able to support  44 projects across 22 economies in the Asia Pacific region, 22 grants and 22 award winners. Besides direct funding for their projects, ISIF Asia recipients received many mentoring and networking opportunities that increased their knowledge, expanded their network of contacts and provided visibility to their work in a very competitive environment. Our lessons learned, recommendations and challenges are included in the report. As APNIC provided secretariat support to coordinate this three years cycle, we learned a lot about partnerships, about the ingenuity and innovative approaches that are born and bred in our region, about the challenges that the organization we support face. It is a incredibly lucky position to be: to be able to support ideas grow. We continue to do so!

We invite to download the report as well as explore the Seed Alliance website. More information about the report can be found here and the report can be downloaded here.

Internet in Niue: evolution of our First ISIF Asia Award Winner

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Internet Niue will forever be remembered for being the first WiFi country. It’s Free WiFi initiative was a bold move especially on a small remote island in the South Pacific.
Back in the late 1990s, IUSN (Internet Users Society of Niue) a charitable organisation, applied and was later delegated as manager of the Niue .nu ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) by IANA. As part of it’s goodwill offer, IUSN set out to provide free Internet access through an initiative called Internet Niue.  It began it’s limited services with dial-up and by 2003 it had started testing WiFi in downtown Alofi.
On 5 January 2004 Category 5 Cyclone Heta struck Niue with a force that ravaged the tiny island. Part of the capital was completely wiped out by the waves that rose over the 20m upraised coral cliffs.  As a result of this devastation, we had to rebuild our network infrastructure but with better understanding for the forces of nature as well as the environment that our wireless had to go through.
We worked with local organisations known as Village Councils (VC) and used their meeting halls as sites for our access points.  We also partnered with some private sector businesses and home owners to enable the distribution of WiFi to be extended across the narrow villages that followed the main road.  There’s no mountains or hills so we were able to utilise existing towers to install our major backhaul wireless links.  Initially we used empty cat food cans to build our antennaes and these worked well.  But advancements in design and technology including the decrease of prices in equipment have allowed us to extend further.  We now cover 13 of the 14 villages on the island of Niue.
A lot has changed since our first trial links back in 2003 but the vision has remained the same, to provide WiFi to the local communities.  For a long period, the island was able to enjoy free internet but as time passed, we had to adapt the way we operated to be able to cope with changes occurring in the domain name (TLD) world especially with the arrival of new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains).  Our funding is dependent on the sales of the .nu domain names and we have had several years of having the luxury of free services. The main problem with the Free WiFi setup was that over time with the growth of users, the services was degraded.  So a change to the system was needed as we head into the future if we were going to survive.
By the beginning of 2016, plans were activated which allowed us to upgrade our satellite bandwidth with assistance from Speedcast. We started the new venture of charging people and built a system to become a commercial ISP, Kaniu (www.kaniu.nu). We still get subsidised with funding for the satellite bandwidth from IUSN but we’ve had to engage our users and charge them a fee of $50/unlimited per month to cover the local operations.  The uptake has been promising and we aim to continue offering more bandwidth to our users.
But when implementing these changes, the Government of Niue felt that we had violated some Niue Telecommunications laws and regulations and requested us to cease services. We adhered to that directive, even though we believed we had not broken any laws or regulations, and gave notification to our 600+ users as we turned off all our services in March 2016.  Users that benefited from the Internet access provided, voiced their concerns and later on the same evening we received the authorisation to resume our  services much to the delight of our users. We have continued to meet and discuss with the government what their concerns and requirements are as we intend to maintain our operations in Niue, in a small market that is developing.
We have invested a lot of effort and resources so we will continue to do what we do best.
ISIF Award
In 2011, Internet Niue won the ISIF Award for Localisation and Capacity Building. I was invited to Nairobi, Kenya to the IGF (Internet Governance Forum) to receive the Award. It was an amazing experience to meet other award winners and share with them, but there were far greater benefits that grew organically from it.
Personally, I was able to leverage the opportunity of winning the award and be able to participate and contribute to the regional PICISOC, Internet Society, ICANN (APRALO) as well as the Pacific IGF and New Zealand NetHui.  It has been an exciting journey but moreso the recognition for the work of Internet Niue and Rocket Systems both on the island and internationally.  It helped to grow my professional network and enabled my participation and exchange of ideas around the biggest issue in the Pacific Islands, specially for rural and remote locations: connectivity.  We have taken up the opportunity with Kacific’s upcoming service and we’re very excited that their first interim service is active in Vanuatu.  With this kind of an opportunity including the Hawaiki project underway, the future for our Pacific People looks promising and we can finally realise the dream of becoming more engaged in the digital economy.  Even though I still manage our Niue project, I have found more opportunities in the land of the long white clouds, Aotearoa New Zealand.  I am currently involved in the Makanet project that will see the use of the Kacific service to deliver broadband to rural and remote locations in New Zealand.  This will be a major undertaking and the potential to connect the under-served communities of New Zealand is similar to our own Pacific under-served communities.
The ISIF programme has assisted some great projects in the past and I’m sure it will continue to help others grow to greater heights.  So if you’re interested in using this great resource to develop and gain more exposure for your work, please don’t hesitate to apply at http://isif.asia/award
I’ll be happy to connect with anyone who is wanting more information about our ISIF Award experience as well as our ongoing projects in the Pacific.

Zaya Learning Labs: Putting ICTs in the Classroom

Neil D’Souza is an Indian engineer and a dreamer. His dream is to help the underprivileged children to receive a quality education. A Life Commitment to Education D’Souza’s passion to help the disadvantaged started during his time at Cisco. For … Continue reading

Combating Electronic Violence Against Women in the Philippines

For the past two decades, the rise of ICTs has generated new forms of violence. Such violence happens online or via mobile phones, and women are the first victims. According to UN Women, nearly 75 percent of female Internet users … Continue reading