Zaya Learning Labs: Putting ICTs in the Classroom

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Neil D’Souza is an Indian engineer and a dreamer. His dream is to help the underprivileged children to receive a quality education.

A Life Commitment to Education

D’Souza’s passion to help the disadvantaged started during his time at Cisco. For four years, he worked there, mostly on mobile Internet and video technologies. During his free time, he would do some volunteering in San Jose, California.

In 2011, he took the leap. He moved to Mongolia and spent a year teaching in rural orphanages. This is where he discovered the learning deficiency that affects most developing countries. His pupils were far below their grade level, lacking basic literary and numerical skills.

D’Souza was aware of the ongoing online education revolution. He knew this could help his students to catch up. But without Internet, they had no chance to ever access the educational resources online. The more time he spent in Mongolia, the more determined he became to tackle this issue.

He was even starting to develop his own solution when he met Soma Vajpayee. Vajpayee was the perfect partner for his project. She had been a Training Manager at Citibank for ten years and, just like D’Souza, she was passionate about using ICTs in the classroom. In 2012, they started Zaya Learning Labs. Their goal was to bring quality education to the bottom of the pyramid, starting in India.

The Indian Crisis Education

For years, India has been confronting an acute learning crisis. Although 96 percent of the children go to school, many do not reach basic literacy by 10. In fact, 60 percent cannot read a text, and 74 percent are unable to solve a division problem.

One of the main reasons for the crisis is the lack of trained and motivated teachers. There is an estimated shortage of 1.2 million schoolmasters throughout India. Those who actually teach often lack both expertise and pedagogical ability. Since many in low-income private schools get only $100 a month, they also have no motivation. A majority of teachers even skip school at least once a week.

All this adds to the curriculum’s low standards and large classroom sizes. So it is no surprising that the learning outcomes are so poor.

Mixing education and technology

To tackle this issue, D’Souza and Vajpayee created an innovative solution mixing education and a ClassCloud technology.

On the education side, they developed a blended learning model in order to create a student-driven learning environment. The goal is that pupils stop staring out the window and instead engage with the teacher. This is why they divide the students into several groups based on their level. During the day, each group goes through three different learning times. While the schoolmaster teaches the first group, the second one reads or does homework.

Meanwhile, the last group reviews their lessons using a computer or a tablet. It allows them to connect to the ClassCloud. This portable WiFi device contains all the resources for the class. There are lessons, but also instructional videos, educational games, and quizzes.

To truly engage the students, Zaya developed a fun and friendly learning environment. The ClassCloud is also adaptive, so the pupils can learn at their own level and pace. Lessons and assessments are based on each student’s interests and needs, while also taking into account their progress. When they are consistent in finding the right answers, they can move to the next level. But if they aren’t, they spend more time on the topic. The overall goal is to guide them step by step towards their actual grade level.

Once the students complete their assignments, the system generates a personalized analytics report. It is then sent to the teachers as well as the Zaya educational team. It helps them make the right interventions. For instance, it is easier to identify the students who lag behind and have the teachers focus on them.

An Innovative Solution That Makes Students Happy to Study

Zaya’s ClassCloud is a great Edtech solution, as it is particularly adapted to the constraints of developing countries.

  • It is easy to use, even by teachers who have no IT skills
  • It is battery-powered and can run for ten hours without electricity. This is particularly useful in India, where power shortages are frequent.
  • Finally, it works both online and offline. This is another necessary feature in India, as Internet penetration is around 12 percent. While offline, the ClassCloud stores all the data. It syncs it back to the cloud whenever it has connectivity.

No wonder Zaya has become so popular among low-income schools throughout India. Over 100 schools have adopted it, and 30,000 pupils use it on a daily basis. For them, it has changed everything. They are now engaged in their learning and excited to go to class. More importantly, their learning outcomes increase.

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.

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!

 

Apply Now: 2015 ISIF Asia Awards

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The ISIF Asia Awards seek to acknowledge the important contributions ICT innovators have made with creative solutions to the social and economic development of the Asia Pacific region. The ISIF Asia Awards are granted to initiatives on the last stages of implementation or that have finalized activities already that are aligned with the funding categories and eligibility criteria.

Financial support for up to AUD 3,000 is allocated via a competitive process, plus a travel grant to attend the awards ceremony at a regional or global event chosen by the ISIF Asia secretariat. Innovation and a development focus should be an integral part of all award nominations.

Nominations for the 2015 ISIF Asia awards close 30 June 2015
Nominate your project now!
The funding categories are:

  • Innovation on access provision: Access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) is a prevalent issue in the Asia Pacific region, especially for services that require broadband connectivity. Innovative solutions offering low cost deployment, low power consumption and low maintenance that expanded fixed and mobile access to the internet through new forms of technical and organizational arrangements as well as improved the quality of access based on issues of accessibility, disability and linguistic diversity.
  • Innovation on learning and localization: Capacity building and localization efforts have been key to develop the skills needed to design, maintain, and manage ICT infrastructure and services in local languages, supporting local talent and creating job opportunities in rural or urban marginalized areas. Innovative, open, inclusive and sustainable approaches to learning and localization are key elements to guarantee the quality of access to knowledge needed to offer reliable services and applications.
  • Code for the common good: High mobile penetration in the AP region has been a catalyst in the development of mobile-based services, applications and software solutions. These solutions have been used to support timely and relevant information dissemination on a large scale using a range of network infrastructures through a variety of devices, even where literacy rates are lower. Mobile technologies have enabled communities to increase participation in political processes, coordinate efforts during emergency situations, receive extreme weather alerts, communicate with remote health services, and receive specialized patient referrals, among many other applications.
  • Rights: Strategic use of Internet tools and services to promote freedom of expression, freedom of association, privacy, security, consumers’ rights, gender equality, new forms of intellectual property in the digital environment, and a wider range of issues related to the Internet and human rights.

In addition to selecting a winner per category, a Community Choice Award will be granted to the best social media campaign (the project with the highest number of votes from the community).

What are you waiting for? Apply today!

Can MOOCs Improve India’s Higher Education?

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) exploded in popularity in 2013. With the ease of enrollment (I myself have registered for one) and low costs, some MOOCs have drawn more than 160,000 participants from around the world. For countries with mushrooming populations like India, MOOCs offer much promise. India has a gross university enrollment rate (GER) of only 18% and a youth population of 234 million. Tasked with increasing enrollment rates to 30% by 2020, MOOCs can provide the seats that India needs. But as with any new technology, the government and universities are exploring how to best implement and blend MOOCs with existing models.

What are India’s main HigherEd challenges?

The Indian government is focusing on expansion, equity and excellence in higher education for the next few years. India will need 14 million seats in 5 years to meet its GER goals. Considering this, one can easily decide that brick and mortar schools will not be the primary solution. Quality of education has slipped severely over time due to lack of regulation and scarcity of instructors. Although private universities have helped increase seats, some institutions have only focused on graduating the most students possible.

So what’s the deal with MOOCs?

MOOCs typically have one instructor who teaches thousands of students across the world. While enrollment rates are high, the same can’t be said of completion rates, which are typically less than 10%. The main difficulty with MOOCs is providing certificates after completion. Completion rates lie at about 26% for classes that have some type of certification, showing that certificates do motivate student to pass and complete courses.

Research has shown that students who do complete the courses are generally not motivated by affordability. Also, most MOOC participants already have a bachelors or masters degree. This cannot be easily explained but it does show that those who cannot afford higher education do not have access to MOOCs or are uninterested.

How are MOOCs currently being used in India?

India has the second highest user population, at around 12%. A number of Indian universities have launched their own MOOCs, often in collaboration with American universities. The government announced its own platform called Swayam. Using the openEdx platform, students can take the courses for free and only pay for the certificate of completion. Another interesting initiative is Skill Up India. The platform features classes ranging from emergency first response to entrepreneurial skills. As the name denotes, the mission is to improve the employability and entrepreneurial abilities of Indian youth.

Can MOOCs Improve India’s Higher Education?

Universities have struggled to balance the relationship between quality and quantity. MOOCs can provide a transparent and measurable quality at large scale. A comparative study at MIT showed that MOOC students learned a tad bit more than traditional student. Blended instruction was the most beneficial to students. Certain science classes have incorporated labs and this can be utilized in all fields. MOOCs, similar to Skill Up India, might be promising to post graduates who would like to improve their employability or entrepreneurial toolkit.

Equity is an important piece with Indian higher education goals. MOOCs have the promise of providing education to those outside the brick and mortar; however, they currently aren’t reaching that demographic. With Internet access at around 20%, increasing Internet access will increase the availability of MOOCs to the wider population.

Angelina Nonye-John is a researcher and writer with Mansa Colabs

2015 grant recipients announced today

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ISIF Asia is pleased to announce that five projects, including two from the Pacific Islands, will received AUD $30,000 to be implemented during 2015. The projects were selected after a very competitive process, with 166 applications from 23 economies submitted for evaluation. Seventy-three applications passed pre-screening and 32 were shortlisted. The quality of the applications and the technical expertise behind them, made the selection process particularly difficult this year.

In my role as Community Partnerships Specialist at APNIC, I am particularly pleased to see how the program is supporting projects in the Pacific, as improvement of the connectivity in the Pacific is something that has been discussed a lot, but very little practical research to design a strategy to actually make it happened has not been done. These two projects, one working to deploy a network using TV White Spaces in Vanuatu and another one focusing on research to design a peering strategy for the Pacific Islands, have really great potential to influence change in the Pacific, to influence policy, to increase the chances to improve connectivity in the islands, building on the experience gained by their supporting organizations and with strong industry partners.

Is not very often that ISIF Asia has the opportunity to support projects deployment technologies like TV White Spaces in such diverse locations -one in a remote island in the Pacific and the other one in the mountains of the Himalayas-, so we are looking forward to learning more about how these two networks will evolve and what their project teams will teach us, from the high mountains of Nepal to the outer islands of Vanuatu.

The 2015 grant recipients are:

1.  Development of a mobile phone-based telemedicine system with interfaced diagnostic equipment for essential healthcare in rural areas of Low Resource Countries.
Department of Biomedical Physics and Technology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

For Least Developed Countries, qualified doctors for medical care are not available to the majority of the people who live in rural areas. Telemedicine systems offer a solution to this problem. The Department of Biomedical Physics & Technology of Dhaka University, has developed a PC-based telemedicine system with several diagnostic equipment like Stethoscope, ECG, Microscope, X-ray Viewbox, Colposcope, etc., integrated into the system at low cost, either designed and made by the group locally, or improvised from other types of available instruments. Coupled with standard audio-visual technology, these instruments have enhanced the capability of telemedicine for primary healthcare. Now the team plans to convert the existing system into a mobile phone based platform, using Android operating system for which this application is being made.

2. Long-range TVWS link as backbone for remote broadband provision.
Telsat Broadband Ltd, Vanuatu.

The islands of Vanuatu are spread across roughly 900km of ocean from top to bottom; the vast majority of these islands are to the North of the capital of Port Vila, while the islands of Eromango and Tanna to the south are disadvantaged by the expanse of ocean between them and the capital. Recently, in April 2014, Port Vila got a huge bridge across the digital divide with the connection of the first under-sea cable in Vanuatu. Along this connection into Port Vila, many of the islands to the north benefited as well due to the existing terrestrial microwave connection. The islands to the south however have been plagued with poor or no connectivity and still to this day, the even the government’s new iGov microwave network does not reach Eromango or Tanna.  Telsat Broadband is constantly looking for new, innovative and cost-effective ways with which to service rural and disconnected areas of Vanuatu to provide the communities there with access to the Internet and to the world. Through the use of an upcoming technology called TV White Space (TVWS), we are aiming to use the low frequency of this equipment to establish a long-range, stable link across the vast expanse of ocean between Port Vila and Eromango and connect these islands to the new submarine cable in Port Vila.

3. Deployment of a community-based Hybrid Wireless Network Using TV White Space and Wi-Fi Spectrum in Remote Valleys around Manaslu Himalaya.
E-Networking Research and Development, Nepal.

The proposed project is for building a long range hybrid wireless network in the villages near Manaslu Himalaya region of Nepal using Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) and TV White Space (472 MHz to 698 MHz) spectrum to bring broadband Internet for the villagers. So far E-Networking Research and Development has been using only Wi-Fi frequencies to build wireless network and to bring Internet in the rural areas by building P2P (Point to Point) and P2MP (Point to Multi-Point) wireless links. The reason why ENRD is proposing now to build a hybrid network with the combination of Wi-Fi and TVWS technology is we have assumed that such hybrid network would perform better and would make the network more robust than building the wireless network just by using Wi-Fi bands only. Thus ENRD wants to do a comparative study of Wi-Fi and TV White Space (TVWS) regarding their coverage, throughput, and performance. The reason for not using only the Wi-Fi band is that there are some limitations with only a Wi-Fi network, such as the need for clear line of sight (LOS), potential interference by the forest and cloudy weather, and less coverage. The proposed site is Nubri and Chun valley, located along the route to Manslu Peak (8,156m, or 26,759 ft), which is the 8th highest peak in the world. It takes six days walking to get to the region from the nearest highway. The network will provide Internet services for e-medicine in the community clinics and e-learning in community schools and Buddhist monasteries. It will also help to promote tourism in the region by providing Internet along the trekking trails and lodges by creating hotspots along the six day-long trekking trails. The Internet will also be used for trekkers’ tracking systems for the safety of the trekkers.

4. Improved Carrier Access in Rural Emergencies (ICARE).
Innovadors Lab Pvt Ltd and School of Computer and Information Science, IGNOU. India.

The ICARE project aims to offer timely pick-up and drop-back transportation to rural population in emergencies and adverse health situations for 100,000 rural citizens living in the pilot area of Odisha (India). Rural people often suffer from limited access to transportation to travel to health facilities. ICARE aims to provide more than 80% of rural beneficiaries in the project area with access to a vehicle in less than an hour to travel to health facilities. ICARE hopes to improve access by engaging vehicles available from local people and facilitate coordination through a call centre. ICARE, on the other hand, makes dynamic use of vehicles available in and around rural communities. According to the recent Census of India (2011), rural Odisha has some 75,185 four wheelers in some 8 million households, roughly one vehicle in every 106 households. In rural Odisha, there are 500 – 1,500 households in a village which has a radius of 3 – 8 km. Given this strength, ICARE proposes to engage the vehicle owners willing to volunteer their time and vehicles for a fee for a service. A call centre shall receive calls from health workers and beneficiaries requesting vehicles and the call centre would in turn call the vehicle owners who registered to volunteer their vehicles to check their availability. The call centre would then dispatch the nearest and willing vehicle owner to the provide pick up and drop by service. The vehicle owner can be reimbursed by the facility for transporting pregnant women, through the maternity transport reimbursement scheme of the government. For other health emergencies, beneficiaries or insurers can make the payment.

5. A Peering Strategy for the Pacific Islands.
Network Startup Resource Center, Pacific Islands.

In the last decade, new fibre optic systems have linked islands throughout the Pacific. New Caledonia now connects to Australia. Tonga and Vanuatu each have cables to Fiji. French Polynesia and Samoa link to Hawaii. The Marshal Islands and Federated States of Micronesia now connect to Guam. Each new cable project has helped Pacific Islands connect to the Internet, but not to each other. More often than not, traffic between networks in the Pacific travels via Australia or the United States. This is the case even for networks servicing the same country. Such suboptimal routing results in poor performance and high costs for all parties. Establishing peering exchanges in the Pacific will improve the quality of latency-sensitive applications. Voice and video applications important to education and government will improve. Costs for local carriers and end users will fall. Reliance on multinational telecommunications carriers will lessen. Several projects to establish peering exchanges in the Pacific have faltered, while only one has succeeded. In some cases, telecommunications regulations or monopolies have erected barriers. In other cases terrestrial circuit pricing has made peering a poor financial choice for participants. A lack of understanding of peering by stakeholders is the only barrier in another case. This project seeks to produce a strategy that will get peering back on track in the Pacific. The strategy document will be informed by demand, network topologies, commercial relationships, monopolies, and government policies. It will highlight the potential benefits to all stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on research and education networks. In accessible language and with clear illustrations, the strategy will help stakeholders understand all sides of the arguments around peering, including those of reluctant incumbents. We hope its completion and presentation to the community will lead to new peering initiatives that will be highly beneficial to the Pacific region.

The grants for 2015 have also been sponsored by the Internet Society, the Dot Asia Organization, ICANN and APIA.

How to Improve Education Quality in South Asia?

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Last year, the World Bank published Student learning in South Asia : challenges, opportunities, and policy priorities report about the state of education in South Asia. It showed that, despite undeniable achievements, poor education quality is holding back the region and trapping the youth in poverty. The good news is: there are solutions!

south-asia

1. How is the education sector doing in South Asia?

It’s doing much better! For the past decade, most countries have invested a lot in education, and they have achieved impressive results. Today, 89 percent of the children go to school; in 2001, there were only 75 percent. Besides, the literacy rate has skyrocketed, and 80.6 percent of the youth can now read.

Yet, despite this tremendous progress, there is still much to do. Even now, 13 million young South Asians have no access to education at all. For those attending primary school, many will drop out before graduating, and only 58 percent will get a secondary degree. This is below the world’s average by 12 percentage points.

2. Will South Asia reach universal primary education by end-2015?

There are still wide disparities across the region, so it depends on which country we are talking about. For instance, Sri Lanka achieved this goal several decades ago, and India with its 96 percent enrollment rate is well advanced too. On the contrary, Pakistan is lagging much behind, with only 72.1 percent of its children going to school. And in Afghanistan, the situation is even worse!

3. What are the barriers to accessing education?

As elsewhere in the world, poverty and gender discrimination are the number 1 barriers.

South Asia is one of the poorest regions in the world, and this has a huge impact on education. Children from disadvantaged families tend to drop out more often. But, here, the poverty factor is aggravated by the many conflicts and natural disasters that have racked the region since 2000. Schools have been closed or destroyed, and this has prevented the youth from studying at all.

For the girls, the chance to get an education is even lower. Over half of them have to drop out before reaching the last grade of primary school. This is a pity, as educating the girls is one of the keys to overcoming poverty. Indeed, an educated woman is likely to marry at a later age and have fewer, healthier, and better educated children. And since they often get a higher wage, they can contribute to increasing the standard of living of their family.

4. What about learning outcomes?

For the World Bank, this is the greatest challenge South Asia is facing now. The current education system does not give the youth the skills they need to reach their potential, get a good job, and succeed in life. Today, up to one-third of primary school’s students lack basic numeracy and literary skills. And it hardly gets better in secondary schools.

This low learning outcome has not only an impact on the children’s personal development. It also undermines the whole region’s competitiveness, economic growth, and any efforts to reduce poverty.

5. Why is the quality of education so poor?

Clearly, the educational methods are not effective. In South Asia, pupils are asked to rote learn rather than to reason or think for themselves. This is not to say that rote learning is useless. Still, children also need to be taught how to be analytical, solve problems, and write meaningful sentences.

But how could it be otherwise? Teachers have insufficient skills and are hardly trained. What is more, a majority skips class one day in five, and this has pervasive consequences. In general, the teachers’ knowledge and commitment are critical to the students’ learning. But in South Asia, this is even more important. Most children are the first ones in their family to ever go to school, and they cannot rely on their parents to help them.

6. What could these countries do?

For the World Bank, the priority is to invest in early childhood nutrition. It may sound irrelevant, and yet, the impact on learning outcomes would be massive, as malnutrition damages the children’s ability to learn. Another priority is to improve the teachers’ effectiveness. Governments should appoint them based on merit, train them, and reward their performances. This could increase the motivation of the good ones and persuade them to keep teaching.

7. What about ICTs?

Surprisingly the World Bank does not mention them in its report, and yet, ICTs provide incredibly useful tools to educators. There are many examples of successful initiatives. For instance, Shilpa Sayura in Sri Lanka, Deaf Reach in Pakistan, and eVidyaloka in India have helped thousands of rural, disadvantaged, and disabled children break the learning barriers and overcome school failure.

All these projects have proven to be both innovative and efficient, with few resources. So, why not take inspiration from them?

ISIF Asia 2014 Annual Summary

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2014 has been a busy year of the ISIF Asia program with awards, grants and capacity building activities been supported around the AP region. Here is a summary of what we have done in 2014.

ISIF Asia Awards 2014

The Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Awards seek to acknowledge the important contributions ICT innovators have made to their communities, by addressing social and development challenges using the Internet. The Awards recognize projects that have already been implemented, or are in the final stages of implementation, and have been successful in addressing their communities’ needs.

During 2014, 5 awards of AUD 3000 were given to very interesting projects from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines and Vanuatu covering very relevant issues were Internet technologies make a difference for community development, such as educational resources for people with disabilities; accountability and transparency for government; maternal health; access to remote islands and skills development for the poor. 4 award winners were selected out of the 93 nominations received from 16 economies. The Selection Committee approved 34 nominations for full review and opened them up for the community to cast their vote to select the Community Choice Award winner.

  • Rights: Sinar Project, Malaysia
  • Innovation on learning and localization: Accessible reading materials for grades 1-10 students with print disability through DAISY standard, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), Bangladesh
  • Innovation on access provision: e-Action for Universal Healthcare Coverage, ACCESS Health Philippines, Philippines
  • Code for the common good: Connecting remote islands in Vanuatu with LiteGateway Network Access System, Telsat Broadband Limited, Vanuatu
  • Community Choice Award: Sohoj Sonchoy – Easy Savings, Green Networking Research Group, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Besides the cash prize, the award winners were invited to attend the 9th Internet Governance Forum (Istanbul, Turkey. 2-5 September 2014) where the ISIF program organized 2 events (preIGF workshop and awards ceremony) where the award winners had the opportunity to share their experiences, their challenges for the future. The ISIF Asia helped them organized a pack agenda to actively participate and contribute to the discussions about the future of the Internet.

This year it was particularly interesting as the work done to contact session organizers was successful and the award winners were invited to be part of panel discussions as speakers and their comments and views were included in the reports.

Internet Governance Forum participation

As part of the Seed Alliance support, ISIF Asia led the development of a workshop proposal that was accepted by the MAG for inclusion in the official IGF program. A follow-up of the work conducted during the IGF in Bali, the workshop No. 7 “From ideas to solutions: Funding challenges for Internet development” raised the funding challenges that many organizations faced when trying to deploy Internet related projects, and the variety of mechanisms that are now available that require a very rapid adaptation from practitioners in the field to address problems from a business perspective.

Capacity Building Fund

During 2014, ISIF recipients benefited from additional support through the Capacity building fund to promote the results of their ISIF supported projects at international events that have raised their profile which open doors to negotiate additional support for their projects through a stronger and wider network of contacts, as follows:

  • APRICOT – Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies, February 2014 / https://2014.apricot.net. ISIF Asia supported the participation of Sheau Shing Chong, Teddy Mantoro, Tariq Zaman and Khairil Yusof.
  • School on Applications of Open Spectrum and White Spaces Technologies, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), March 2014 / http://wireless.ictp.it/school_2014/index.html. ISIF Asia in collaboration with ICTP supported the participation of Apinun Tunpan, to share intERlab experience as part of the case studies session.
  • ICANN 49 Singapore, March 2014 / http://singapore49.icann.org/en/schedule-full. Sheau Ching Chong, Teddy Mantoro and Mashiur Rahman where selected as ISIF Asia Ambassadors, sponsored by the ICANN Asia Hub (Singapore).
  • 11th IEEE International Conference HONET. Charlotte, USA. December 2014. http://honet-ict.org. Shamila Keyani from UM Health Trust in Pakistan has been invited to present the results of their ISIF supported project “Hepatitis Surveillance System for rural Pakistan through web and mobile based technologies”.

Most 2013 grants reached completion

During 2014, we have seen the completion of many of the 2013 grant recipients. Projects addressed major societal concerns and demonstrated the transformative role that information and communication technology (ICT) can have in emerging economies. This summary of 2013 grant recipients and their projects are examples of the kind of partnerships that ISIF encourages and supports.

  • The University of Dhaka in Bangladesh has developed a prototype for an automobile-based system that alert distracted drivers to their dangerous conditions. This system employs audio, visual, and medical-grade health sensors to determine the level of distraction a driver is experiencing.
  • In the Philippines, ACCESS Health International has created an integrated maternal and child health care delivery and training program. The interactive Community Heath Team project, or iCHT, is an automated healthcare application that offers access to resources and tele-consultation at the point of care.
  • In Nepal, the Yatigen Group is expanding work on an existing maternal healthcare platform, Amakomaya, to connect rural pregnant women with regional health posts through Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs). The tenets of this Android-based mobile phone application are “connect, inform and monitor.”
  • Another health effort, led by the UM Heath Trust in Mardan, Pakistan, helps Rural Health Workers track outbreaks of Hepatitis A and E, and focuses on providing Hepatitis information to women. This platform uses Google Maps and SMS/MMS for outbreak reporting, and can be used for other disease and emergency management communications.
  • The PIPA project, from the Binus University in Indonesia, a cloud-based application that allows home energy usage data to be collected and monitored by households in order to teach citizens how to increase their energy efficiency. This will not only lower their electrical costs, but create less strain on the expensive and stressed national electrical infrastructure and decrease blackouts.
  • Due to rapid emerging socioeconomic conditions, Myanmar is in dire need of updating its telecommunications infrastructure while creating a technical workforce in country to manage this capacity. The ISIF grant enabled First Myanmar Korea Group Co. Ltd. to translate one of the leading books on wireless networking in the developing world into Myanmar.
  • Facing infrastructure and power concerns like Indonesia and Myanmar, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) have not been able to take advantage of reliable Internet or grid electricity. The PISCES Project brought both electricity and Internet connectivity to schools in FSM, in partnership with the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations.
  • In Malaysia, a civil service collation called the Sinar Project aims to increase government transparency and accountability, while involving citizens in politics and reporting. The Sinar portfolio of projects emphasizes open data APIs and databases for reporting bribes, infrastructure complaints, and other watchdog activities.
  • A similar watchdog effort is sponsored by the Philippine’s Foundation for Media Alternatives, an organization that strives to raise awareness and motivate policy around electronic violence against women, or eVAW. FMA promotes the use of ICT to advocate for eVAW-realted issues, aggregate eVAW statistics, and allow women to report eVAW incidents via a Ushahidi-based tracking tool.
  • In India, the advocacy organization Point of View (POV) has begun the “Internet Rights Are Women’s Rights” campaign and workshop across five cities to bridge the gap between gender rights and Internet rights advocacy groups.

2014 supported projects are well under way!

The selection for the 2014 grant recipients was also completed and 12 projects have received support. Their progress reports are starting to flow in, and they will reach completion during the first semester of 2015. Here is a sneak peak of their main achievements so far:

  • The project “Improving Internet Connectivity in Pacific Island countries with network coded TCP. Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society” conducted in collaboration between PICISOC and the University of Auckland has started the testing of their solution in New Zealand and a deployment in Niue Island. During the next few months additional deployments will be undertaken to improve connectivity in the Pacific Islands.
  • The Punjabi University, Patiala in India is making remarkable progress on their project to overcome the barriers that Sindhi Arabic and Devnagri scripts posed for researchers. They have completed the transliteration tables for both scripts and millions of words have being input into the database which is now on a beta version.
  • The Cook Islands Maori Database has released an app, website and social media page that has raised attention from the local media and interest from the local government to preserve the language. The project is leaded by the Cook Islands Internet Action Group.
  • CoralWatch is working with their partners in Indonesia on the first version of the app to improve citizen science monitoring of coral reefs in Indonesia. The app will be launched early next year with a follow-up launch in May in Indonesia. The University of Queensland leads the project.
  • The Chiang-Rai MeshTV project, conducted in collaboration between intERLab/AIT, the Mirror Foundation and the THNIC Foundation, has been successfully deployed in this remote village in Thailand. The Chiang-Rai community has now a fully operational mesh network that streams educational videos for learning development over a community wireless network, increasing their access to educational content fit for a low literacy context motivating families to support their kids to keep on their learning path.
  • The Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations (ISITI-CoERI) in Malaysia is tackling the challenge to preserve a code-signed language that the nomadic Penans use to community in the rainforest. Their efforts have allowed to document traditional knowledge from the elders and making it relevant for the younger generations.
  • A scale-up grant allocated to iSolutions in Micronesia, following the deployment of the PISCES project support in 2013 to connect schools to the Internet in Chuuk, is now working to deploy a state wide solar server education hub where the connected schools can access educational content and share communications capabilities, lowering the cost by rationalizing the use of their limited broadband connections and using solar energy.
  • Nazdeek, in collaboration with PAHJRA and ICAAD has introduced a different approach on how to improve maternal health in India. They are using SMS technologies liked to online mapping to increase accountability in delivery of maternal health services. Their approach allows Adivasi tea garden workers in Assam to understand their rights and how to claim the benefits they are entitled to.
  • The ECHO app from eHomemakers in Malaysia received an award in 2012 for their work to support workingwomen in Malaysia to communicate and coordinate better when they work from home. In 2014 they received a scale-up grant replicate their experience in support to Homenet in Indonesia.
  • The University of Engineering and Technology and Vietnam National University are working on better systems for monitoring and early warning of landslides in Vietnam.
  • Operation ASHA successes in India, have inspired this scale-up grant to support the deployment of an application to monitor TB in Cambodia and support the work that healthworkers do to contain the spread of the disease and provide adequate follow-up for patients.
  • BAPSI has started the training and testing the development of Morse code-based applications to provide deaf-blind people with the opportunity to use mobile phones to better communicate with those around them that do not know sign-language.

Site visits

In August, for the first time since the ISIF program was established, we had the opportunity to visit 2 of the 2014 supported projects in India. The visits were not only informative about the challenging contexts that these 2 projects operate but were also inspiring, as what can be achieved when talented and highly committed professionals, put their knowledge and effort to good use, for the benefit of disadvantaged communities.

The first visit was to the tea gardens around Tezpur in Assam, where Adivasi workers are getting a better understanding of their health rights according to the law in India, what to do when their rights have not been respected and the importance of speak-up, to show evidence that there are not isolated cases but a pattern of behavior that is possible to change. A simple string of numbers sent via SMS is converted into a health rights abuse report, once the numbers are decoded on the database and the information is verified. A follow-up call can mean the difference between neglect and the fact that there are organizations that care and there are ways to get help. Communities feel empowered to claim their rights: from the free supply of folic acid and iron, to the subsidies the government has assigned to them to encourage a safer baby delivery in a health facility.

The second visit was to the Helen Keller Institute in Mumbai, where the BAPSI team was running their first training on morse code and focus group with deaf-blind people and support specialists. The challenges that the deaf-blind community face comes accompanied by the lack of devices and tools to properly address their needs, as most of the devices available for blind or deaf people do not provide a good service for the deaf-blind. The isolation they have to over come is a big as the challenges the professionals that work with them and their families have to overcome to be able to communicate simple basic needs and emotions, as well as to transfer knowledge to help them integrate to society. BAPSI is experimenting with a series of software developments that make use of vibration to communicate, exploring opportunities that technology allows today.

Mentoring on evaluation and communication

In March 2014, ISIF Asia in collaboration with the DECI-2 project, announces that three of its 2014 grant recipients were selected to receive additional mentoring in Utilization Focused Evaluation (UFE) and Research Communication.

This partnership aims to find better ways to design and implement both evaluation and communications strategies for Internet Development projects, so that the resources used, the data collected, the analysis done, and the lessons learned better serve the needs of each of the project teams and the implementing organizations selected, instead of answering exclusively to donor-driven requests and rigid evaluation frameworks.

The projects selected are: Maori Database (Cook Islands); Using Mobile Application and Mapping Platform to Increase Accountability in Delivery of Maternal Health Services for Tea Garden Workers in Assam (India) and LTT – Link Tuberculosis with Technology (Cambodia).

The mentoring is helping them to gain a deeper understanding of the work they are undertaking, to more effectively communicate their findings, and most importantly, to appropriate the knowledge traditionally reserved to external evaluators about their project activities.

Mentoring has been provided throughout the lifecycle of the selected projects, using a combination of online tools, coaching, and face-to-face interactions by a team of regional experts from the Asia Pacific region: Dr. Sonal Zaveri, leading the UFE mentoring; and Dr. Vira Ramelan, leading the Research Communication mentoring. Dr. Ricardo Ramirez and Dal Broadhead, provide oversight and support the regional mentors at the international level.

DECI-2 started in July 2012 and is a four-year project, building on lessons learned during DECI-1. Selected partners from the IDRC Information and Networks Program (I&N) will receive mentoring that is targeted and scheduled to match each project’s needs and work plans. The project teams receive mentoring in Utilization Focused Evaluation  (UFE), an approach to evaluation that emphasizes the use of evaluations; and in Research Communication, which will assist teams to develop and implement their communication strategies.

During DECI-2 the mentors will measure the combined effect of UFE and Research Communication to enhance learning culture within projects, with a focus on communication planning, to maximize the reach and use of the research outcomes. For more information about DECI-2, please visit http://evaluationandcommunicationinpractice.ca.

As part of the mentoring program, the project teams were invited to the APNIC38 meeting in Brisbane, for a face-to-face workshop with the mentors and some one-on-one coaching. In addition to this, the mentors visited Assam and Rarotonga, for more one-on-one coaching sessions. For next year, a visit to the project in Cambodia is scheduled.

External evaluation

The ISIF Asia program is currently undergoing an external evaluation process commissioned by IDRC as part of the Seed Alliance activities. A series of interviews and data analysis have been carried out and an evaluation report will be presented to IDRC before the end of the year. We see this as a great opportunity to learn about our work and plan for the future.

The Discovery Asia blog

2014 was also the year to launch the Discover blog, and 50 articles later, this effort to highlight the talent, skills and commitment that the Asia Pacific region has to offer, continues to raise attention to the vibrant community we serve, their needs and their innovative approaches to solve development problems using the Internet for the benefit of their communities. We encourage you to share your stories.

It has been a busy year, and we look forward for new challenges during 2015!

Can eVidyaloka Fix the Learning Crisis in Rural India?

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In 1954, the United Nations designated November 20 as the Universal Children’s Day. Seventy years have passed, but promoting the welfare of the youth has never been more necessary. Too many youngsters worldwide continue to suffer from poverty, abuse, and premature mortality.

When it comes to education, the situation has improved, but there is still a long way to go. 121 million children remain unschooled; and 69 million adolescents have to drop out. Even for those who can enroll, the perspectives are bleak, as they often do not receive the quality education they deserve.

India’s learning crisis

With a 96 percent enrollment rate, India has almost achieved universal primary education. But the country is now dealing with an acute learning crisis that may threaten its development in the long run. A majority of students comes out of school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. Today, 60 percent of 10-year old pupils cannot read a text, and 74 percent are unable to solve a division problem.

The reasons for this crisis are many, but they start with the lack of trained teachers. India faces a shortage of 1.2 million schoolmasters and a high absenteeism rate. Combining this with the curriculum’s low standards, it is easy to understand why the learning outcome is so poor.

Many urban families respond to the situation by sending their children to private schools. But in the countryside where people earn less, most youngsters have no choice but go to public institutions. With their teachers being absent one day in five, the pupils often lose the motivation to study, and a majority drops out by the age of 14.

Connecting rural students with urban teachers

In 2010, in Bangalore, two friends were troubled by their country’s educational crisis, but they had a dream. They were dreaming of solving it using ICTs. Some would have said such dream was unreasonable. But Satish and Venkat had what it takes to make a difference. They were passionate; they were skillful; they were pragmatic.

Looking at the larger picture, they had realized that the level of education has increased in India over the past twenty years. There are now 40 million university graduates, and some are willing to share their knowledge with the less fortunate. As long as they do not have to leave their day job.

While thinking about this issue, it became obvious for Satish and Venkat that the solution would come from the Internet. At the time, they found some inspiration in the Khan Academy, whose tutorial videos were more and more popular. But since they were focusing on under-educated children, they had to find a way to make the courses live.

Back in 2010, the Internet was expanding in India, and Satish and Venkat took a bold decision. They started a nonprofit called eVidyaloka, traveled to isolated villages, and equipped some classrooms with video-conference materials. This way, the students would just have to go next door to take the class; and their teacher could be anywhere around the world.

Transforming the learning experience

School failure should have been the fate of Rajesh. This 10 year old boy lives in a small village, in the state of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Like most children there, he goes to a public school.

Rajesh enrolled in the eVidyaloka after-school program before it was too late. And participating in this program has transformed the student he was. Before, he was not so passionate about school; now, he reviews his lessons. Before, he was struggling with math; now, he can solve the divisions by himself. Before, his English was terrible; now, he can speak in an articulated manner.

The reasons for such progress? eVidyaloka teachers lecture in Tamil, Rajesh’s mother tongue. They also use videos and practical examples to explain the concepts. For the young boy, this has been enlightening, and he understands what he is being taught. And since the eVidyaloka program complements his school’s curriculum, it only took a few months for Rajesh to improve his grades!

Opening the door to higher education

Implementing an ICT-driven project in rural India has not been easy for Satish and Venkat. They had to deal with power cuts, slow Internet speed, and even monkeys dislodging the cables. But they received a strong support both from the local communities and the Indian volunteers. This has enabled them to open 13 eVidyaloka classrooms in some of the country’s most underdeveloped regions. And their 179 teachers have changed the lives of more than 1,200 children.

Just like young Rajesh, who can now consider going to high school!