Four ISIF Asia grant recipients and two mentors on project evaluation and communication attended the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2015) conference http://ictd2015.org/, in Singapore from 15 to 18 May 2015. ICTD 2015 Post conference report is available at http://ictd2015.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ICTD2015-Full-Report.pdf. Participation was possible thanks to the Seed Alliance, a collaboration established between the FIRE, FRIDA, and ISIF Asia grants and awards programs, that provided support for 23 representatives from Latin America, Africa and Asia.
ICTD Conference provides an international forum for researchers and practitioners exploring the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in social, political, and economic development. The conference reflects and deepens the multidisciplinary nature of ICTD research in a broad range of areas including computer science, anthropology, communication, design, economics, electrical engineering, geography, information science, political science, health, sociology, and many others. Held for the first time in the Asia Pacific region, ICTD 2015 aimed to showcase the impact ICT has had on society with a multidisciplinary research-focused conference that reflects the Millennium Development goals.
The Seed Alliance organized a session during the conference, called “Seed Alliance: helping ideas grow”. Facilitated by Sylvia Cadena (ISIF Asia/APNIC), Gaelle Fall (FIRE/AFRINIC) and Lara Robledo (FRIDA/LACNIC), this session introduced the Seed Alliance as a platform to support Internet development in the global south through a variety of funding mechanism, capacity building strategies, and networking opportunities. Grant recipients from FIRE, FRIDA and ISIF Asia shared about their projects and the challenges they faced to bring about positive change to their communities through ICTs.
ISIF Asia Grant recipients Jacqueline Chan (Operation ASHA, Cambodia), Vin Samnang Charlie (Operation ASHA, Cambodia), Pheng Votey (Operation ASHA, Cambodia), Tariq Zaman (ISITI, Malaysia), Gurpreet Singh (Punjabi University, India) and Teddy Mantoro (Suria University, Indonesia), mentors Vira Ramelan, Sonal Zaveri attended and participated in workshops relevant to their work, as well as presenting their demos (list of demos http://ictd2015.org/demos/) at the conference, and joined the vibrant start-up community in Singapore at an Open House event at the JFDI.Asia incubator space.
Jacqueline Chan, Vin Samnang Charlie, and Pheng Votey from Operation ASHA (Cambodia, 2014 ISIF Asia Grant recipient) work providing disadvantaged communities with Tuberculosis (TB) care via eDetection App serves in Cambodia. The team was selected to present a demo session at the ICTD 2015 Conference. Their expectation of the presentation was to encourage the use of mobile technology for other communicable diseases and to generate more awareness about TB in Cambodia. The team also attended sessions from the program such as Public Access ICT, Disability Accessibility and Infrastructure, ICT and Development in Myanmar, and Persistence of Paper in Low-resource Setting. “It is not often that you meet a donor who is fully invested in your work and keen to build up your capacity, ISIF is one of these donors”, Jacqueline said. Jacqueline valued a networking dinner for Seed Alliance recipients. In the relaxed and confortable atmosphere, participants from different projects and evaluation mentors shared their experiences and got inspiration from each other. Operation ASHA’s team also highlighted a pre-conference session for Seed Alliance recipients about fundraising strategies and the need to engage different stakeholders, facilitated by Mr Michael Lints (Venture Partner at Golden Gate Ventures).
Tariq Zaman from the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations, (Malaysia, 2014 ISIF Asia Grant recipient), is working on developing and designing appropriate ICT tools for preservation and digitalization of sign language of Penan. Tariq presented the paper “Reviving an indigenous rainforest sign language: Digital Oroo’ Adventure Game” (PDF of article http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2737885) during the Notes session of the conference. He attended the IPID Symposium where he facilitated an open session. The most interesting additional activity for Tariq was to pitch the Oroo’ project at Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) http://www.jfdi.asia/. He also attended Papers and Notes presentations and ICTD Innovation Accelerator: connecting ICTD researchers and practitioners. Tariq participated at the ICTD 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. He commented how, compared to 2013, in ICTD 2015 the major question they discussed in peers groups was the effectiveness of “ICT tools” vs “user’s will” and innovative “use” of these tools. In addition to experience sharing, Tariq reported, “This conference gave me an opportunity to strengthen my networks. It was a professionally rewarding experience”.
Gurpreet Singh represented Punjabi University (India, 2014 Grant recipient), who contributes to facilitate electronic and written communication between Sindhi people living in India and Pakistan through the development of a bi-directional web based Sindhi Language Transliteration Tool. Gurpreet attended open sessions “Understand the impact of mobile money in development”, “Delivering health service through ICT in rural communities”, and “ICT and Development in Myanmar”. More importantly, he arranged an online demo of Sindhi transliteration system, where participants tried the tool. He also presented and discussed their project at JFDI with prospective sponsors. One of the he most valuable moments for Gurpreet was that he met Gouri Mirpuri, wife of Ashok Mirpuri, Singapore’s ambassador in USA. She highly appreciated Sindhi transaction project and exhorted Gurpreet’s teem to extend the work for Kashmiri language, as Kashmiri is also written in both Perso-Arabic and Devnagri scripts.
Teddy Mantoro from Suria University (Indonesia), who invented “Surelator”, a statistical machine translation between English and Bahasa Indonesia. He was selected both for the demo session and poster session during the conference. After the demo session, at least three possible investors have shown their interest with Surelator product innovations. The poster session happened in two days, where Surelator booth was visited by lots of audience. They discussed and showcased about the background of Surelator, delivery of real-time demo and off-line demo, packaging of the product, movies of how to use Surelator, and the possible impact to Indonesian community. Surelator was planned to be a commercial product but during this conference. However, after the discussions with various stakeholders, Teddy’s team adjusted the plan to develop a limited version of Surelator to be available for free for Indonesian community. Teddy commented, “ICTD conference is a place to understand these interactions, and to examine, critique, and refine the persistent, pervasive hope that ICTs can be enlisted by individuals and communities in the service of human development. Teddy won the ISIF Asia award in 2013 for his work on the HajjLocator.
Vira Ramelan and Sonal Zaveri were the mentors of Utilization-Focused Evaluation (UFE) & Research Communication (ResCom) for the ISIF Asia program from 2013-2015. During that period, they supported three of ISIF Asia funded projects to develop their capacity in both evaluation and communication. From the perspective of project evaluation researchers, they found the most interesting part was that the conference was multi-disciplinary and embraced a variety of development issues. They organized a poster session with DECI-2 posters on UFE, which was very well received. They had discussions with participants from various development projects from about how to evaluate using the UFE &
ResCom specific approach.
As Vira suggested in her review of ICTD 2015 journey “this event involves effective capacity building activities, I wish that ISIF Asia could stay committed to provide support for grantees to attend this kind of conference”.
The day before the ICTD2015 conference started, the Seed Alliance organized a session where Mr Michael Lints (Venture Partner at Golden Gate Ventures) presented fundraising strategies and the need to engage different stakeholders to scale-up and grow. The ISIF Asia mentors got a chance to share with the FIRE and FRIDA coordinators and funding recipients, about their experience providing UFE & ResCom mentoring to three projects in Asia Pacific.
Overall, the event provided unique networking opportunities for Seed Alliance recipients, as well as a place to share their innovations with the academic sector researching about technologies for development. ICTD 2016 will be hosted at the University of Michigan, USA, from June 3rd to 6th, 2016 http://ictd2016.info/cfp/.