Combating Electronic Violence Against Women in the Philippines

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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 worldwide have been exposed to online threats and harassment.

The Philippines are no exception. Electronic violence against women or eVAW is on the rise, and more and more suffer from it. In Manila, 70% of the complaints about online or mobile abuse come from women.

Definition of eVAW

eVAW refers to any violence against women perpetrated using ICTs. Such violence often causes a lasting mental, emotional or psychological distress.

There are several forms of eVAW:

Electronic Harassment: This is the most common form of eVAW in the Philippines. Most of the time the harassment comes from a former partner who wants to take revenge. It can also come from strangers willing to exert control over their female victim. They send threats or communications with sexual undertones. Or they publish false accusations through blogs, online forums, or via mobile phones.

Cyber Stalking: ICTs have made stalking much easier and more prevalent than before. In the Philippines, this is the second most widespread form of eVAW. Tracking someone’s phone has become quite easy (even without their permission). On a smart phone, it requires an installation of a tracking app, which can be done in five minutes. Even if the person owns a regular cell phone, it is still possible to install a tracker. This puts some women in a precarious situation.

Unauthorized Distribution of Videos and Images: Sex videos and images have been proliferating online. With a smart phone, it is very easy for a man to record intimacy unbeknown to his partner. It is even easier to post these records online to harass, humiliate or bribe a woman. This does not happen to celebrities only.

Cyber Pornography and Prostitution: The Philippines are sometimes considered as a “cyber sex hub.” About 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. It is no surprise that prostitution is flourishing. In 2013, there were about 500,000 prostitutes, mostly women. Some are now forced to engage in cyber sex or pornography in exchange for money. The situation is aggravated by the craze for pornography among Filipinos. The country places 15th in adult website Pornhub’s global traffic on mobile devices. And it ranks 26th when it comes to watching it using a computer.

Laws Aren’t Everything

The Foundation for Media Alternatives is a key player in the battle against eVAW.

Founded in 1987, FMA is a well-established Filipino nongovernment organization. Its goal is to empower the Philippines’ civil society through the media. In the 2000’s, it contributed to opening the access to the Internet. In particular, it developed a free email service for NGOs.

In 2009 FMA decided to commit against the rising eVAW issue in the Philippines by becoming involved in the global initiative “Take Back the Tech! To End Violence Against Women.” At the time, there was a pressing need for more adapted laws. The Philippines were already considering violence against women as a crime, but electronic violence was not targeted as such.

Furthermore, more awareness was required. The victims often had no idea how to deal with these offenses. “Laws […] do not always prove to be effective deterrents in the commission of crimes, explained Lisa Garcia from FMA. The anonymity that the Internet provides emboldens malicious citizens to commit damaging acts without fear of discovery in spite of laws. This means more advocacy and education are needed to address issues of violence and rights abuses through technology.”

Taking Action Against eVAW

That is why FAM’s first priority was to raise awareness about eVAW. It targeted the general public by featuring programs on the radio and television. It also reached representatives of public, academic and civil organizations. In total, FMA has trained more than 1,000 people.

In 2013, FAM took its struggle against eVAW one step further. It reinforced its advocacy action by launching the eVAW Mapping Project. This Ushahidi-based tool aims to collect accurate eVAW data. Women report incidents by SMS or emails, and the software aggregates them into a map. FMA then conducts a trend analysis and data visualization. It eventually shares this data with the authorities and policy makers.

Safer Electronic Spaces for Women

Since 2009, FMA has managed to take the struggle against eVAW in the Philippines one step further. Today, eVAW is recognized as a form of cybercrime and more women are aware of their rights and able to report this violence.

Improving Healthcare Coverage in the Philippines with ACCESS Health International

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ACCESS Health International is a nonprofit think tank and advisory group with health programs in both low and high-income countries. It recently developed the e-AKaP project for targeting high maternal and child mortality rates in the Philippines, and addresses the health issues through a new delivery and training system for community health teams (CHTs).

Health goals in the Philippines

The Philippines has struggled to attain the decreased maternal and child mortality rates outlined by its Millennium Development Goals. The government’s solution has been to use CHTs as the main tool for expanding healthcare coverage for Filipino citizens. Over 100,000 CHTs, comprised of midwives, nurses, and volunteers, have been deployed to develop individual household health goals in each community and to target poor and vulnerable populations.

However, CHTs have faced setbacks because of the slow process of aggregating data, high cost of forms and materials, and an inefficient reporting system. Similarly, mothers in the Philippines do not have high access to healthcare information, which could mitigate health risks for both mothers and children.

The e-AKap solution

e-AKaP targets two root causes of MMR and children mortality in the Philippines:

  1. low training and skills for CHTs
  2. low access to healthcare information for mothers

ACCESS Health International’s solution draws on both innovation and technology. The e-AKaP project provides and trains CHTs to use mobile tablets to access the Filipino web and the application iCHT. iCHT provides access to forms and aggregates and processes health data, cutting down on time-consuming paperwork and providing quick access to information for CHTs.

The tablets provided to the CHTs are 7-inch tablet PCs with cloud-based admin panels so that health information could be easily accessed. The forms in the iCHT app are a replica of paper forms previously used by CHTs, so users are accustomed to the format.

iCHT also allows the user to create profiles, health plans, and progress charts for individual households. CHTs can track health progress and provide health information quickly for the households they visit. They can also address health issues for mothers and children on the spot.

The app also allows CHTs to report health information quickly to city and government health offices in the Philippines, which then use the information to track progress towards countrywide health goals.

e-AKaP outcomes

So far, 130 CHTs have been trained and provided with tablets, and ACCESS Health International has presented the app at the Philippine mHealth Forum in April 2014. Because each individual CHT is responsible for about 50 families, ACCESS estimates that its project covers around 5,000 families in the Philippines. A study by the University of the Philippines Economic Foundation found that the iCHT app reduced spending costs associated with paper forms and also reduced time spent on related activities.

The project has been successful at providing CHTs with the tools to balance their heavy obligations and providing mothers and children with quick and reliable health information. Each family covered by the e-AKaP project now has a specific health plan to mitigate and prevent health risks. CHTs are given the means to target health goals and track their progress through this innovative technology.

Furthermore, e-AKaP provides the government with reliable information to target health goals and create policy that reflects the current situation in the country.

Grace Harter is a recent SAIS graduate

Event Participation: RightsCon 2015 Southeast Asia Conference

During 24 – 25 March 2015, five ISIF Asia grant recipients attended RightsCon Southeast Asia Conference in Manila, Philippines, see https://www.rightscon.org/manila/. The event was convened by Access and EngageMedia, in partnership with Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), World Wide Web Foundation and the Research Action Design collective, and supported by global and regional sponsors, including APNIC.

RightsCon Summit 2015 gathered more than 650 people from over 40 countries engaging civil society, technology companies, governments, and academia. The program organised around 125 workshops to discuss topics in relation to online rights protection, digital rights, economic development, technological solutions for human rights challenges, and risks in the ICT sector.

With the support of ISIF Asia, five project representatives including Bishakha Datta from Point of View (India), Jahangir Alam from Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh), Arvind Khadri from Servelots (India), Khairil Yusof from Sinar (Malaysia) and Nazdeek (India) participated in the workshops that were relevant to their work. They took advantage of this worldwide conference to get inspired and build cooperation.

Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015

Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015

Sylvia Cadena, APNIC’s Community Partnerships Specialist, who coordinates the ISIF Asia program was particularly interested in this event, as it was the first time it was held in the Asia Pacific region. “It is really exciting to see so many human rights activists to sit at the table with Internet technology experts, business leaders and funders to discuss not only ideals and position papers about how technology can or cannot do, but to draft strategies to collaborate, be aware of funding sources available, tools available, to overcome the challenges ahead. A very hands-on approach, very much needed to bring about positive and timely change.” She also congratulated FMA, former ISIF Asia grant recipient, for their active role as local partner, to put the conference and the pre-events together and generate the appropriate space to share, discuss and learn.

When reviewing their experience to participate at RightsCon 2015, ISIF Asia project representatives presented that it was a unique opportunity to explore rights issues both online and offline and look at different perspectives around the world. They benefitted from the exchange of new ideas and expanded their network of contacts not only among activists and practitioners, but also with funders as well as Internet industry representatives concerned about how human rights manifest online, which open doors to facilitate their operations, serving local communities.

ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon

ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon

Sinar is using open source technology, development and ideas to make Malaysian government transparent and accountable. Khairil Yusof learned that “the data we’re gathering to make government more accountable might actually cause harm to groups and communities we are supposed to be helping” after Open Data and Privacy session. The reflective article by Khairil was published on Sinar website http://sinarproject.org/en/updates/institutional-support-eco-system-for-digital-rights.

Point of View contributes to amplify the voices of women and remove barriers to free speech and expression. Bishakha Datta (India) attended sessions about CyberSex and online fundamentalism. During the session, she was able to discuss how physical rapes are turning into digital porn in India and Pakistan with the speakers from Indonesia, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31313551. Bishakha described RightsCon as “Getting a taste of digital rights in other Asian countries, hearing voices from Asia”.

Servelots works on empowering population that cannot read standard web content due to illiteracy, partial literacy or language issues with web accessibility. Arvind Khadri (India) participated in eight sessions including technology vs. policy rising debate, networking for trainer storytellers, and Brave GNU World. For him, RightsCon was an opportunity to network and collaborate. He was able to built connection with the Internet Society, and explore the opportunity to apply for a fellowship to speak about Servelots work at the Internet Governance Forum later this year. “RightsCon makes us understand challenges of various people and organisations by meeting friends and discussing future plans with them”, Arvind reported.

Jahangir Alam represented Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh) which does photojournalism, reporting and digital campaign on popular culture, human rights and development issues. Jahangir Alam attended seven sessions focusing on human rights promotion, activism, media productions and digital campaign issues. The inspiration he took from RightsCon was that “we need to promote the local content on human rights education online via school networking. We will soon open a section ‘Amader Odikar’ (Our Rights) in UnnayanNews new portal”.

Participants also attended pre-events organized the day before RightsCon started. At the Responsible Data Forum Nazdeek reported that “In our context, it is imperative to understand how technology shapes the struggle to advance fundamental rights, as well as what safeguards must be put in place to ensure technology does not further perpetrate discrimination against marginalized groups and individuals.”

For the ISIF Asia fellows, RightsCon 2015 unraveled a bundle of issues such as online freedom of expression, surveillance, privacy and digital security for human rights defenders.

For overview and conclusion of RightsCon 2015, please check out the Outcome Report at https://www.rightscon.org/files/RC_SEA_outcome_report.pdf.

Google for Nonprofits Expands to 10 Asia-Pacific Economies

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Congratulations to non-governmental organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. In partnership withTechSoup, Google is now expanding its Google for Nonprofits program to ten new economies: Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Nonprofits can now apply to join the program to access a suite of free Google products and tools, including:

  • Google Ad Grants: Free AdWords advertising to promote their website on Google through keyword targeting.
  • Google Apps for Nonprofit: A free version of the Google Apps business productivity suite, including Gmail, Docs, Calendar, and more.
  • YouTube Nonprofit Program: Build their online presence with YouTube and overlay cards on their videos that link directly to their website.

Personally, I’ve used the Google for Nonprofits platform at two different organizations and it was a game-changer at both, specifically Google Apps.

The service can power enterprise-grade email services with a few clicks, giving organizations a legitimate yourname@NGOorganization.org email address (ie. not Gmail.com or Yahoo.com) and powerful email support systems that are actually easy to use. Google Apps also comes with their Drive, Sheets, Docs, and Forms tools, which can totally replace the Microsoft Office software suite and I find far superior to Microsoft’s online software products.

Nonprofits organizations can also leverage One Today, Google’s fundraising platform for Android devices. The app highlights cool projects from different organizations each day, and users can donate if they want to support the cause.

So if you have an NGO in the 10 new economies, get Google for Nonprofits today. You’ll be so glad you did!

Tackling Math with Technology in the Philippines

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The Asian stereotype of excellence in math doesn’t currently apply in the Philippines. In schools across the country, students are struggling to learn and retain necessary math skills.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2 ranks the Philippines 115th out of 142 countries in perceived quality of Math and Science education.

What contributes to this low level of competency in mathematics? Dr. Carlo Magno, of De La Salle University’s College of Education in Manila, suggests the problem lies in lack of consistent curriculum, teacher training and deeper learning.

There is generally no country-wide curriculum or official guide for teachers to ensure the basic needs are met, and what guides do exist are written in formal language not approachable for the average teacher.   Teaching is based on computation, not comprehension of the concepts behind the numbers. Without that deeper understanding of mathematics, students don’t retain the knowledge.

Lessons are given in quick succession and there is little sequence or progress in mathematics instruction. In addition, large class sizes, insufficient preparation of public school teachers (67% of multi-grade teachers less than 5 years of experience.) and lack of quality educational materials contribute to poor instruction and there are few technological resources that could aid in learning.

The Philippines government is turning to technology to meet these challenges by utilizing innovations in ICT and education. In 2011, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario G. Montejo initiated the project “Technology Package for Student Learning Empowerment.” The idea was to create new forms of educational content, especially for primary education, to improve the quality of Philippine education. By utilizing efficient and affordable software and hardware, students can benefit from new ways of learning.

The initiative is a collaboration across sectors: The Science Education Institute (SEI) of DOST financed and monitored the project; the University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Math Education (UP-NISMED) wrote the lesson scripts; the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) provided hardware and software resources; the Department of Education made possible the pilot testing of the material in public schools;  and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development supported the production.

Developing Material

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The first step was to develop material to supplement math teaching and learning in the classroom. The new material featured lessons compatible with both the Department of Education’s existing Basic Education and the proposed K-12 curricula. The approach was to create ten lessons in mathematics with 16 activities, fixing skills and evaluations using animated interactivities to make learning more fun. “Our courseware was meant to supplement—not replace—traditional textbooks, lessons and teachers,” noted curriculum expert Dr. Queena N. Lee-Chua.

Modules are divided into three parts: Activity, Fixing Skills, and Evaluation. “Activity” shows/explains the lesson, 
“Fixing Skills” are exercises that increase understanding of the lesson and mastery of the concept, while “Evaluation” tests the pupils’ lesson comprehension. Experts from UP-NISMED drafted the scripts and eventually transformed the concepts into lessons.

The Grade1 Mathematics Courseware is a set of interactive multimedia lessons covering topic such as classifying objects, comparing and ordering sets of objects and numbers
, adding and subtracting whole numbers, partitioning numbers into halves and fourths, and measuring length using nonstandard units.

The next stage was the design and development of the lessons as courseware. DOST-ASTI and a team of local skilled graphic artists and programmers assisted with the digitization of lessons, which involved interface designing, programming, animation, audio mixing and, finally, the integration of all elements to produce a courseware.

Using Adobe Flash and the open source Flash Develop, the digital courseware introduces mathematical concepts through familiar situations, as well as catchy songs, chants and lively characters for pupils to easily identify with. (Lessons start with animated Filipino characters presented with a situation easily solved by math. )

Training and Testing

The next step was to train teachers how to utilize the courseware to maximize its instructional potential. A select group of teachers from the 20 proposed recipient schools were guided through the use of courseware and how to design lesson plans to integrate it. They were also trained to facilitate the pupils’ use of technology while monitoring the class overall.

Once teachers were trained, the hardware and software packages were disseminated to various public school students across the country to test the lesson material, identify possible problems and implement adjustments and remedies if needed.

The committee identified ten elementary schools from different parts of the country to be involved in the pilot testing. They distributed the courseware, along with the hardware units (Coby touchscreen tablets) necessary to operate it.

Discovery and Recommendations

Various metrics were used to measure the effectiveness of using tablet computers as a learning tool. Pre-tests and post-tests were given to both experimental and control groups, and the scores of the students who used the courseware soared, compared to those who did not.

Interaction between pupils was limited, because each student was provided with his or her own tablet to use. Several concepts in math, however, are better retained through cooperative learning or pair work. Since tablets tend to foster individual learning, without the benefits of idea exchange, it was recommended to have two students share a tablet, especially while doing the Activity or Fixing Skills portions where they could interact to solve problems.

Not surprisingly, unfamiliarity with tablet technology caused issues. Some pupils unconsciously placed their finger on their mouth or nose and then used the same finger to tap the screen, smudging it and making the equipment tedious to clean afterwards. If the tablets did not respond, some students would continue tapping, which sometimes caused the equipment to hang. Thus, it was recommended to replace the tablets with laptops or netbooks, which are more resistant to mishandling, can be more cost-effective, and are easier to handle as keyboards.

With the success of the Grade 1 curriculum, Grades 2 to 6 Mathematics Courseware was developed. This time, the courseware was loaded onto a netbook.
 The project also plans to translate the courseware into various languages.

The Technology Package, which includes Grades 1 – 6 Mathematics courseware, are free of charge and accessible for download through the DOST Courseware Website.

Is TV White Space the Ideal Wireless Data Delivery Medium for the Philippines?

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You know all those fuzzy TV channels that don’t seem to be used? Well, in between each channel is even more unused space. Called “TV white space” or TVWS, this unused radio frequency between broadcast TV channels in the very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) range between 54 MHz and 806 MHz represents an amazing untapped wireless spectrum resource for developing countries.

Marco Zennaro and Ermanno Pietrosemoli of the Abdus Salaam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) have put together a great collection of essays on TV White Spaces with an emphasis on their application in emerging markets. “TV White Spaces — A Pragmatic Approach“, covers both technical and policy issues as well as providing information on real world pilots.

In the Philippines, the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) estimates that there are about 24-31 channels (46 percent white space) available in rural areas. The national capital region and Cebu has 24 unused channels (63 percent) and the Mindanao area (Davao) has about 18 (62-80 percent).

In fact, Louis Casambre, Executive Director of DOST-ICTO says that:

“TVWS is an ideal wireless data delivery medium for the Philippines, with its long distance propagation characteristics and the ability of its signals to travel over water and through thick foliage, we are hopeful that this will be the technology to bring connectivity to rural areas and bridge the digital divide”

Philippines leading Asia in TVWS experimentation

Undersecretary Casambre is putting his agency at the forefront of TVWS experimentation. DOST-ICTO and the private company Nityo Infotech are currently testing the technology in the largest pilot deployment in Asia.

100 sites in the province of Bohol will use TVWS technology as a public service to connect people and organizations to education, eHealth, and eGovernment services, and provide the backbone for environmental sensor networks and for Internet access in public places. The $5 million technology investment will deliver up to 6 mbps of data throughput at a maximum range of 10 km.

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TVWS for Health

One of TVWS projects that will be connected is the deployment of RxBox units. RxBox is a DOST-developed telehealth device that enable remote consultations between patients, community health workers, and experts in urban areas.

The device can take a patient’s electrocardiogram or ECG, heart rate, blood, pulse rate and blood oxygenation and supports “teleconsultation” between patients and remote clinical experts. While the RxBox usually works just over SMS in remote areas, in the TVWS pilot, it will be connected via broadband Internet for true real-time telemedicine activities. That’s a broadband innovation we can all be proud of.