Win $10,000 in USAID’s Mobiles for Development in Asia Award


Do you have a mobile service, product, app, or add-on that is being used to address a development challenge in Asia? Do you want the opportunity to promote your mobile solution to a broader audience of development professionals? If so, apply for the Mobiles for Development in Asia Award!

The Mobiles for Development in Asia Award seeks to identify and highlight promising mobile services, apps, and other innovative uses of mobile technologies. Specifically, the purpose is to recognize Asia-based institutions and their M4D work that have the potential to impact development outcomes in climate change, food security, health, governance, biodiversity, and fisheries. While applications from any country in Asia are welcome emphasis will be placed on organizations and applications with deployments in Southeast Asia.

Key areas of focus are: climate change, food security, health, biodiversity, governance, and fisheries. Applications are due on November 14, 2014 and the complete rules and award criteria can be found here.

The strongest applicants will be invited to present their work at Mobiles for Development Forum Asia 2015 January 20-21, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Forum will be attended by USAID staff from across Asia, other donors, NGOs, technology companies, mobile network operators, and others.

Up to three finalists will receive a paid trip to Bangkok, including economy- class flights, up to three nights of lodging, and three days of per diem. One winner will receive $10,000 towards further learning and understanding in mobiles for development.

Should Indonesians Be Arrested for Saying A City is Poor, Idiotic, or Uncivilized on Social Media?


Indonesian student Florence Sihombing tried to refuel her motorbike at a gas station pump reserved for cars. When she was denied service, she vented her frustration on social media criticizing the city of Yogyakarta, also known as Jogja.

“Jogja is poor, idiotic, uncivilized. Friends from Jakarta and Bandung, don’t live in Jogja” she said.

Her post was shared on Twitter and Facebook, where thousands of people took offense. She was mentioned more than 55,000 times on Twitter with hashtags such as #UsirFlorenceDariJogja, “get rid of Florence from the city”.

Then she was summoned for questioning by the local police, and charged under the 2008 Electronic Transactions and Information Law for defamation and “inciting hatred”. A few local NGOs also filed a lawsuit against her under the ITE law wanting her to be found guilty for causing “insult, defamation, and provocation”.

Under the ITE law, those found guilty can be sentenced to six years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to IDR 1 billion (US$84,750). Does this penalty fit Florence Sihombing’s transgression? Might it be a little excessive in relation to her comment?

Especially since Indonesia is a democratic country with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the freedom of expression.

Win $1 Million With Mobile Application for Indian Women, Students, Farmers and Migrant Workers


A recent McKinsey study found that although internet adoption is showing steady growth in India, only 15% of Indians use the Internet and almost 70% do not understand how the internet can help them. Innovation Challenge: India

Facebook wants more people online and to grow beyond its 100 million Indian users, so its funded a $1 Million Innovation Challenge on

Four $250,000 USD Innovation Challenge Awards will be presented to the app, website or service that best meets the needs of Indian women, students, farmers and migrant workers. Each of the Innovation Challenge Award winners will also be eligible to receive a package of tools and services worth up to $60,000 USD from Facebook’s FbStart program.

In addition, two apps, websites or services designed for each of the four specified population categories will receive a $25,000 USD Impact Award prize.

Entry Scoring

Entries will be judged based on these 4 different criteria:

  • Innovation: How original, groundbreaking or creative is the app, website or service?
  • Impact: Will the app, website or service impact numerous lives in meaningful ways?
  • Scalability: Does the app, website or service scale technically? What percentage of the designated population will it reach? Is the content localized? Is multilingual support available?
  • Launch-readiness: How soon will the app, website or service be publicly available, beyond prototypes and limited trials, if it isn’t already? If it’s already publicly available, how stable and consistent is its performance?

So what are you waiting for? Apply today!

SMSBunda: Health Information to Pregnant Women in Indonesia Languages


According to the WHO and UNICEF, the rate of maternal and infant mortality in Indonesia is the highest rate in the Asia-Pacific region. An estimated 9,600 women die every year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. While improvements have been seen in reducing under-5 and infant mortality, the mortality rate among newborn babies has not decreased since 2002.

The majority of both maternal and newborn baby deaths are preventable. However, many women and their families lack the knowledge about what to expect during pregnancy and the postnatal period, including healthcare practices and the danger signs for both moms and babies.

Jhpiego, with generous support from the GE Foundation, has developed SMSBunda — a text-messaging service for pregnant women and postnatal mothers. SMSBunda provides women with life-saving information during pregnancy and in the early days after delivery, such as helping women identify the signs that they or their babies may need to visit a health facility.

SMSBunda provides an innovative and low-cost solution that reaches expectant and new mothers wherever they are. After sending a simple registration message, the women receive free targeted messages about antenatal and postnatal care tailored to their stage of pregnancy from the first trimester to 42 days after delivery.

Perhaps the best thing about SMSBunda is that it encourages women to actively seek information about what to do during pregnancy and childbirth. It makes them more aware of what is happening to their body, empowers them with knowledge and gives them the confidence to identify danger signs and actively seek care whenever they need it. The content has been developed by clinicians in accordance with the Health Ministry as well as Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) guidelines.

SMSBunda is expected to benefit pregnant women and new mothers in other areas by helping to combat high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. At the moment, SMSBunda has reached approximately 2,000 women with more 30,000 text messages in the three pilot districts, starting with in Karawang, West Java, and will soon be available in other areas in Indonesia. To promote the service, Jhpieogo will work directly with midwives and community health workers who are tasked with encouraging their clients to register to the SMSBunda service during their regular antenatal care visits.

In its first year, SMSBunda is expected to reach about 14,000-20,000 pregnant women in 10 districts. At least 100 text messages will be delivered to each, before and after the safe delivery of her baby.
Texting can seem almost antiquated nowadays, in the age of smartphones. But used innovatively in a densely populated area where internet connection is patchy at best, it is still one of the most reliable ways to deliver a message to its intended target—saving lives in the process.

Odd Jobber: Connecting Lahore’s Rickshaws with Mobile


Lahore, a bustling metropolis of over 9 million people, is nestled just inside Pakistan’s Eastern border with India. For Lahore’s unskilled laborers, finding work on a consistent basis can pose a daily challenge. Often times that challenge has nothing to do with desire, ability, or work ethic, but simply a lack of available work. Despite boasting one of Pakistan’s stronger regional economies, hundreds of thousands of people in Lahore live well below the poverty line. Pakistan, as a nation, ranks 177th out of 228 with a GDP per capita of only $3,100 per person per year.

Ideacentricity, a tech-startup located in Lahore’s impressive Arfa Software Technology Park, has created an SMS based marketplace called Odd Jobber to help directly connect this workforce with the consumers who need their services. Ideacentricity’s founder Adnan Khawaja describes the Odd Jobber platform as a combination of oDesk for odd jobs and Uber for rickshaws.

Currently, Odd Jobber is primarily focusing on their rickshaw capacity. The average rickshaw driver in Lahore, of which there are over 120,000, spends a large part of their day actively searching for fares. During this period the rickshaw drivers aren’t generating any revenue, and are expending cash on fuel and other costs. This is period of inactivity is what Odd Jobber is designed to alleviate.

Consumers have three ways to interact with Odd Jobber. They can call, send an SMS to 8001 with a pick- and drop-off address, or book online here. Once the request has been submitted, an SMS in Urdu goes out to rickshaw drivers who are close by, and they respond via SMS with a bid. The consumer chooses their preferred bid, which will soon be accompanied by driver rating, and the rickshaw should be on-site within 10 minutes. The Odd Jobber interface empowers drivers with direct access to customers, enabling them to generate revenue for the entirety of their shift.

Utilizing an SMS based platform instead of smartphone technology (think Über) is critical to the potential success of Odd Jobber. The mobile penetration rate in Pakistan is approaching 80%, while only 7-10% of the population have a smartphone. Ideacentricity is working to incorporate a rapidly expanding mobile-banking service called easypaisa (Telenor) into the Odd Jobber platform. This will facilitate easy transaction flow, and allow consumers to pre-pay for services.

Ideacentricity is attempting to expand Odd Jobber organically within Lahore. On their website, the company is encouraging consumers to request areas in which they’d like service. Expanding in this manner ensures that they are offering services in high-traffic areas, leading to optimal utilization of the rickshaw driver’s time.

This efficiency also carries over into the Odd Jobber business model. While Odd Jobber was launched with the goal of creating positive impact for Pakistan’s unskilled labor force, Ideacentricity is a for-profit company. On every ride they organize, or job they coordinate, Odd Jobber charges an 8% fee. The fee is added in addition to the bid that the rickshaw driver places, and is carried over to the consumer, allowing the driver to take home the entirety of their bid. Khawaja estimates that within 3 years, Odd Jobber will provide 40,000 rickshaw drivers with a combined additional income of $86 million (5:30 mark in linked video). For a workforce averaging $5-$7 a day, that increase is significant.

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area and want to learn more about Odd Jobber, Adnan Khawaja will be giving a talk with Uber president Travis Kalanick at the Annual Fulbright Conference and Prize Ceremony on October 17.

You can also check out Odd Jobber on Facebook.

Verboice: ICT4Ag Information in Cambodia’s Local Languages


In Cambodia’s most rural areas, people like farmers do not have access to Internet and often lack crucial information that can help farmers adopt the use of fragrant rice seed for high yields.

The International Finance Corporation is keen to strengthen and further improve the effectiveness of its work in the rice seed space through the introduction of another ICT channel, in addition to its weekly radio program.

The IFC, in collaboration with agriculture NGO Cambodian Institute for Research and Rural Development (CIRD), and InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia (iLab SEA), developed a voice-centric system so farmers can also access to information and knowledge on improved, high value fragrant rice seeds through their mobile phones, in their own language.

The ICT4Ag Verboice project targets 8 provinces, and Cambodian farmers there can call the Verboice number to gain knowledge about fragrant rice seed. Verboice is interactive, free of charge and accessible 24/7. Farmers can even leave questions for CIRD to respond through radio broadcast.

The software underlying Verboice is a free and open-source tool that makes it easy for anyone to create and run projects that interact via voice, allowing users to listen and record messages in their own language and dialect or answer questions with a phone keypad.

Verboice projects can start small and scale up, making it possible to improve lives even in communities previously closed off by literacy and technological barriers.

Apply Now! ISIF Asia Grants


ISIF Asia provides financial support for projects in the form of “small grants.” Small grants are not repayable as no money or interest must be paid back. Grants allocation is decided through a competitive process following a rigorous selection process. This funding mechanism allows the use of flexible and simple management tools.

apply now

Grants will be provided to project proposals to be implemented in a period of 3 to 12 months for up to AUD 30,000 that are aligned with the funding categories and eligibility criteria. Project proposals should provide clear and concrete information about the proposed initiative so the evaluation committee can properly assess it. Innovation and a development focus should be an integral part of all project proposals received during the application process.

The funding categories are:

  • Innovation on access provision
  • Inovation on learning and localization
  • Code for the common good
  • Rights

Call for applications for 2015 is open until 31 October 2014. After the deadline to submit applications, all received submissions are subject to a process of comprehensive analysis, as described in the Selection process section of this website. Shortlisted candidates will be notified. Once all administrative requirements have been met according to the terms and conditions, an official announcement will be widely distributed.

What are you waiting for? Apply today!

Improving Adolescent Sexual Health in Nepal with m4ASRH


Child marriage rates in South Asia are the second highest in the world. Despite stiff penalties for marrying under the age of 18, including up to 3 years in prison, this trend holds true for Nepal. A recent survey performed by Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population showed that 41% of Nepalese women aged 20-24 were married before turning 18. The health impact of childhood marriage is significant. According the World Health Organization, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the second leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds globally.

Additionally, an estimated 26% – 38% of recent births in Nepal are from unintended pregnancies. In this region, women whose pregnancies are unintended are more likely to receive reduced pre and post natal care, resulting in negative health outcomes for both mother and child.

Taboos associated with sex and sexuality remain commonplace across Nepal. According to the Family Planning Association of Nepal, this results in a lack of subject specific teachers to teach sexual health in schools. If educational materials are present, they are often far out of date or in disrepair. Despite the lack of education, Nepalese adolescent pre-marital sex is increasing, creating a population vulnerable to HIV infection.

The Mobile Solution

The Nepali Health Ministry has taken a new approach to providing young people with sexual health and family planning education, launching an mHealth initiative called Mobile for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (m4ASRH).

The program, which got underway September 18, will reach out to at least 300,000 youth.

The m4ASRH initiative is performing four different types of outreach:

  1. On-Demand Information (Encyclopedia) – Adolescents will have access to an online encyclopedia, where they will be able to find the information and answers that they need, in a safe setting.
  2. Role Model Stories – Stories tailored specifically the adolescents’ age and gender which highlight the actions of role models will be sent. The recipient will have the capability to choose the path of the story and see different outcomes.
  3. Quizzes – To drive engagement and interaction, quizzes based on the content of the on-demand information and role model stories will be sent.
  4. Hotline – m4ASRH will provide adolescents with a hotline where they can talk directly to health care workers, allowing access to expert advice and guidance when needed.

There are several factors at play in Nepal that could help the m4ASRH initiative succeed. Despite being a mountainous country, Nepal boasts high mobile penetration. According to a September 2014 report from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (available here), over 83% of Nepal’s population are mobile phone users.

Additionally, there is a rising tide of support from within Nepal for family planning awareness. The m4ASRH initiative was launched by Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister for Health and Population, on Nepal’s first National Family Planning Day in Kathmandu.

Today, 42 Percent of Internet Users Live in Asia. Tomorrow…

This map uses 2011 data on Internet users and total population to show us a few interesting data points:

  • 42% of the world’s Internet users live in Asia.
  • China, India, and Japan have more Internet users than Europe and North America combined.
  • China is now home to the world’s largest Internet population.

And here is the statistic that I’d like to focus on: India has less than 20% Internet usage, which means there is massive upside to Internet adoption in the world’s largest democracy. Especially, when you look at how quickly the tools of access are dropping in price and increasing in functionality.

Key: Low-cost Smartphones

While some may still be thinking that laptop or even desktop computers are the routes to Internet access, its really cheap smartphones. Just look at Xiaomi, which is described as the “Apple of China”. They introduced the Redmi 1S in India and sold 80,000 in 8 seconds, with a queue 200,000 long.

XiaomiWhy? Because the Redmi 1S, at INR 5999 (US$99), is 10x less than the cheapest iPhone 6, and Xiaomi doesn’t see itself as a smartphone manufacturer competing against Apple or Samsung. It sees Amazon as its competitor:

“Like Amazon who built Kindle, Fire Phone, and invested in technology to boost its core ecommerce. Similarly, our phones are just a means to an end, and not the end,” says Xiaomi vice-president Hugo Barra.

Xiaomi has realized that 1 billion Indians are a giant market waiting to get online, and they’re laser-focused on making sure Asia will stay and grow as the epicenter of Internet usage globally. Internet that arrives on a mobile phone.