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.

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!

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.

Last Chance: Apply Now for Manthan Award South Asia & Pacific 2014


Today is your last chance to apply for the Manthan Award South Asia & Pacific 2014 that recognizes the best digital initiatives using ICT tools for the masses.

Award nominations should be live projects with at least 6 months of on the ground activities, not pilot projects or business plans, and in one of the 36 eligible Asia/Pacific countries.

Governments, individuals, students, entrepreneurs, private sector companies, academic institutions, and NGOs can apply online for consideration in one of these categories:

  • e-Business & Financial Inclusion
  • Community Broadcasting
  • e-Culture, Heritage & Tourism
  • e-Education, Learning & Employment
  • e-Agriculture and Ecology
  • e-Governance & Institutions
  • e-Health
  • e-Inclusion & Accessibility
  • e-News & Journalism
  • e-Entertainment & Games
  • e-Science & Technology
  • e-Women & Empowerment
  • e-Inclusion & Localisation

The shortlisted nominees will be provided a space at the Manthan Asia Expo 2014 to showcase their winning nominations to the participants from all countries and the media. The final awards ceremony will be on 4th December 2014 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India.

Connecting Dreams of Poor Indians with Apna Tech Trees


Around 70% of the poor in India are from rural areas where there is a lack of basic social and infrastructure services, such as healthcare, roads, education, and drinking water.

Yet, despite the presence of over 300,000 NGOs, which are working in sectors spanning the gamut from agriculture to minority rights, India’s growth has primarily benefited its urban elite and middle class population who are engaged largely in the fast-growing services sector.

Inclusive, sustainable growth needs to be achieved in order to reduce poverty and other social and economic disparities, and also to sustain long-term economic growth. This is possible only by establishing a strong connection between rural and urban India for equitable social and economic opportunities. Relevant scientific and technological interventions can help in accelerating the process.

Connecting Dreams Foundation Approach

Our experience and extensive fieldwork led us to arrive at the hypotheses that in rural India most of the problems and solutions are within a 10 km radius of each other. That means a challenge in one village has a solution in a neighboring village, and its only due to limitations of transportation, access, appropriate technology, education and social meetings that people don’t share solutions amongst each other.

We believe that the solutions to some of the big challenges in rural India lie within rural India itself and the best we can do is to get the villages connected with each other by providing an appropriate technology – thereby making the villages into village smart grids.

Therefore, we have come up with Apna Tech Tree (ATT). The ATT is a village enterprise with a people centric design – a touch screen PC with broadband and a trusted portal run by local village women groups in partnership with NGO’s.


ATT enables community centric learning using video conferencing and voice over internet to communicate, share best practices and challenges with people of neighboring villages and with experts in the areas of healthcare, banking and education. You can see a video of ATT in action here.

ATT offers solution that creates connected village or village smart grids. The ATT’s have the capability of speaking – interacting with local grids, experts and also showcasing – broadcasting customized or locally curated content. Currently ATT offers solutions and content in Healthcare, Livelihood and Education sectors where experts in the above fields are connected over video conferencing to the village community once a week and help in them in resolving their key issues.

Just listen to our happy constituents:

Rani Siddhu, Village Citizen: “Even though we can’t read or write, but we can at least listen and learn and this ‘Apna Tech Tree’ has been a big help for people like me and for our children who now use knowledge and information to achieve something better and make a good life.”

Sharmishtha Tyagi, Village Coordinator: “This ‘Apna Tech Tree’ is a boon for the children as well as for the women. Earlier the ladies in the village didn’t know much as we can’t go out of the village but now because of this tree, we can get any information and solve our issue right at our doorstep.”
Rabita, Village Citizen: “Although we are uneducated, we have the will to learn anything that is new. This ‘Apna Tech Tree’ has made us realize the importance of information and its accessibility through which we can improve our and our children’s lives in a simple and easy way.”

You can learn more about Connecting Dreams Foundation (CDF), a non-profit foundation working towards architecting social transformational interventions and campaigns using technology that create positive impact across the globe, online and on Facebook.

Respect Myanmar Diversity: Use Unicode Fonts


Burmese is the dominant language of Myanmar, but its had a long and winding journey in the digital realm, and now there is a tension between two competing systems to represent it online.

Unlike Latin script or pictograph scripts like Chinese, Burmese doesn’t use spaces between words and generally doesn’t fit into nice, tidy blocks that are easy for computers to render on a screen.

Almost all languages have fonts that adhere to the Unicode standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text. In Myanmar the development of Unicode compliance had a very slow start, and until recently, there wasn’t a strong Unicode standard.

To help Myanmar enter the digital age, a group of individuals produced the Zawgyi font to represent Burmese script. Most of the tech elite learned to type using Zawgyi, and like the American Qwerty system, the network effects – from keyboards to typing classes – has made Zawgyi the most widely used font. However, its popularity doesn’t mean Zawgyi is the best font to use.

Technologically, Zawgyi is a nightmare for backend software development, as it requires extensive customization to present the font correctly. The font itself also needs to be installed on computers or mobile phones, which can be a technical hurtle for novice users.

But culturally, there is an even greater imperative to use Unicode instead of Zawgyi. Zawgyi is useless for typing other ethnic Myanmar languages that use Burmese script, like Sanksrit, Shan, and Mon. Myanmar already has a rocky history (past and present) with ethnic minorities, and we should not use any digital tool that excludes them or presents a barrier to their digital voice.

Unicode fonts support 11 languages that use the Myanmar script, including Burmese, Pali, Sanskrit, Mon, Shan, Kayah, Rumai Palaung, and four Karen languages. Unicode is now standard on Android devices, which are and will be the most popular way to get online in Myanmar, and over 30% of Myanmar government websites use Unicode.

So it is time for all of us to use Unicode fonts to communicate in Myanmar, so we can truly communicate with everyone.

Myanmar Will Be the First Smartphone Only Country

Today, Myanmar has the same mobile phone usage as North Korea, Eritrea, and Cuba – less than 10% – with only the urban elite owning smartphones, and mobile networks limited in scope and functionality. Yet technology restrictions are ending, and three mobile operators are racing to roll out services to 60 million across the country.

Ooredoo aims to have 3G coverage for 50% of the population by year’s end, with Telenor and Myanmar Post and Telecom with their own ambitious targets. By the end of 2015, most of Myanmar’s population will live within range of a 3G or better mobile network system.

The people of Myanmar will not be connecting to this network with basic or feature phones for three reasons:

1. Smartphones are cheapWhile new iPhones are still several hundred dollars, there is an explosion of cheap Android handsets available in Myanmar already. $50USD can buy a Karbonn Smart A50S, Spice Smart Flo Edge from India or one of many no-name Chinese-made phones. And that’s today.

With the $25 Firefox phone coming out soon, we’ll see even cheaper, full-featured smartphones flooding the low-end market. By the end of 2015, expect smartphone prices even in developed markets dropping to sub-$100 prices.

2. Burmese are savvy

Mobile phones are also more than just a communications device; they are an aspirational status symbol. And Myanmar is not some remote backwater. Wedged between India and Thailand, with trade and cultural links to both, Burmese are quick to pick up innovations and aspire to join the ranks of Southeast Asia’s elite countries. They are not going to be satisfied with feature phones. Only smartphones will matter.

In fact, looking around Yangon today, I haven’t seen a single feature phone. Even the bus drivers and market sellers have smartphones of some type. They may be used or cheap Chinese knock-offs, but they are not basic phones. Offical surveys say that Android smartphones are 95% of the Burmese market already.

3. Services will be smart

Talking with Ooredoo and Telenor, they are focused purely on smartphone applications for their networks, as is the nascent technology start-up sector. None are looking at feature phone applications nor are they considering SMS text messages or even USSD as their communication system.

Even the international NGOs are moving quickly to develop smartphone applications for their constituencies. And once mobile money becomes widespread, they will even move “cash” payments from physical to virtual currencies.

What does this mean for you? First, adjust your perception of what a developing country looks like. The 60 million people of Myanmar are rushing into the future, practically overnight, and they will have the same technology in their hands as you do.

Next, realize that there will be big money to be made in multiple little niches. With almost 60 million people coming online, there will be massive opportunity to satisfy consumer and business needs – both obvious ones we are familiar with in other countries, and those unique to Myanmar.

Finally, what are you waiting for? The people of Myanmar are not waiting for you.