Apply Now: 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 2014 ISIF Asia awards close 26 May 2014
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!

Should Indonesia be Teaching Technology in Schools?

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Did you know that Indonesia launched a new curriculum last year that removed information technology, among other subjects, in favor of Bahasa Indonesia, nationalism and religious studies? Of course the move was controversial, as the information technology and communications (TIK) subject was recently created by the government, and technology skills are seen by many in and outside of Indonesia as key to the future of the country.

But in light of the many failures in incorporating ICT into education, the Indonesian government may have acted with foresight in canceling TIK as an independent subject and instead expecting it to be infused across the curriculum.

Students arguably will learn the tools of technology on their own, while completing their schoolwork for other subjects, or even just via mobile phones as Indonesian lead much of the world in social media use.

And the technology skills that were being taught in some schools, may not be all that useful in the age of mobile devices. The curriculum was designed in 2006, when students needed to lean how to turn on computers, and the use of Microsoft Office, or how to assemble and repair desktop hardware, was considered essential.

However, reducing the emphasis on technology, regardless of the focus of the instruction, is worrisome. Indonesia does need to make sure all its students are familiar with the tools of technology, not just the ones rich enough to own mobile phones or use computers outside of school.

Will Wikipedia Zero Inspire Local Language Content?

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

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

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

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

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

Will India Succeed Where Wikipedia Has Failed?

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Wikipedia is arguably the world’s largest, and most complete encyclopedia, all the more impressive as its fully crowd-sourced by volunteers with a passion to detail the world’s knowledge. However, Wikipedia has a serious flaw. Because it is crowd-sourced, its really only complete where there is a crowd interested in adding information.

Let’s look at the number of articles per language, juxtaposed against the world’s population that speaks that language:

Language Articles Population
English 4,413,036 365 million
Dutch 1,715,221 22 million
German 1,669,864 92 million
Chinese 742,005 935 million
Hindi 109,404 295 million
Telugu 54,490 74 million
Marathi 39,722 73 million
Assamese 2,663 17 million

Do you notice anything amiss? Like how few articles are in languages other than English, regardless of population? Or how amazingly few are in four languages of India? That latter point has inspired the government of India to ask the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing to build Vikaspedia, a knowledge portal to reach the ‘un-reached’ communities of India, especially the poor, to make a difference in their social development.

Vikaspedia is starting in five local languages – Hindi, Assamese, Marathi, Telugu and English – and it will will eventually expand to 22 Indian languages. Though unlike the actual Wikipedia, it only has information on health, agriculture, education, social welfare, energy and e-governance, and curiously, isn’t running on actual wiki software, but on Plone, though you can register to contribute.