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.

Solo Kota Kita: Empowering Citizen-led Service Delivery Improvements in Indonesia

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Indonesia has an annual participatory budgeting process (musrenbang) where residents can openly engage with local governments to highlight the community’s priorities for short-term improvements. Traditionally, musrenbang has been an exclusive process — only the older, elite individuals with access to limited public information partook in the discussions. This, however, is slowly changing due to one organization’s effort to advance civic engagement using SMS surveys and data visualization.

Kota Kita (an Indonesian NGO) emerged in 2009 out of John Taylor and his friends’ initiative, Solo Kota Kita. They were interested in improving the budgetary process in the city of Solo, but discovered that citizens lacked information about their city’s local service delivery. What was more, even the local government lacked fine-grained information on the services they offered. “We saw a need to change the status quo of the budgetary process, and create a culture where anyone can engage in musrenbang by having data about their communities to improve urban planning,” Taylor remarked.

Addressing this challenge required collecting data on key social and economic issues and visualizing the results. Taylor and his teammates received buy-in from then mayor of the area Joko Widodo (who is now the President of Indonesia), neighborhood elected leaders, and resident volunteers to gather information on sanitations, water, education, poverty and health care in 51 neighborhood districts within Solo.

During the pilot phase, Taylor and his teammates collected results using paper and pencil surveys. But this took five months just for gathering data, so in 2012 the team decided to use SMS gateway to collect data to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. With SMS survey, the Kota Kita Solo team gathered data from all 51 districts in just two month.

“Digitizing the survey made the analysis process easier,” Taylor commented. “We were able to quickly map out the results because the data was organized better. We created posters or ‘mini-atlases’ that showed patterns of problems and opportunities, like which areas were not getting electricity, how many children were attending schools in certain districts, how much water citizens were getting, etc.” The Kota Kita Solo team posted the maps throughout the city where people come together (at kiosks and community centers) and also on solokotakita.org. These mini-atlases aided citizens visualize and understand what services needed the most attention.

As a result from distributing critical socio-economic information, more citizens- not just the older elites – can partake in the urban planning process. And now, increasingly more citiznes are attending musrenban in Solo to advocate for what they think are urgent areas to receive funding in their neighborhoods.

musrenbang

Having proven that this model works, the Kota Kita team has been replicating this survey-mapping approach to improve urban planning in other Indonesian cities as well. More recently, they applied the method to help the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia identify service needs of the rapidly growing population living in portable yurts in outskirts of the capitol.

The team used the same approach as Kota Kita Solo by surveying the socio-economic situations of yurt migrants, mapping out the survey results, and then using the data for the 2014 budgetary discussions for the city. The survey and mapping process was an eye-opening experience because it was the first the former Soviet Union country openly engaged in a dialogue between the citizens and the government.

So what makes the Kota Kita model so successful? Taylor noted that to implement an impactful, citizen-oriented urban planning program, three things must be kept in mind.

  • First, it should take a bottom-up approach that involves the community so that civic concerns are incorporated.
  • Second, having the community actively involved (by involving neighborhood leaders, for example) is imperative to make sure the results are accurate.
  • Lastly, endorsement and demand from top government level officials for the program is important. In the case of program in Solo, the then-mayor Joko Widodo’s buy-in and excitement for the civic mapping was critical for the success of the program.

Taylor remarked that advancement of ICT tools has definitely helped his organization do more work in transparency and civic engagement space. “Kota Kita hopes to continue creating opportunities for open dialogues between the government and the citizens, especially for young people. We’re now creating a budget implementation tracker using Facebook so that more youth can comment and participate in their community decision-making process.”

The tracker is still in its early phase, but it’ll be exciting to see how Kota Kita will continue using visual data tools to empower more citizens to democratically engage with their governments in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer at Center for International Private Enterprise

ISIF Asia Award Winners for 2015 announced and Community Choice Award open

The Awards recognize initiatives from organizations that have already been implemented, or are in the final stages of implementation, and have been successful in addressing their communities’ needs.

During the 2015 call for nominations, four award winners were selected out of the 78 nominations received across four categories, covering 12 economies in the Asia Pacific. Proposals from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand were assessed by the Selection Committee.

The commitment and continuous support from the Selection Committee to choose the best projects is key to provide legitimacy to this award. We thank Phet Sayo (IDRC), Gaurab Raj Upadhaya (APNIC EC), Rajnesh Singh (Internet Society), Edmon Chung (Dot Asia Organization), George Michaelson (APNIC staff), and David Rowe (ROWETEL, former ISIF Asia grant recipient) for their time, their comments and their eye for detail.

Each winner has received a cash prize of AUD 3,000 to support their work and a travel grant for a project representative to participate at the 10th Internet Governance Forum (Joao Pessoa, Brazil – November 2015) to participate at the awards ceremony, showcase their project, make new professional contacts, and participate in discussions about the future of the Internet.

This year was particularly interesting to receive an application from China, for the very first time since the inception of the ISIF Asia program.

31 applications were accepted for the selection process and are publicly available for anyone interested to learn more about the ingenuity and practical approaches that originate from our region. 16 applications were selected as finalists.

53% for nominations came from private sector and social enterprises, 24% from non-profits, 13% from the academic sector and 10% from government agencies.

The category that received more applications was Innovation on learning and localization with 38%, followed by Code for the common good with 28%, Rights 24% and Innovation on access provision 9%.

86% of the nominated projects are lead by men, only 14% lead by women.

One winner was awarded for each category, three from non-profits and one from private sector and three projects will be represented by women at the Awards Ceremony.

One of the four award winners will receive the Community Choice Award, an additional AUD 1000 for the project with more online votes from the community. The online vote opened on 9 September until 9 November. The winner of the Community Choice Award will be announced at the Awards ceremony. Cast your vote and support the winners!

DocHers  Batik Fractal  Jaroka  I change my city

Awards winners were selected in four categories, as follows:

  • Innovation on access provision: doctHERs – Pakistan, NAYA JEEVAN. doctHERs is a novel healthcare marketplace that connects home-restricted female doctors to millions of underserved patients in real-time while leveraging technology. doctHERs circumvents socio-cultural barriers that restrict women to their homes, while correcting two market failures: access to quality healthcare and women’s inclusion in the workforce. doctHERs leapfrogs traditional market approaches to healthcare delivery and drives innovative, sytems change.
  • Code for the common good: Batik Fractal – Indonesia, Piksel Indonesia Company. Piksel Indonesia is creative social enterprise founded in 2007 and registered as legal entity in 2009. Piksel Indonesia is the creator of Batik Fractal and jBatik Software. Through a yearlong research about batik and science, we then developed a modeling software application to create batik design generatively and presented the innovation in 10th Generative Art International Conference in Milan Italy. In 2008, this innovation funded by Business Innovation Fund SENADA USAID and created jBatik v.1 and focus to empower batik artisans in Bandung. Since that time, Piksel Indonesia is working to empower batik and craft artisans in all Indonesia especially in Java and Bali. Currently, we have trained around 1400 artisans to use jBatik software. The training was firstly organized by the local government in each rural area and villages where batik artisans usually live. As an innovation, the use of the software into traditional art needs intensive training and continued the effort. Through several training levels in mastering the use of jBatik software, the artisans can incorporate technology to develop their traditional craft work. The artisans are not only now have access to affordable technology and use the technology to develop their batik, but also have been proven to contribute to increase productivity, bring more sales and increase their profit which lead to improved income.
  • Innovation on learning and localization: Jaroka Mobile Based Tele-Healthcare – Pakistan, UM Healthcare Trust. We aim to devise newer and effective ways for bringing a rapid change in healthcare domain for rural communities. We have launched Jaroka to lower the cost of delivering care dramatically by leveraging ICT to deliver the scarcest resource, medical expertise, remotely. Jaroka Tele-Healthcare model utilizes internet and mobile platform to extend tele-healthcare services in rural Pakistan. This includes voice, Short Text Messaging (SMS),Multimedia Messaging (MMS),GPRS/Edge and VSAT to quickly and efficiently extend medical advice to Rural Health Workers (RHWs) in the field by connecting them to our network of specialists in cities and abroad. This model also includes Pakistan’s First Health Map through which the latest and live healthcare information is shared with relevant stakeholder across Pakistan to improve the healthcare in Pakistan.Through this project over 130,000 has been provided treated at hospitals and in fields.
  • Rights: I Change My City – India, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. Ichangemycity.com is a hyper-local social change network that has created communities of citizens in Bengaluru, keen on solving city centric problems and has resolved around 10,000 complaints by connecting them to various government agencies. The site has tried to help solve issues ranging from garbage collection, poor street lighting, potholes and security related issue in the suburbs. It has also provided citizens with useful information on how much funds have been allocated to wards and constituencies and how the same has been uitilised. The unique power of ichangemycity.com is that it networks people locally to address issues of common concerns. It connects people on-line to bring them together off-line for civic engagement on the ground. The multiplicity of various government departments and the paperwork involved acts as a deterrent for many individuals to connect with civic agencies. Ichangemycity.com tries to address this problem by being a seamless bridge between government and citizens. Ichangemycity.com works on the 4C mantra- Complaint, Community, Connect, and Content.

FightVAW is helping reduce violence against women in Nepal

VAW-nepal

According to the World Bank 2014 regional report, Violence Against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia, gender-based violence is an acute problem in Nepal, with women being subjected to different forms of violence, namely, physical intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, rape and forced labor. At the same time, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority reported over 80% mobile usage.

The prevalence of violence against women and the impressive penetration of technology in Nepal prompted a one-day Hackathon on Violence Against Women (VAWHack) intended to generate applications that could address the issue of gender-based violence in Nepal. The VAWHack, the first such event in Nepal, was organized jointly by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, YoungInnovations and the Computer Association of Nepal. It brought together private sector representatives, gender experts and young techies to create ICT tools able to help survivors of violence against women and civil society organizations working to reduce its effect on society.

The hackathon produced FightVAW, an ICT-based initiative that provides survivors of violence against women with an alternative means of reporting their cases, via phone call, SMS and online. It enhances coordination among civil society organizations that provide care and services. With an organized case-management system that records complaints and forwards cases to different institutions providing related rehabilitation and legal services, FightVAW uses technology to address a social issue.

FightVAW is the first project of its kind to use ICTs in providing end-to-end solutions to problems involving violence against women in Nepal. It has the additional benefit of reducing survivors’ trauma by sparing them the need to repeat their negative experiences in every organization they reach out to. It also serves as a one-stop site for information on organizations working to prevent violence against women. FightVAW provides a platform for sharing the inspirational stories of women who have moved on in life after such unfortunate incidents.

Through government involvement and the inclusion of private and public organizations working in this field, FightVAW aims to work competitively towards successfully putting an end to violence against women in Nepal.

Complied from WSIS Stocktaking: Success Stories 2015

Event Participation: APrIGF 2015

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The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) 2015 was held from 30 June to 3 July at Macau University of Science & Technology, Macao, hosted by HNET.Asia and Macau High Technology Industry Chamber. Gathering 150 regional delegates including 30 youth participants, the APrIGF 2015 continued the objective of advancing Internet governance development and engaging the next generation of Internet leaders, see http://2015.rigf.asia/. The recordings of each session are available to be downloaded at http://2015.rigf.asia/archives/. One aspect to highlight about the overall program was that there were more workshops that discussed Human Rights and Gender compared to last year.

Four ISIF Asia funding recipients participated at the conference thanks to the support from partners and sponsors. Bishakha Datta from Point of View (India), Nica Dumlao from Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines), Jonathan Brewer from Telco2/Network Startup Resource Center (New Zealand), and Ulrich Speidel from University of Auckland (New Zealand) shared their views and experiences as part of the program of the event.

Bishakha Datta (Point of View, India) represented the Civil Society groups at the Opening Plenary. PoV contributes to amplify the voices of women and remove barriers to free speech and expression.

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Nica and her colleagues from the Filipinas delegation actively involved in IG discussions

Nica Dumlao (Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines) is FMA’s Internet Rights Coordinator, working on the intersection of technology and human rights in the Philippines. Nica has been very active on Internet Governance both globally and regionally, contributing her experience at two global IGFs and two APrIGFs. FMA organized two sessions: 1) “Gender and Internet Exchange (gigX)” a gender pre-event workshop in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and 2) “Human Rights & Governance in ASEAN Cyberspace”. She was also part of the panelists of three sessions of the main program: “Threats in Expression in Asia”, “Bridging Gender Digital Divide”, and “Localizing Internet Governance”. In these sessions, they shared the experience in working on issues around digital rights, privacy, and women’s rights in the Philippines. In addition, they realized how the other panelists and participants look at issues of Internet rights and governance in the region. “The APrIGF provided a space for us Filipinos to have meaningful exchange with other stakeholders in the region and to plan for further collaboration”, Nica reported.

Jonathan Brewer (Telco2/NSRC, New Zealand) attended several sessions and also had a presentation in the session entitled “Broadband Infrastructure and Services for the Next Billion Users”. In his words, Jon left the sessions “enriched with new information, viewpoints, and concerns”. Some of the highlights for the sessions he attended were as follows:

  • In the session “Universal Acceptance: Been there, done that”, discussing Internationalized Domain Names, it was highlighted that one of the main challenges for developing applications is the support for multiple languages.”
  • “Net Neutrality in the Asia-Pacific” discussed a range of separate but inter-related topics including Network Neutrality, Peering, Sending Party Pays, and Zero Rating.
  • “Smart Cities in Asia and the Deployment of Big Data: Privacy and Security Challenges” provided an overview of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and how their increased use in cities could have significant impacts on privacy and security for residents of these cities.
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Prof. Ang Peng Hwa from NTU in Singapore, presenting during one of the APrIGF sessions in Macau

Ulrich Speidel (University of Auckland, New Zealand) shared about his experiences during the implementation improve Internet user experience in Pacific Island countries with network coded TCP. Ulrich is a firm believer that network coding may help improved goodput in places where TCP faces difficulties coping with high latencies across bottlenecks in the presence of a large number of TCP senders and the APrIGF was a great place to share about this exciting developments, funded by ISIF Asia, along with other partners. He was also one of the speakers of “Broadband Infrastructure and Services for the Next Billion Users”. He attended several sessions and highlighted the following: “Broadband and Infrastructure Services for the Next Billion Users”, “Information Security and Privacy in the IoT Era”, and “Smart Cities in Asia and Development of Big Data”.

Surprisingly, although both are based in New Zealand and both work on Internet infrastructure issues, Jon and Ulrich did not have collaborated in the past, and thanks to the opportunity to attend the APrIGF 2015, they visited Auckland together and commissioned a new RIPE Atlas probe as part of deployment of network coding equipment on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.

The APrIGF has taken the challenge to produce for the first time an “Outcomes Document”, which aims to identify the key issues and priorities within the Asia Pacific region that were discussed at the conference. The final document will serve as an input to feed into the wider global IGF discussions and also other relevant forums on Internet governance discussions. The document was open for comments at http://comment.rigf.asia to reflect the community views and encourage participation and engagement in Internet Governance issues. The Finalized Outcomes Document is expected to be further developed and finalized by August 14, 2015.

ISIF Asia and the business of scale: 60 teams on JFDI.Asia pre-accelerator course!

“Talent is universal, opportunity is not” said Megan Smith, US Chief Technology Officer and former Google.org vice-president. ISIF Asia is about giving opportunities to those that have the talent, the ideas and the strength to make them happen. But as the path for each one of the ISIF supported projects is different, as their context and the challenges they faced, the opportunities we seek to provide are thought to open new ones, to get out of the comfort zone and try something different, to see if “that” is what it takes for a great idea, to be a reality, that is shared and valued by communities around the Asia Pacific. Is not all about the market, or about been the “next big thing” on the Internet, is about making sure that ideas supported have a better chance to have a positive impact in the real world. It can be a more progressive policy move, an Internet-powered social movement, content or services that fill in a gap, a need. And we want to be there to help them to “get there”!

ISIF Asia former and current funding recipients have fascinating stories to tell about what they have done and what they dream to do, like the ones below:

  • Amakomaya is an Android application developed for rural pregnant women of Nepal. The application provides localized information relating to the prenatal, natal and postnatal periods of pregnancy.
  • Cook Islands Maori Database is an online resource for Maori Words, their English translations with example usage in a sentence in both English and Maori, that offers a platform on which other applications can be built to preserve the language and promote its use. The team developed an android and IOS application, as well as teaching and learning resources for both teachers and student to facilitate integration of the tools into Maori lessons.
  • Sinar’s main objective is 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. They have developed a suite of applications for citizens to get involved.
  • BAPSI has developed solutions to help deaf-blind people access mobile phones as the solutions available for the blind (voice recognition), are of no use for the deaf and vice versa (voice to text conversions).

So, we are very excited to share the good news that thanks to the support from our donors, IDRC and Sida, and in collaboration with JFDI.Asia, it was announced that 60 ISIF Asia supported teams will join the JFDI Discover pre-accelerator program where they will learn to apply the powerful startup tools and techniques taught through the 21-day JFDI Discover pre-accelerator program. The aim is to give them confidence and evidence to answer the key questions that angel investors, accelerators, and government agencies are certain to ask them, such as: “Who is your customer?”, “What problem are you solving for them?” and “Has this team got what it takes to succeed?”. JFDI CEO Hugh Mason said, “Achieving positive impact with a startup is not easy in many parts of Asia. Alongside the impact, we want to help these teams to think about how they can become commercially sustainable to ensure that their good work continues long into the future. There is a lot to learn and share and we have every confidence that long-term collaborations and friendships will grow from this program, creating wealth for the 56 Asia-Pacific economies ISIF Asia covers and beyond.”

We had the opportunity to visit JFDI.Asia a few months ago, as ISIF Asia participated at the ICTD conference. We were invited to attend their Open House and we saw how this is really a “community of people who practice, finance and teach innovation” as they described them selves. We are very happy to have found a partner that believes that “innovation need not be a mystery and entrepreneurship should not be painful or lonely. Both can be learned, working with peers and guided by mentors”. We hope this is the first step to a closer collaboration in the future. As not all ISIF supported projects are start-ups, this course will be offered as a first step to find out if the path of entrepreneurship is one that suits them. More information about the platform is here http://www.jfdi.asia/discover.Once they have completed the pre-accelerator course, they can consider to enroll in the accelerator boot camp http://www.jfdi.asia/accelerate, which is a 100 days commitment. Check the video below for an introduction!