Apply Now for the Digital Youth Fellowship Programme

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The Digital Youth Fellowship Programme (DYFP) of the Digital Empowerment Foundation seeks to engage willing youths in India and South Asia, who are keen to have development and grassroots experience in working with communities in any parts in India. The fellowship period is for minimum 90 days duration, and fellows get travel, accommodation, and living expenses during their fellowship.

Over 100 selected fellows will be guided to work with communities under various Digital Empowerment Foundation programmes that have Information Communication Technology (ICT) applications, usage and utility. Fellows will be expected to engage in:

  • Community mobilization and engagement
  • Skill development & capacity building
  • Reporting and documentation
  • Information and content aggregation
  • Research inputs including data capturing and mining

Willing applicants can write to Ms. Ritu Srivastava, Programme Manager at ritu@defindia.net with a formal communication along with updated curriculum vitae. Application shall accompany with a 500 words note on why the applicant is interested in one of the various flagship programmes of Digital Empowerment Foundation as briefly outlined below:

Digital Panchayat
Under this initiative, fellows are ought to travel and work with a cluster of Panchayats at a district level. The tasks of the fellows are cut out to make elected members digitally literate and collect content of the Panchayats and put them online through dedicated Digital Panchayat website. Check out online Panchayats at http://epanchayat.in.

Wireless for Communities (W4C)
The Wireless for Communities (W4C) initiative establishes wireless based broadband internet cluster and provides connectivity in remote areas denied of connectivity and access. Using the free spectrum for wireless connectivity, W4C program has so far established 8 community networks in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand. If you are keen to experience the W4C journey, as a Digital Wireless Fellow, you can join the program for a minimum 3 months period and explore on the ground how to connect rural and remote locations and feel empowered. More details at http://wforc.in

Chanderiyaan
The Chanderiyaan project was initiated by DEF as a part of digital cluster development flagship programme. As a fellow you can join the Digital Fellowship of the Loom programme and contribute in textile and apparel designing and making entrepreneurs out of the weavers and contribute in overall cluster development.  Check out the Chanderiyaan project at http://chanderiyaan.chanderi.org/, the Chanderiyaan e-commerce platform at http://chanderiyaan.net  and the Chanderi heritage town at http://chanderiheritage.in

Community Information Resource Centres (CIRC)
Digital Empowerment Foundation has established more than 30 CIRCs across India, which are digitally enabled and Internet connected for information services delivery and access, digital literacy, ICT Skills, citizen services and livelihood opportunities. The mission at DEF continues to establish one CIRC in each district of India. As CIRC resource persons, selected fellows are supposed to work with a particular CIRC, can join a 3-6 months stationed programme and contribute in making one person per household digitally literate and information empowered. Check out for more details at http://defindia.org.

Digital Library Programme (DLP)
As a fellow of the DLP programme, selected fellows are invited to work with district public libraries in Kanpur Rural District (Uttar Pradesh) and Betiah in West Champaran District of Bihar. Selected fellows shall contribute in implementing and running various programme activities in the libraries with the support of ICTs.

eNGO
Fellows are invited to join the eNGO programme to empower grassroots NGOs and development agencies with ICT support. Fellows shall provide support in having NGOs their own web platforms; provide content, training and capacity building support of NGOs and their functionaries to make them ICT enabled. Details at http://pirengo.org

How Mobile Reporting is Reducing Maternal Mortality in India

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Women in the Indian state of Assam are routinely denied access to adequate health services and Assam’s health facilities often lack the resources necessary to ensure safe motherhood. As a result, Assam has the highest maternal mortality rate in India, with most of the deaths occurring among Adivasi (tribal) communities who live and work in the tea gardens.

These violations of the rights to health, life and equality are neither reported nor addressed. Basic tools to communicate, inform, and document violations are virtually non-existent, and women lack access to mechanisms to hold public and private entities accountable for the failure to provide life-saving treatment as required by law.

The End Maternal Mortality Now project launched an interactive website built on Ushahidi, to map failures in the health system in the State of Assam. Over 40 women in the District of Sonitpur have been trained to report violations of health and food benefits provided under the Government welfare schemes through codified SMS texts, which are then mapped to detect patterns of violations. The project is supported in its pilot phase by the Information Society Innovation Fund.

Jaspreet Singh from the International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD), an organization that combats structural discrimination, says:

“The SMS system allows for the tracking of multiple health rights violations, including the lack of resources at health centers. It is also acting as a community empowerment tool by engaging local women to collect data that will be used to hold the government accountable.”

The data received is gathered on endmmnow.org, which maps patterns of violations as well as individual cases across the District. The nine-month pilot project will be used to demand better health infrastructure by local activists and lawyers through administrative complaints and court litigation so that tea garden women workers be treated with dignity and have guaranteed access to lifesaving healthcare.

Can Mobile Technologies Solve Energy Poverty in India?

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Geetanjali is a 20-year-old Indian girl; she comes from a poor family; and her dream is to open her own designer shop when she graduates from college. Thanks tomobile enabled electricity, her dream may come true much sooner that she expected.

Energy Poverty in India

Geetanjali lives in a slum near Bangalore, one of India’s biggest cities; and, like 75 million people throughout the country, her family has had to struggle with energy poverty for years. Where they live, there are actually electric lines; but their house was built without a permit and they could not get connected to the grid.

And, even though they could have accessed it, they would probably have experienced 8-10 hours of electricity cuts every, as it is often the case in the poor neighborhoods. In India, experts say that under-electrification hits about 80 million people.

Geetanjali’s parents do not have much money, and up to last year they would use kerosene lanterns to address their lighting needs after dark, whether it was for cooking, studying, sewing, or simply for eating. However, kerosene light was inefficient, lasted no more than one hour and caused strong indoor pollution. For Geetanjali, it made it very hard to study long hours after dark and in the longer run it would have been a major hurdle to her success.

Of course, her parents could have purchased car batteries. Battery-powered light is often brighter, and it would have enabled them to charge small devices too. For them, it was not the right solution, though. As fuel price has constantly increased over the past decade, car batteries have a cost too, and to some households, it can account for 30 percent of their spending. Besides, they would have had to go regularly to the charging plant and leave the batteries there for two days, which they thought was not so convenient.

Geetanjali’s parents wanted to go solar, just like their neighbors did a few years before. But, however convinced they were about the benefits of solar home system, they had to wait until October 2013 before they could switch to a solar solution when this was made possible by an innovative energy company called Simpa.

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Selling Solar Home System Like Cell Phones

Simpa was started in 2011 by two dynamic American entrepreneurs who strived to expand the access to off-grid solar solutions to the base of the Indian economic pyramid. To achieve this ambitious objective, they came up with a simple idea, which was to replicate the success of India’s mobile revolution in the energy sector.

In India, there are 850 million cell phones throughout the country, and it took less than ten years to reach both the richest and the poorest. According to Michael Marcharg, Simpa’s co-founder, the key factors to this incredible success were the fall in handset prices but also the pay-as-you-go model, which has enabled the lowest-income people to adapt their consumption to their actual revenues.

For Marchag, many disadvantaged households actually have the money to pay for the ongoing costs of a solar home system; but often they cannot make the upfront investment. They need time to raise the required funds and as their revenues are highly variable, they need to be able to pay as they go. This is why Simpa worked on a software solution that allows both progressive payment and flexible pricing.

Indian people can therefore get Simpa’s solar home system for a $20-40 initial payment. To have electricity, the users have to purchase prepaid cards of 50, 100 and 500 rupees, on which there is a code. With this simple code, they are able to activate the whole system and generate as much power as they prepaid for.

simpa3

By purchasing these energy credits, Simpa’s customers do not pay for the light only; they also pay down the cost of the product itself. To most people, it takes them three to five years before they can reimburse the full purchase price; but once it is done, they own the solar home system and can enjoy free electricity for 10+ years.

For low-income households, this progressive payment model makes all the difference, and it is not surprising that Simpa expects to reach more than 60,000 Indian households by 2015. Taking the example of Geetanjali, her parents could indeed afford to pay outright for Simpa’s solar home system; and, for 100 rupees only, they can now get electricity for one or two weeks in a row.

For them, life is much easier. They can power their home with 25-50 watts lamps, but also charge a cell phone, a fan, a mixer or even a television.

As for Geetanjali, she can now practice painting and sewing until midnight, maximizing her chances to achieve her dream!

Vote Now for 2014 ISIF Asia Community Choice Award

vote-now

We are very pleased to announce that ISIF Asia received 93 applications for the 2014 ISIF Asia Awards. 34 applications from 12 different economies have been selected to take part in the awards process. The ISIF Asia selection committee has officially started the assessments of the applications to select 4 award winners, one for each one of the award categories to be announced during the first week of July.

Each award package comprises of 3,000 AUD cash prize plus a travel grant to attend the Internet Governance Forum in Istambul later this year, to participate in the discussions about the future of the Internet.

Community Choice Award

In addition to the 4 awards selected by the Selection Committee, the Community Choice Award is given to the application with the highest number of online votes. The online voting is open until midnight on 26 June.

Please vote for your favorite project:

  1. Login to be able to cast your vote.
  2. Review the Award Nominees and choose your favorite applicant.
  3. Click on the red square with the word “Vote” to cast your vote.
  4. Verify the information on the pop-up window to make sure the vote is valid.
  5. Another pop up window will appear indicating that your vote was successfully submitted and inviting you to promote your vote on social media. Please share widely, to increase your favorite project’s chances to win.
  6. Logout from the system so that others sharing your computer will be able to vote from another account.

Please note that Facebook likes are NOT counted as votes.

The Telecentre Movement in Bangladesh: Ups and Downs From 1987 to Present

bangladesh-telecentre

Telecentres are known to ICT4D professional as a popular ICT4D initiative to bridge digital divides and build an information society, one aspect of the WISIS 2003/2005 agenda. Being influenced by the WISIS Geneva and Tunisia summit, International donors prioritised telecentre projects in South Asian and African countries. As a result, the telecentre movement was at its peak during last decade in Bangladesh, however telecentres started in Bangladesh in 1987.

Because of my involvement with the telecentre movement in South Asian and African countries during that period, I am in a position to reflect their history and impact. In this post, I am describing the ups and downs of the telecentre movement in Bangladesh from my own experience.

Inception of telecentres in Bangladesh

In 1987, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) launched Gonokendra (people’s centres), which is considered as the first generation telecentre in Bangladesh. The services of Gonokendra includes facilities to read newspapers, exchange experiences, learn from success stories, get information about innovations to improve livelihoods, etc. using mainly hard copy materials as only 5% of them had computers, none of which had internet connectivity.

After several years, in 2001, organisations like Amader Gram and Relief International started their telecentre projects. With other factors, availability of GSM based internet connectivity (GPRS, EDGE), played a significant role in boosting telecentres during 2005. After 2005 several organisations including corporate organisations like Grameen Phone started telecentres for their commitments to society.

Telecentre as a movement in Bangladesh

Telecentre.org supported the inception of the telecentre movement in Bangladesh which was started with ‘Building Telecentre Family in Bangladesh: A Workshop for the Social Entrepreneurs and Practitioners’ held in Rangpur Bangladesh during August 27-29, 2006.

I am fortunate to have first-hand experience of the workshop where participating organisations in Bangladesh decided to consider telecentre as a movement to fight against poverty and carry it forward. Telecentre.org provided support to learn from the experience in India, Sri Lanka and Uganda to ensure sustainability of the movement.

Birth of Bangladesh Telecentre Network (BTN)

After much though about the modalities to make the initiative sustainable, the momentum created in Rangpur continued with the financial support of telecentre.org to develop a network organisation for telecentre activist in Bangladesh. As an ICT4D professional, I was proud to lead the development of the website, mission2011.net.bd and tools like GIS Based National Telecentre Database and Telecentre Reference Desk which was aiming to help BTN members.

Unfortunately, the member organisations were not encouraged enough to take over those tools after the network start-up funding from telectetre.org ended.

Mission 2011: Pledge to establish 40000 telecentre by 2011

Inspired by the ‘Mission 2007’ of India, BTN declared an ambitious ‘Mission 2011’ to establish 40,000 telecentres in Bangladesh by the 40th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh adding up the commitments for new telecentres of the members. Gradually, BTN started to realise that it is impossible to reach the target. Despite of efforts to convince people BTN could not stop some of the critics. Unfortunately, like many other development projects BTN’s influence becomes weaker with the phase out of donor funds.

I had access to the complete list of telecentres in Bangladesh as the Bangladesh country manager of the Global Impact Studies. According to my analysis Mission 2011 was able to achieve less than 10% of its target, however my colleagues claim that it played an important role to include telecentre as an agenda in the Digital Bangladesh declaration of the Government of Bangladesh.

Government take over telecentres and scale them up

The Access to Information (A2I) Programme housed in the Prime Minister’s office of the Government of Bangladesh took over the idea. As a result, on November 2010, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh inaugurated one Union Information and Service Centres (UISC) in each Union Parisad (4,501 telecentres in total). However, all of them were not operational at the beginning.

Recently, Bengali newspapers published several articles criticising the quality of UISC services. During my visit to Rangpur and Barisal region in November 2013, I found that among 60 farmers I talked to, only three know about the centres and one used their services. The farmer seems not so happy, but he mentioned it is better to have something than nothing.

Sustainability of Bangladeshi Telecentre

As we know, the sustainability of telecentre is a widely debated issue. A significant number of ICT4D professional and academics claims telecentres are not sustainable. However, there is another group who claims some of the telecentres are sustainable. The case of Bangladesh is not an exception.

As the Bangladesh country manager of the Global Impact Studies, Survey my observation is, on an average only 5 people visits a telecentre each day which is not enough to earn enough revenue for sustainability. However, there may be some exceptional cases.

The Evolution of Telecentres and Libraries in Indonesia

cybercafe

Telecentres, a public place to access computers and the Internet, and libraries aim to serve isolated community to facilitate better access to information and knowledge. Especially in developing countries, telecentres and libraries help in reducing digital divides.

In the development of this concept, telecentres also favour for profit entities as cybercafés, which have similar goals as telecentres. Gomez et al. (2009) includes cybercafé as a telecenter by recognizing the importance of cybercafé in providing access to ICT, although an institution or network doesn’t support it. Cybercafes are located in areas with high income and tourists, yet do offer an important source of public access to ICT.

Looking to the potential of Indonesia, it has 14,516 libraries, 400 telecenters, and 7,000 cybercafés (Gomez et al., 1999). From this statistic, it is interesting to see the potential for growing telecentres in Indonesia. Here are two case studies of the use of libraries as telecentres in Indonesia.

Online Content Library

Public libraries, as the new telecentres, provide public access to ICT in Indonesia. In West Kalimantan, the use of ICT in public libraries is driven by K@Borneo, an international multilateral relationship between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam in Borneo, a strategic island in the middle of Southeast Asia. The countries have authorities to protect sustainable forest within Borneo.

Supported by more than 16 institutions from 2 states and 3 provinces, K@Borneo has important roles to ensure accessibility of information resources about Borneo and was initially founded to use online access to provide key knowledge to citizens on Borneo.

Focusing on forest at the beginning, K@Borneo nowadays expands its digital collections to other topics. The good news for local libraries is that the more digital contents, the higher demands to provide computers and Internet access for citizens. Therefore, the need of telecentre equipment in public libraries is high and seen as necessary.

For example, a public library managed by West Kalimantan Provincial Government provides 24 PCs and equips Internet access points for public who need the Internet for both accessing content and seeking books in an online catalogue managed by the library administrators.

Because of the ICs, the library now has increased visitors. Over 340 visitors come to the library every day, including holidays, 7 days a week, and 47,860 visitors came in the last year. Nining, a computer administrator of the library says,

“There is significant increase since the library provide Internet access and open every day, Monday – Saturday from 08.00am to 10.00pm and Sunday from 08.30am to 05.00pm. In addition, 200GB bandwidth quota allocated for this month already run out a week before the end of the month”

Modern Library Concept

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Jakarta’s @america, is an interesting example of how the concepts of telecentres and libraries have evolved to the present day. Unlike telecentre that focuses on providing access to computers, the US Embassy’s funded @america offers its visitors access to resources, learning space, as well as educational advice and guidance. @america interactively engages audience with varied and edgy content-rich activities such as discussions, web chats, competitions, cultural performances and exhibitions.

Moreover, @america equips audiences with the latest mobile devices and Internet connection – all free of charge. @america takes benefits from its location in a popular upmarket shopping mall with its large crowds of regular shoppers. Accordingly, @america is open for public 10am to 9pm daily. To further its impact, @america builds partnership with non-profit organizations, educational institutions and private companies to expand its message.

The idea of @america as a contemporary technology-rich library has superseded the one of a telecentre. As various studies have proven, a telecentre, with its simplistic approach, is unable to either promote social inclusion effectively or bridge the digital divide in underserved communities. With its strong online and offline presence, @america has emerged as an attractive public access venue for multi-facet communication, interaction and learning. People are hungry for knowledge and opportunities; @america delivers exactly that.


Contributors

Eko Prasetyo leads the implementation of Jhpieho’s mHealth initiative in Indonesia. He graduated from MSc. Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) programme at The University of Manchester.

Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia works as Database Analyst at West Kalimantan Provincial Government, Indonesia. She holds an M.Sc in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) from The University of Manchester.

Larastri Kumaralalita is currently member of e-government laboratory in University of Indonesia. She gained MSc. of Management and Information Systems at Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), University of Manchester, and Bachelor in Computer Science, majoring in Information Systems, at Computer Science Faculty, University of Indonesia.