Apply now! 155K AUD available to support Internet development for 2017

AUD 145,000 is available across three grant categories, and AUD 10,000 for one award, through an open and competitive process. ISIF Asia focuses on supporting organisations, people and ideas that are contributing to the development of the Internet and highlight its social and economic impact in the Asia Pacific. Applications are open from today until 30 August 2017.

For 2017, we have 3 grants categories and 1 award to be allocated. As every year, we are very excited about all the new ideas that people will be sharing with us at the ISIF Asia secretariat.

Before you apply please explore the categories below and read the ISIF Asia Frequently Asked QuestionsGuidelines and Tips for Applicants and Selection Criteria. Best of luck in your application process!

2017 Grants

1) Internet Operations Research Grants: These grants support the development of an independent Internet research community whose work can improve the availability, reliability, and security of the Internet in the Asia Pacific region, and widen its coverage, applications and benefits to the community. The grants are open to research focused on Internet operations, infrastructure and related protocols, such as network measurement and analysis, IPv6, BGP routing, network security, as well as peering and interconnection.

2) Cybersecurity Grants: These grants support projects focusing on practical solutions around network resiliency and security. The grants are open to all relevant topics of interest around network resiliency and security, focused on one or more of the following areas: naming, routing, measurement, traffic management, confidential communications, data security and integrity, security of IoT devices and applications, security of critical infrastructure such as energy grids, end-user device security, and building security resilience in your local community.

3) Internet for Development Grant: This grant supports the scaling-up of an innovative Internet-based solution to development issues. Innovation and a development focus must be an integral part of the project proposal. Applications areas such as women and girls in IT, diversity and inclusion, access provision, utility services, devices, IoT, IPv6, privacy, democracy enhancement, open data, economic empowerment, poverty alleviation, and health and education will be considered by the Selection Committee.

2017 Internet for Development Award

The 2017 award winner will receive an AUD 5,000 cash prize plus a travel grant to attend the Internet Governance Forum 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. The 2017 theme of ‘Internet for development’ is intended to cast a wide net to capture truly innovative approaches to development issues. Applications areas such as women and girls in IT, diversity and inclusion, access provision, utility services, devices, IoT, IPv6, privacy, democracy enhancement, open data, economic empowerment, poverty alleviation, and health and education will be considered by the Selection Committee.

By Robert Mitchell, APNIC

With nominations for the ISIF Asia Awards 2016 now open, we thought we’d check back with some of our previous award winners to understand how the award benefitted their projects and get some advice on what to include in your nominations.

Khairil Yusof is the cofounder and coordinator of the Sinar Project, which received an ISIF Asia Grant in 2013 in recognition of their work using open source technology and applications to systematically make important information public and more accessible to the Malaysian people.

Established in 2011, the Sinar Project aims 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.

Sinar project in action
Sinar project in action

What are the benefits of these kinds of Grants/Awards?

Here’s what Khairil had to say about ISIF Asia’s Grants and Awards:

These awards and grants recognize the difficult and highly technical work that a few civil society organizations do, which is often not understood or appreciated by other traditional awards or grants (for Rights) programs.

Also, being invited to an award ceremony at large event such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), provides you with lots of exposure in an environment where you can meet potential partners and donors that understand your work.

 

What were three key outcomes that the ISIF Asia Grant allowed you to achieve?

  1. The money from the Grant helped our part-time/volunteer effort to register as a proper organization.
  2. It also helped one of our founding members to work full time on funding applications.
  3. Attending the IGF in Turkey provided us with the opportunity to speak with potential donors, which eventually led to initial funding for the establishment of Malaysia’s first fledgling civic tech NGO, and allowed us to continue our work full time.

How has your project progressed after receiving the Grant?

The opportunity to showcase our work to donors led to further funding, which helped with consolidating open standards government data. In turn, this provided open data via REST APIs.

Other achievement include:

  • Powering Malaysia’s Open Parliament efforts [1,2] and the same in Myanmar [1, 2, 3]
  • Uncovering corruption and promoting transparency [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
  • A civil society led open data approach, combining civic tech and open data with traditional social audits
  • Starting a Digital Rights initiative backed by a team with technical capacity, and funded by Access. We are now building partnerships with the TOR Project to collect and report on network interference data and build Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) like alerts for digital rights incidents. We are also providing policy input on Internet and digital rights issues such as trade agreements

What should nominees include in their applications?

  1. Don’t be shy with sharing your methodology and the insights you’ve learned along the way, even if you might think it is trivial. If you’re a very technical team, run your methodology by non-technical friends or family members to get their insights. What you think is mundane, might be inspiring to others.
  2. Review all the outputs you have done; blogs, reports, software, photos, etc. If you’ve been passionately working on your ideas and project, you will be surprised at how much you have achieved. List the highlights in your proposal and reference the other outputs in an appendix or link.
  3. Do Google alerts for mentions and links to your project. It might feel a bit narcissistic, but again you might be surprised at who is referencing or mentioning your project internationally or is inspired by your project work.

Solo Kota Kita: Empowering Citizen-led Service Delivery Improvements in Indonesia

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Indonesia has an annual participatory budgeting process (musrenbang) where residents can openly engage with local governments to highlight the community’s priorities for short-term improvements. Traditionally, musrenbang has been an exclusive process — only the older, elite individuals with access to limited public information partook in the discussions. This, however, is slowly changing due to one organization’s effort to advance civic engagement using SMS surveys and data visualization.

Kota Kita (an Indonesian NGO) emerged in 2009 out of John Taylor and his friends’ initiative, Solo Kota Kita. They were interested in improving the budgetary process in the city of Solo, but discovered that citizens lacked information about their city’s local service delivery. What was more, even the local government lacked fine-grained information on the services they offered. “We saw a need to change the status quo of the budgetary process, and create a culture where anyone can engage in musrenbang by having data about their communities to improve urban planning,” Taylor remarked.

Addressing this challenge required collecting data on key social and economic issues and visualizing the results. Taylor and his teammates received buy-in from then mayor of the area Joko Widodo (who is now the President of Indonesia), neighborhood elected leaders, and resident volunteers to gather information on sanitations, water, education, poverty and health care in 51 neighborhood districts within Solo.

During the pilot phase, Taylor and his teammates collected results using paper and pencil surveys. But this took five months just for gathering data, so in 2012 the team decided to use SMS gateway to collect data to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. With SMS survey, the Kota Kita Solo team gathered data from all 51 districts in just two month.

“Digitizing the survey made the analysis process easier,” Taylor commented. “We were able to quickly map out the results because the data was organized better. We created posters or ‘mini-atlases’ that showed patterns of problems and opportunities, like which areas were not getting electricity, how many children were attending schools in certain districts, how much water citizens were getting, etc.” The Kota Kita Solo team posted the maps throughout the city where people come together (at kiosks and community centers) and also on solokotakita.org. These mini-atlases aided citizens visualize and understand what services needed the most attention.

As a result from distributing critical socio-economic information, more citizens- not just the older elites – can partake in the urban planning process. And now, increasingly more citiznes are attending musrenban in Solo to advocate for what they think are urgent areas to receive funding in their neighborhoods.

musrenbang

Having proven that this model works, the Kota Kita team has been replicating this survey-mapping approach to improve urban planning in other Indonesian cities as well. More recently, they applied the method to help the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia identify service needs of the rapidly growing population living in portable yurts in outskirts of the capitol.

The team used the same approach as Kota Kita Solo by surveying the socio-economic situations of yurt migrants, mapping out the survey results, and then using the data for the 2014 budgetary discussions for the city. The survey and mapping process was an eye-opening experience because it was the first the former Soviet Union country openly engaged in a dialogue between the citizens and the government.

So what makes the Kota Kita model so successful? Taylor noted that to implement an impactful, citizen-oriented urban planning program, three things must be kept in mind.

  • First, it should take a bottom-up approach that involves the community so that civic concerns are incorporated.
  • Second, having the community actively involved (by involving neighborhood leaders, for example) is imperative to make sure the results are accurate.
  • Lastly, endorsement and demand from top government level officials for the program is important. In the case of program in Solo, the then-mayor Joko Widodo’s buy-in and excitement for the civic mapping was critical for the success of the program.

Taylor remarked that advancement of ICT tools has definitely helped his organization do more work in transparency and civic engagement space. “Kota Kita hopes to continue creating opportunities for open dialogues between the government and the citizens, especially for young people. We’re now creating a budget implementation tracker using Facebook so that more youth can comment and participate in their community decision-making process.”

The tracker is still in its early phase, but it’ll be exciting to see how Kota Kita will continue using visual data tools to empower more citizens to democratically engage with their governments in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer at Center for International Private Enterprise

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.

FightVAW is helping reduce violence against women in Nepal

VAW-nepal

According to the World Bank 2014 regional report, Violence Against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia, gender-based violence is an acute problem in Nepal, with women being subjected to different forms of violence, namely, physical intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, rape and forced labor. At the same time, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority reported over 80% mobile usage.

The prevalence of violence against women and the impressive penetration of technology in Nepal prompted a one-day Hackathon on Violence Against Women (VAWHack) intended to generate applications that could address the issue of gender-based violence in Nepal. The VAWHack, the first such event in Nepal, was organized jointly by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, YoungInnovations and the Computer Association of Nepal. It brought together private sector representatives, gender experts and young techies to create ICT tools able to help survivors of violence against women and civil society organizations working to reduce its effect on society.

The hackathon produced FightVAW, an ICT-based initiative that provides survivors of violence against women with an alternative means of reporting their cases, via phone call, SMS and online. It enhances coordination among civil society organizations that provide care and services. With an organized case-management system that records complaints and forwards cases to different institutions providing related rehabilitation and legal services, FightVAW uses technology to address a social issue.

FightVAW is the first project of its kind to use ICTs in providing end-to-end solutions to problems involving violence against women in Nepal. It has the additional benefit of reducing survivors’ trauma by sparing them the need to repeat their negative experiences in every organization they reach out to. It also serves as a one-stop site for information on organizations working to prevent violence against women. FightVAW provides a platform for sharing the inspirational stories of women who have moved on in life after such unfortunate incidents.

Through government involvement and the inclusion of private and public organizations working in this field, FightVAW aims to work competitively towards successfully putting an end to violence against women in Nepal.

Complied from WSIS Stocktaking: Success Stories 2015

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.

Picture 2 all-filipina delegation
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!

 

Event Participation: RightsCon 2015 Southeast Asia Conference

During 24 – 25 March 2015, five ISIF Asia grant recipients attended RightsCon Southeast Asia Conference in Manila, Philippines, see https://www.rightscon.org/manila/. The event was convened by Access and EngageMedia, in partnership with Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), World Wide Web Foundation and the Research Action Design collective, and supported by global and regional sponsors, including APNIC.

RightsCon Summit 2015 gathered more than 650 people from over 40 countries engaging civil society, technology companies, governments, and academia. The program organised around 125 workshops to discuss topics in relation to online rights protection, digital rights, economic development, technological solutions for human rights challenges, and risks in the ICT sector.

With the support of ISIF Asia, five project representatives including Bishakha Datta from Point of View (India), Jahangir Alam from Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh), Arvind Khadri from Servelots (India), Khairil Yusof from Sinar (Malaysia) and Nazdeek (India) participated in the workshops that were relevant to their work. They took advantage of this worldwide conference to get inspired and build cooperation.

Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015
Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015

Sylvia Cadena, APNIC’s Community Partnerships Specialist, who coordinates the ISIF Asia program was particularly interested in this event, as it was the first time it was held in the Asia Pacific region. “It is really exciting to see so many human rights activists to sit at the table with Internet technology experts, business leaders and funders to discuss not only ideals and position papers about how technology can or cannot do, but to draft strategies to collaborate, be aware of funding sources available, tools available, to overcome the challenges ahead. A very hands-on approach, very much needed to bring about positive and timely change.” She also congratulated FMA, former ISIF Asia grant recipient, for their active role as local partner, to put the conference and the pre-events together and generate the appropriate space to share, discuss and learn.

When reviewing their experience to participate at RightsCon 2015, ISIF Asia project representatives presented that it was a unique opportunity to explore rights issues both online and offline and look at different perspectives around the world. They benefitted from the exchange of new ideas and expanded their network of contacts not only among activists and practitioners, but also with funders as well as Internet industry representatives concerned about how human rights manifest online, which open doors to facilitate their operations, serving local communities.

ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon
ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon

Sinar is using open source technology, development and ideas to make Malaysian government transparent and accountable. Khairil Yusof learned that “the data we’re gathering to make government more accountable might actually cause harm to groups and communities we are supposed to be helping” after Open Data and Privacy session. The reflective article by Khairil was published on Sinar website http://sinarproject.org/en/updates/institutional-support-eco-system-for-digital-rights.

Point of View contributes to amplify the voices of women and remove barriers to free speech and expression. Bishakha Datta (India) attended sessions about CyberSex and online fundamentalism. During the session, she was able to discuss how physical rapes are turning into digital porn in India and Pakistan with the speakers from Indonesia, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31313551. Bishakha described RightsCon as “Getting a taste of digital rights in other Asian countries, hearing voices from Asia”.

Servelots works on empowering population that cannot read standard web content due to illiteracy, partial literacy or language issues with web accessibility. Arvind Khadri (India) participated in eight sessions including technology vs. policy rising debate, networking for trainer storytellers, and Brave GNU World. For him, RightsCon was an opportunity to network and collaborate. He was able to built connection with the Internet Society, and explore the opportunity to apply for a fellowship to speak about Servelots work at the Internet Governance Forum later this year. “RightsCon makes us understand challenges of various people and organisations by meeting friends and discussing future plans with them”, Arvind reported.

Jahangir Alam represented Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh) which does photojournalism, reporting and digital campaign on popular culture, human rights and development issues. Jahangir Alam attended seven sessions focusing on human rights promotion, activism, media productions and digital campaign issues. The inspiration he took from RightsCon was that “we need to promote the local content on human rights education online via school networking. We will soon open a section ‘Amader Odikar’ (Our Rights) in UnnayanNews new portal”.

Participants also attended pre-events organized the day before RightsCon started. At the Responsible Data Forum Nazdeek reported that “In our context, it is imperative to understand how technology shapes the struggle to advance fundamental rights, as well as what safeguards must be put in place to ensure technology does not further perpetrate discrimination against marginalized groups and individuals.”

For the ISIF Asia fellows, RightsCon 2015 unraveled a bundle of issues such as online freedom of expression, surveillance, privacy and digital security for human rights defenders.

For overview and conclusion of RightsCon 2015, please check out the Outcome Report at https://www.rightscon.org/files/RC_SEA_outcome_report.pdf.

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).

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3 Reasons IPaidABribe Is Only For India’s Middle Class Citizens

ipaidabribe

With the rise in participatory development over the last few decades, there have been increasing discussions about power between NGO professionals and the stakeholders that they serve. Often these conversations can centre on international power imbalances (e.g., North v. South), yet with the rise of various middle classes and their civil society activism over the past few decades, questions have also been raised about class hierarchies domestically, especially in India.

Emblematic in these questions about class is the role of ICTs in NGO projects facilitating citizen participation in governance. In a country with over 900 million mobile subscriptions, with just over ten percent of them being smart phone plans, India has been called the next smartphone frontier. Moving away from discussions merely about citizens’ access to ICTs as a barrier to participation, other questions must also be asked by NGOs engaged in ICT4D that depend upon a large volume of users for programmatic “success”.

One of these tough questions centres on the class makeup of one’s organisation and its effects on the tools provided to empower citizens. The case I examine here is that of Ipaidabribe.com (IPAB), where I spent seven wonderful months as a volunteer researcher during my MA studies. Informed by discourses in the anthropology of development, as well as historical and contemporary research on India’s middle classes, I contend that a number of the NGO’s perceived barriers to citizens utilising IPAB were limited by the class-based experiences of the staff.

In particular, there seemed to be three limiting assumptions about users’ language skills, understandings of corruption and barriers to higher user rates:

  • Written English fluency was not seen as a hindrance to citizen participation, or at least deemed as important from a programming perspective
  • All corruption is morally wrong and should be fought against by all citizens
  • The only barrier to higher user rates was simply access to the Internet, not how various citizens already use their own mobile devices
English

It is estimated that 30% of the Indian population have “some semblance” of English fluency, or at least the ability to communicate orally in English, while roughly 10% have written and grammatical fluency as well. Given the historical marker of English being part of an elite or middle class identity, it is difficult to grasp how a country of over 30 languages and hundreds of dialects would benefit from an English-only platform. Furthermore, the dismal amount of reports on the Hindi portal can possibly be seen as a class-based distinction in IPAB’s reporting.

upper-class-bribeCorruption

Considering Anna Hazare and other high profile anti-corruption activists in the early 2010s, some argue that the middle classes were united under a specific definition of corruption, to be seen as morally reprehensible and to be resisted at all costs. Janaagraha’s iPledge campaign is emblematic of this concept of corruption, where users are asked to sign a pledge that they will never pay a bribe and that the power of making change rests in refusing to give a bribe to whatever party is demanding it.

This concept breaks down when anthropological discourses of corruption, such as de Sardan, bring forth the idea that various moral logics of kinship and community complicate defining corruption and its moral implications. One can use the example of the street vendor, who does not possess the money to pay for a license, who bribes the local police officer with a percentage of his or her earnings to not be removed from the sidewalk. While this fits the definition of petty corruption, it may not be seen as morally wrong because the vendor can continue providing a livelihood for his or her family. Considering Chatterjee, the urban poor can find inventive ways to circumvent established laws for the sake of their livelihoods, where ‘legal’ courses might be out of reach.

Reporting & Internet Access

In India, there are over 900 million people who subscribe to mobile telephone plans, many of which do possess basic mobile browsers. However, only 110-120 million of these subscriptions are for smart phones, an arguably much easier route for using Internet-based platforms such as IPAB. One of the issues encountered is seeing access to the Internet as the biggest or one of the only barriers to a citizen using an ICT4D tool to report corruption.

During my research, I performed interviews and ethnographic research on auto-rickshaw drivers in Bangalore. They were often the objects of corruption reporting because they tended to demand higher-than-metre-rates for taking their generally middle class customers for rides. Even though nearly all of them had access to the Internet on their basic mobile phones, only a handful used the Internet features or even knew what the Internet’s purpose was. Of those few who did use their mobile Internet, most used it for games or music.

Many auto-rickshaw drivers were also victims of police corruption, heavy licensing fees and predatory lending schemes, which gave rise to why they demanded higher-than-metre-rates. However, in many social media posts and articles from IPAB staff and interactive users online, auto-rickshaw drivers were seen as another ‘urban woe’ about how corrupt India had become and essentially a lower class ‘demon’ figure.

With much funding from Indian and international IT companies, as well as western philanthropists, Janaagraha is at the forefront of technocratic middle class activism and governance in urban India. While its causes are often just and necessary, some of its programmes seemingly cannot escape its middle class organizational makeup and users. Like much of the ‘new middle class’ activism across urban India, languages invoking human/consumer rights are often utilised to create their preferred city, sometimes at the expense of the urban poor.

One would not know this from the language of liberation in English media that has covered the IPAB platform, both domestically and internationally. However, certain questions must be asked by NGO professionals in these contexts, to try and live up to the organisational mission of improving the livelihoods and experiences of ALL urban citizens. Difficult, introspective questions must be asked about one’s own language choices, moral responses to perceived governance failures, potential users’ already-existing interactions with technology and potential ‘organisational blinders’ based upon the staff makeup to ensure that, directly or indirectly, the social ills an organisation is trying to alleviate are not replicated or reinforced through one’s own programmes.

Chris Speed is an ICT4D researcher and content developer based in Nashville, TN, USA.