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!

Should Indonesians Be Arrested for Saying A City is Poor, Idiotic, or Uncivilized on Social Media?

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Indonesian student Florence Sihombing tried to refuel her motorbike at a gas station pump reserved for cars. When she was denied service, she vented her frustration on social media criticizing the city of Yogyakarta, also known as Jogja.

“Jogja is poor, idiotic, uncivilized. Friends from Jakarta and Bandung, don’t live in Jogja” she said.

Her post was shared on Twitter and Facebook, where thousands of people took offense. She was mentioned more than 55,000 times on Twitter with hashtags such as #UsirFlorenceDariJogja, “get rid of Florence from the city”.

Then she was summoned for questioning by the local police, and charged under the 2008 Electronic Transactions and Information Law for defamation and “inciting hatred”. A few local NGOs also filed a lawsuit against her under the ITE law wanting her to be found guilty for causing “insult, defamation, and provocation”.

Under the ITE law, those found guilty can be sentenced to six years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to IDR 1 billion (US$84,750). Does this penalty fit Florence Sihombing’s transgression? Might it be a little excessive in relation to her comment?

Especially since Indonesia is a democratic country with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the freedom of expression.

Apply Now! ISIF Asia Grants

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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!

How Indonesians Are Protecting Voting Rights with Crowdsourcing

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Indonesia has around 187 million registered voters scattered across 13,500 islands, 3,200 miles of sea and land, and three time zones. On July 9th, for just the third time in the country’s history, those widely dispersed voters directly chose their president.

As you might imagine, voter fraud is a major concern in the world’s largest single-day election, in a country where the average annual income is less than $1,500. So how to keep an eye on the 480,000+ polling stations? Use the wisdom of the crowd!

Here are three examples of how Indonesians are participating in the election long after they cast their votes by crowdsourcing vote fraud prevention:

  • C1 Yanganeh is a Tumblr to track suspect official Election Commission C1 documents from each polling station. Election offices at polling stations use the C1 form to record results, which are then sent to election officials at the village level, where they are totted up and written on another form.
  • Kawal Suara takes C1 review the next step by letting Indonesian users manually input counting results by reading random C1 documents one by one, and limits each IP address to only inputing one document from each voting booth. Kawal Suara was developed entirely by Reza Lesmana, who already has 1,200 users who “crowdcounted” over 31,000 documents.
  • MataMassa is a Ushahidi-based website that allows the public to submit allegations of electoral fraud via SMS, web, or mobile device. It doesn’t focus on C1 documents, but the overall voting process and has found over 300 instances of verified vote fraud. MataMassa was developed by iLab and the Jakarta branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists.

These three applications are no substitute for clean and fair elections, but they are 3 great first steps towards electronic transparency and digital accountability in Indonesian democracy.

How Mobile Reporting is Reducing Maternal Mortality in India

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Women in the Indian state of Assam are routinely denied access to adequate health services and Assam’s health facilities often lack the resources necessary to ensure safe motherhood. As a result, Assam has the highest maternal mortality rate in India, with most of the deaths occurring among Adivasi (tribal) communities who live and work in the tea gardens.

These violations of the rights to health, life and equality are neither reported nor addressed. Basic tools to communicate, inform, and document violations are virtually non-existent, and women lack access to mechanisms to hold public and private entities accountable for the failure to provide life-saving treatment as required by law.

The End Maternal Mortality Now project launched an interactive website built on Ushahidi, to map failures in the health system in the State of Assam. Over 40 women in the District of Sonitpur have been trained to report violations of health and food benefits provided under the Government welfare schemes through codified SMS texts, which are then mapped to detect patterns of violations. The project is supported in its pilot phase by the Information Society Innovation Fund.

Jaspreet Singh from the International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD), an organization that combats structural discrimination, says:

“The SMS system allows for the tracking of multiple health rights violations, including the lack of resources at health centers. It is also acting as a community empowerment tool by engaging local women to collect data that will be used to hold the government accountable.”

The data received is gathered on endmmnow.org, which maps patterns of violations as well as individual cases across the District. The nine-month pilot project will be used to demand better health infrastructure by local activists and lawyers through administrative complaints and court litigation so that tea garden women workers be treated with dignity and have guaranteed access to lifesaving healthcare.

Vote Now for 2014 ISIF Asia Community Choice Award

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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.

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!

People with Disabilities Realize Their Dreams with Digital Divide Data in Cambodia

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When Treng Kuy Chheng looks back at her past, she wonders what she would be doing, had she not met Digital Divide Data (DDD), a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower Cambodia’s youth through digital training and employment.

Being Disabled in Cambodia

Chheng was born into poverty, and to make things worse she had polio when she was two. She survived but her illness left her with physical impairment and bleak prospects for the future.

Being disabled in Cambodia is often perceived as a tragedy and, among the estimated 700,000 Cambodians who are afflicted with disabilities, it is true that the majority do not fully enjoy their fundamental rights, and they often do not have equal opportunities for education or employment.

Chheng was rather lucky as her parents did not treat her differently from her siblings. In the morning she would sell vegetables at the family’s food stall; and in the afternoon she would go to school. However hard it may have been, it made Chheng believe in herself and her abilities. And the more the neighbors would stigmatize, pity or even discourage her, the more determined she was to succeed in life and not be a burden to her relatives.

This determination gave her the strength to look for employment after she graduated from high school. At the time, the economy was beginning to recover slowly, and landing the first job was very hard for everyone. For a disabled girl like Chheng, it was even more difficult, and, while she was searching for a professional opportunity, she experienced stigma, rejection, and discrimination. Before she started losing hope, she had the chance to meet with Digital Divide Data, which had been co-founded two years earlier by Jeremy Hockenstein.

Impact Sourcing

In 2000, this young American traveled to Cambodia as a tourist. During his stay, he was not only struck by the level of poverty in the country; he was also impressed by the eagerness of the youth to learn and struggle to build up a better life. They would take computer and English lessons but in the end there was no job for them and they kept being trapped in an endless cycle of poverty.

In the meanwhile, the world was going global, and international companies started outsourcing low-skilled IT jobs to India. Hockenstein was a business consultant at McKinsey, and it did not take him long to figure out that he could replicate this model in Cambodia and use it to promote employment and empowerment for the disadvantaged youth.

A Study-Work Program

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When she joined Digital Divide Data in 2003, Chheng had hardly seen a computer in her life. She had to learn everything from scratch, but she worked hard and soon she knew how to turn a computer on, enter data and master fast typing. She was also trained in English and soft skills (e.g., team work, self-confidence, management). After six months, she was fully operational and became one of DDD’s data operators.

For four years, she worked six hours a day to transform physical documents into searchable and digitalized archives for publishers, libraries, and companies all around the world. For her work she was paid a fair wage but she was also granted a scholarship to study at Pannasastra University, one of Phnom Penh’s best universities.

A Stepping Stone to a Brighter Future

With 400 employees, Digital Divide Data is today the largest technology employer in Cambodia, and in the past 13 years its impact sourcing model has had a transformative effect on nearly 2,000 underprivileged young adults, 10 percent of them being disabled.

Working at DDD is always a stepping stone to a brighter future. After they complete the program, graduates are either hired by the organization or they move on to other companies, where they earn more than four times Cambodian average salary. With this money, they can support their parents and enable their youngest siblings to get a proper education. In the long run they break the cycle of poverty that has trapped their family for generations.

As for Chheng, she has managed to make all her dreams come true. She wanted to study; she now holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and an executive MBA. She wanted to have a job; she started as an accountant at DDD and for the past year she has served as the finance and administration manager of a large electronic company. She wanted to see the world; in 2013, she went to Canada to participate in the Global Change Leaders program.

At 29, this highly successful woman keeps having new dreams! Today she wants to change the public’s attitude towards persons with disabilities and create real job opportunities for them. She believes they have the ability; they just do it in a different way. Just like her.

Daniele Adler is a consultant in communications strategy in Cambodia