Apply Now for 2015 eNGO Challenge

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The 2015 eNGO Challenge Award aspires to create an ecosystem by recognizing and honouring NGOs which are using Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital media tools for good governance and practices that are benefiting societies and communities at large. It is a joint initiative of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF).

The eNGO Challenge is open in six categories for best use of ICT, mobile, digital media & new or social media by an NGO for:

    • Best Use of Website & Internal Tools (Website):website
      This category focuses on NGOs that are using website to showcase their activities, projects and local content to get networking and support from funding agencies. This category also welcomes NGOs that create awareness on certain issues through campaigning.

 

  • Best Use of Mobile content & Apps (Mobile):mobile
    This category focuses on NGOs that have used mobile tools/Apps for their internal &external communication to drive social change. For example,an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses connectivity through mobile phones, sms, video calling or any other means to engage and empower communities at large.

 

 

  • Best Use of e-Commerce (e-Commerce):ecommerce
    This category focuses on NGOs who have used ICT and digital media tools such as e-Commerce, mobile phones, online shopping and social media networkssuch as Facebook & Twitter to promote their business meant for the benefit of a community. For example, an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that usesa website or social media networks for the promotion and trading of products for the benefit of a community.

 

 

  • Best Use of Software Automation & Networking (Tools):tools
    This category focuses on NGOs that use digital media tools for improving and enhancing their organizational efficiency by using networking and software tools such as Wi-Fi, Skype, Tally etc. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category thatuses video-conferencing technology to connect with their regional partners or does staff capacity building program with various ICT tools.

 

 

  • Best Use of social Media (Social Media): Slocial Media
    The category focuses on NGOs that use social media as a tool to get solutions for and from the communities. For example, an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses Facebook and twitter to engage communities or inform them about issues.

 

 

  • Best use of e-Content (incl. Audio / Visual / Radio): econtent
    The category focuses on NGOs that empower people to use video or radio to help communities raise their voice for their problems. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that facilitates people to record video or participate through community radio to share messages or register complains or highlight social issues.

 

The eNGO Challenge Award is open to any registered NGO from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. There are no charges applicable for the eNGO Challenge Award Nomination process.

Your NGO should fulfill the conditions of being an active & ICT based organization. Interested entities can take part in eNGO Challenge by either applying online or contacting expert panel for the nomination process through engochallenge@gmail.com

Overcoming School Failure in Rural Sri Lanka with Shilpa Sayura

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In Sri Lanka, the school is free, and the country has, therefore, an excellent educational record. Basic literacy rate is one of the highest in Asia, and the teacher-pupil ratio is up to 1:20.

And yet, when looking at the smaller picture, the situation turns out to be less glowing. In 2011, a study showed that 20 percent among the rural poor never make it to secondary school, dropping out before Grade 5.

This is in part due to financial reasons, as many rural parents cannot meet the hidden costs of their children’s education. School failure also comes from a lack of qualified teachers and educational resources. Ill-prepared, a majority of students fails to pass the junior high school entrance examination.

Helping his daughter out

In 2004, Niranjan Meegammana witnessed his daughter’s failure at school. His family used to live in a rural town, but at the time, he was working in Colombo. He could not provide daily support to Poornima, and her academic performance slipped.

Had Niranjan been uneducated, the girl would have never got to junior high school. But her father was the first person in his village to ever graduate from college, and he believed education was important. As he could not afford private tuitions for his daughter, he turned to the Internet.

The Shilpa Sayura journey

Being a web specialist, Niranjan had heard of e-learning, and he decided to give it a try. He created an online course based on his daughter’s textbook. Immediately, Poornima’s grades improved. At the end of the school year, she passed her O level exam, and she was even top of her class.

Niranjan was impressed by her daughter’s achievement. He also started believing he could help other rural kids succeed in their studies. He made the leap in 2006; it was the beginning of the Shilpa Sayura journey. A few dedicated teachers got involved, and together, they designed an innovative e-learning program. Eight years later, their impact on rural education in Sri Lanka has been unprecedented.

Educational pragmatism

In 2006, Niranjan’s priority was to improve the learning experience of the students. Being a practical man, he decided that all the lessons would be in Sinhalese and Tamil, Sri Lanka’s primary languages. He also adapted the content to the local context and developed interactive movies and animations to make studying more exciting for these rural kids.

In a country where the national curriculum is based on the British teaching model of the 1950s, the Shilpa Sayura method was somewhat of a revolution. But for the students, it made the difference. They could not only relate to the content; they could also study at their own pace, either by themselves or with their friends. As a result, they have become more engaged in their studies, and the retention rate has skyrocketed!

Reaching the rural youth

Niranjan’s other achievement is to have actually reached the rural youth. In that respect, the partnership with the “Nenasala Telecenters” has been a critical move.

These Telecenters were launched in 2005. It was an initiative of the Prime Minister who aimed at expanding the access to ICTs. There are now 700 Telecenters, and they are disseminated throughout the country, even in the most rural areas.

Today, the Shilpa Sayura program is available in 150 Telecenters. Students are free to come and use the computers to further train themselves or upload the materials onto their SIM card. And since there are more than 14,000 lessons and 7,000 tests covering both the primary and secondary curricula, Telecenters have become highly popular!

New opportunities for the rural youth

Since 2007, 80,000 young people have taken part in the Shilpa Sayura program. And everywhere, grades have improved.

In Siyambalanduwa, for example, the pass rate for the O level exam in mathematics has increased from 51.2 to 78.2 percent. In Lahugalla, a war-affected and poor village, some two students got a high distinction for their results in math. And in Thalakumbura, young priests even managed to pass the examination for national school.

As for Poornima, she made her way to college, developing over the years amazing creative skills. In 2011, she became an Adobe Youth Voices scholar, and she recently produced an award-winning short movie on child soldiers in Sri Lanka!

Will Wikipedia Zero Inspire Local Language Content?

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The Wikimedia Foundation has launched Wikipedia Zero in Bangladesh, India Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand over the last two years. Wikipedia Zero is a “zero-rate” program that allows users to browse Wikipedia entries on their mobile phones for free thanks to a partnership between Wikimedia and the mobile carrier.

Wikimedia’s goal is to enable access to free knowledge for every single person on the planet, leveraging the ubiquity of the mobile phone. However, that information currently exists mainly in English. There are just 109,404 posts in Hindi for the 295 million native Hindi speakers, while the 365 million English speakers get 4,413,036 Wikipedia articles (and counting) to learn from.

And while I enjoy the benefits of English language domination on the public Internet, I feel we should pause a moment and think a bit about the pros and cons of yet another bastion of English being offered as a gift to the world.

Might it be better if Wikipedia Zero came with social cues and gamification that inspired more Hindi posts? Its not like the Indian government’s Vikaspedia will succeed by itself.

We need to recognize and empower all languages equally, so that the Internet can truly reflect the diversity that is our reality. We need a Wikipedia Plus that adds local knowledge, not just disseminates others’ distant information.