Can eVidyaloka Fix the Learning Crisis in Rural India?

india-schools

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!

Tackling Math with Technology in the Philippines

AGUJA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing Material

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

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

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

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

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

Training and Testing

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

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

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

Discovery and Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Learning Barriers for Deaf Children in Pakistan

This story started forty years ago. In 1975, young Michael Geary caught meningitis. He survived the disease, but lost his hearing for ever.

“We started working with deaf children”

The toddler’s parents were social workers in Manila, Philippines. “Because of Michael’s handicap we started working with deaf children to learn to help him,” explained his father Richard. With his wife, he launched a “small informal club for deaf teenagers, which we called Deaf Reach.” As it soon became popular, the Gearys started offering sign language education.

Ten years later, colleagues invited them to replicate their model in New Delhi. “In about two years, said Richard, we had 519 teenagers, from different parts of the country who were part of the club. We provided a forum where they could meet, learn English and different life skills, and we also assisted them in getting employment.”

In 1989, though, the Gearys had to leave the country for administrative reasons. “We went to visit a friend who was living in Karachi.” As they could not renew their visas to India, they decided to settle in Pakistan and start the Deaf Reach program one more time.

Being deaf in Pakistan

Hearing disorders are a major public health issue in Pakistan. Today, 5 percent of the population has some form of hearing loss; and 1.5 million children are profoundly deaf.

For these youngsters, life is tough. Too often, their parents believe they are cursed or mentally retarded. And because the majority do not know how to use sign language, they cannot communicate with their kids as much as they should.

In this context, it is not surprising that many hearing impaired children only develop basic language ability. Even the 10,000 deaf students lack communication skills, as the schools do not adapt to their special needs. Sadly, these learning impediments have lifelong consequences, and most of these children will not be able to reach their full potential.

That’s why, in 1989, the Gearys started by helping the deaf youth to gain life skills and get a job. One day, though, the couple was donated “two rooms in a building.” It encouraged them to open a small classroom. “We taught 15 primary-level deaf children, including Michael, from the slum areas of Karachi, said Richard. That grew slowly until we started a formal school in Karachi in 2007.” Since then, the Gearys have opened five other schools and empowered 1,200 deaf students, many of whom come from poor families.

Enriching the Pakistan Sign Language

One of the problems the Gearys have encountered is the scant educational materials for the deaf. The current Pakistani sign language covers daily life activities, but many academic words have no sign-equivalent.

To rectify this major issue, the Gearys took an ambitious, but judicious step. They decided to enrich the Pakistan sign language (PSL) by creating new signs in both the academic and professional fields. That’s how they started working on a PSL Visual Dictionary. They have already referenced or elaborated 5,000 words, but they thrive to include at least 10,000 terms in the lexicon.

And since the dictionary consists of online videos, it makes the learning process easier and more effective. Indeed, each word is signed by an actor, illustrated by a picture, and translated into English and Urdu. Of course, the PSL dictionary is designed to support the deaf in their studies, but it also enables their parents to finally learn how to sign and better communicate with their children.

Yes, they can!

In less than a decade, the Deaf Reach Schools have changed the deaf students’ lives for the best! Amanat, for instance, was five years old when he enrolled in the school of Karachi. “His parents were at their wits’ end as he was a very hyperactive child and they assumed him to be mentally handicapped, said Richard. He is now one of the school’s best students.”

But the Gearys are particularly proud of having contributed to enhance the employability of their students. Of course, many graduates become teachers in the Deaf Reach Schools, and they are among the best ones. But a fair number — 400 in 2013 — have found a job in a private company. In Karachi, five alumni run a KFC restaurant; others work as cooks at the Sheraton Hotel. Even a clothing design company, Artistic Milliners, has recruited 20 students.

These are a few success stories, but they all show that the Gearys have been right all these years. The deaf can not only integrate the labor market; they can also make a positive contribution to the community!

Overcoming School Failure in Rural Sri Lanka with Shilpa Sayura

niranjan_wk_464_DSC_5748

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

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

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

Helping his daughter out

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

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

The Shilpa Sayura journey

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

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

Educational pragmatism

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

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

Reaching the rural youth

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

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

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

New opportunities for the rural youth

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

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

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

SMSBunda: Health Information to Pregnant Women in Indonesia Languages

smsbunda

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

ict-cambodia-farmers-verboice-1024x678

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

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!

Can E-learning Solve the Education Crisis in Pakistan?

pakistan

In Pakistan, school is compulsory for every child between 5 and 16. In reality, the law is not enforced, and the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015.

Pakistan’s Education Crisis

Over the past decade, education has been a low priority for the Pakistani governments; and economic poverty, natural disasters and religious extremism have further worsened the situation. With 5.5 million out-of-school children, Pakistan has the second worst performance in the world when it comes to enrollment (after Nigeria). Of course, disadvantaged girls are first to drop out: in 2013, 66 percent did not receive any education at all…

For children enrolled in government schools, the prospects for the future are almost as bleak. Public education is in a disastrous state, and student achievement is outrageously low. 36 percent of the 10-year-old pupils cannot read a sentence in English, which they are supposed to learn at 7; and, in the underdeveloped Balochistan province, only 45 percent of the primary school graduates can solve a two-digit subtraction.

The Whole System is in Danger of Collapse

Pakistan is confronting an acute education crisis, and the whole system is to blame. The curriculum does not meet international standards; and the lack of investment is blatant at both the federal and state levels. In 2013, total allocations for education amounted to just 1.9 percent of the country’s GDP. This was the lowest rate in South Asia, and only seven other countries put less money in their education system.

In practical terms, this means that the teachers are not paid enough, neither are they well-trained. It is not surprising, then, that Pakistan has to deal with a massive shortage of teaching staff. To make the public education system work, there should be at least 100,000 extra instructors…

smartmath

Britannica SmartMath

Bilal Shahid is a Director at Tech Implement, an innovative IT company founded in 2005 in Lahore. For this e-learning specialist, the country’s education crisis is a shame because it affects the least fortunate — those who cannot afford to go to private school.

In 2012, he decided to take action and approached the CARE Foundation, the largest education NGO in the country. Shahid intended to carry out an experiment to improve the children’s skills in mathematics. The Tech Implement team would take the Encyclopedia Britannica’s e-learning tool called SmartMath, map it to the Pakistani syllabus and use it to train the students.

Displaying the questions as a game with stars to reward every right answer, this tool is especially appealing to the youth. Furthermore, SmartMath is adaptive and driven by the students’ actual progress. When they are consistent at answering questions correctly, they move to the next level. But if they don’t reach the proficiency target, they spend more time on the topic. SmartMath can even suggest remediation.

Leaning Against the Wind

In 2012, Shahid’s idea to bring an e-learning tool to the classroom was bold, as many people in Pakistan were still wary of ICTs. But the CARE Foundation that manages 225 public schools throughout the country welcomed the initiative. In August 2012, they started a pilot in five Lahore schools; by April 2013, they had expanded the project to 23 other institutions.

However, the teachers were not thrilled. They did not take e-learning seriously and were concerned that SmartMath would replace them in the future. Tech Implement spent a lot of time explaining that the tool was actually designed to assist them in their teaching practice. It took a while, but eventually everyone agreed to play the game. And, once the schools’ computer labs were properly equipped, the project could begin.

Or so they thought…

“They Were Scared of Holding the Mouse”

The beneficiary students were aged 8 to 13, and they all came from low-income families. With no computer at home, they had no idea how to use it. Some were even scared of holding the mouse! Again, Shahid and his team put the project on hold, this time to train 2,500 children in the basics of computer literacy.

Soon, the students were able to take their hour-long SmartMath session. And it was only a matter of weeks before they showed significant improvements. By the end of the academic year, they scored 8.73 in math, whereas other students got an average of 4.25. Moreover, the majority passed their final exam!

After two years of experimentation, SmartMath has therefore proven to be a viable solution to Pakistan’s learning crisis. And today, Tech Implement wants to scale up the project and train 15,000 additional students by 2015!

What do you think? Could e-learning solutions really help enhance students’ performances in a country like Pakistan? Are they sustainable in the long run?

Respect Myanmar Diversity: Use Unicode Fonts

unicode-myanmar

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.

Vote Now for 2014 ISIF Asia Community Choice Award

vote-now

We are very pleased to announce that ISIF Asia received 93 applications for the 2014 ISIF Asia Awards. 34 applications from 12 different economies have been selected to take part in the awards process. The ISIF Asia selection committee has officially started the assessments of the applications to select 4 award winners, one for each one of the award categories to be announced during the first week of July.

Each award package comprises of 3,000 AUD cash prize plus a travel grant to attend the Internet Governance Forum in Istambul later this year, to participate in the discussions about the future of the Internet.

Community Choice Award

In addition to the 4 awards selected by the Selection Committee, the Community Choice Award is given to the application with the highest number of online votes. The online voting is open until midnight on 26 June.

Please vote for your favorite project:

  1. Login to be able to cast your vote.
  2. Review the Award Nominees and choose your favorite applicant.
  3. Click on the red square with the word “Vote” to cast your vote.
  4. Verify the information on the pop-up window to make sure the vote is valid.
  5. Another pop up window will appear indicating that your vote was successfully submitted and inviting you to promote your vote on social media. Please share widely, to increase your favorite project’s chances to win.
  6. Logout from the system so that others sharing your computer will be able to vote from another account.

Please note that Facebook likes are NOT counted as votes.