WSIS Champions 2018: ISIF Asia recognized on its 10th anniversary

 

WSIS Winner and Champions on International and Regional Cooperation with ITU Secretary General ©ITU/I.Wood
WSIS Winner and Champions on International and Regional Cooperation with ITU Secretary General ©ITU/I.Wood

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2018 represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community. The annual WSIS Forum is a global multi-stakeholder platform facilitating the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines for advancing sustainable development. The Forum provides an opportunity for information exchange, knowledge creation and sharing of best practices, while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships, taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies.

The WSIS Prizes contest, an integral part of the WSIS stocktaking process, serves as a mechanism to evaluate and recognize individuals, governments, civil society, local, regional and international agencies, research institutions and private sector companies for outstanding success in implementing development-oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICTs.

90 Champions of the prestigious WSIS Prizes contest while the 18 Winners, out of these 90 Champions, were recognized at separate ceremonies at the Geneva International Conference Centre today, as part of the annual WSIS Forum 2018. The submission phase which began from 11 September 2017 to 10 January 2018 received a record number of 685 project submissions, out of which 492 exceptional projects were nominated for WSIS Prizes 2018. Close to a million online votes were cast from 29 January till 18 February 2018 for these projects and following a comprehensive review by the Expert Group lead to the selection of 90 extraordinary ICT-related projects and initiatives for the seventh edition of the WSIS Prize contest.

ISIF Asia was recognized among other 4 projects as a Champion on Category 18 for International and Regional Cooperation. The winner on the category was the Internet Society Digital Schools Chapterton. The other Champions on the category are: African fiber optic Backbone Trans-Saharan (BTS); IST-Africa Institute; and the Satellites for Sustainability project from Inmarsat and the UK Space Agency. 

We are honored to share the recognition among such distinguished organizations and we remain committed to champion regional and international collaboration around Internet for development.

Rafi can now read on his own

Saifuddin Rafi reading at home using the digital talking books
Saifuddin Rafi reading at home using the digital talking books

Saifuddin Rafi, one of the four million visually impaired people in Bangladesh, is studying in class XI at Patiya Government College in Chittagong. His study started in a specialized school (Government Muradpur School for the Blind) in Chittagong. But, after completing primary level, he got admitted into ‘Union Krishi School and College’ in Patiya nearby his home town. During his secondary education level, in this mainstream school, he did not get textbooks in Braille or accessible audio format. He had to traverse jumpy situations due to absence of accessible study materials.

These difficulties required support from his sister, also a student with her own burden, who assisted him by recording all the books and class notes. The sufferings of his parents were also countless. A child with visual impairment needs extra privileges for continuing education; but the access to study materials required and their affordability is perplexing. Therefore, parents wishing their children to continue their studies face physical, mental and financial stresses.

For Rafi, difficulties to get accessible study materials needed for visually impaired students was a major challenge, and it troubled him and his family till class VIII. While studying in class IX, he received textbooks in audio format. Later he came to know that these were called DAISY-standard digital talking books.

DAISY Multimedia Talking Book
DAISY Multimedia Talking Book

The digital talking books are accessible materials which provide the text in an audio version for all including students with print and learning disabilities. Digital talking books are for everyone who needs accessible information; readers can play the audio and simultaneously display and highlight the corresponding text. It eases the education for the number of visually impaired students in Bangladesh like Rafi.

A team of persons with disabilities developed DAISY standard digital multimedia books, e-books and digital braille books for the primary and secondary levels using open source technology which are freely available for the end user. The project received technical support from DAISY Consortium, Accessible Books Consortium and WIPO, while receiving implementation support from Young Power in Social (YPSA) and overall support from the Service Innovation Fund of the Access to Information (a2i) programme under the Prime Minister’s Office in Bangladesh. The project has converted all primary and secondary education textbooks (grades I through X) into cost effective DAISY digital multimedia format; made it easier to produce braille, text, audio book or e-book as suitable.

These accessible and affordable reading materials brought a momentous shift in Rafi’s learning curve. Through receiving Grade Point Average (GPA) 5, the highest grade obtainable for secondary and higher secondary education system in Bangladesh, in his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, Rafi has created an example for other visually impaired students who are struggling for their study fighting against their disabilities.

This project has won multiple awards for developing these multimedia talking books, for the expansion of the accessibility of digital publications with innovative models and practices. The most remarkable awards include the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize, 2017; the Zero Projects Award on Inclusive Education (2016); the Accessible Books Consortium Award for Accessible Publishing Initiative at the International Excellence Award 2015 held in London Book Fair; etc.

 

 

 

 

Among them the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Award, 2014 was the first prestigious international recognition for the digital talking book project and greatly inspired the team behind the project. These funds and awards actually made the ground more secure for further efforts and development in creating accessibility for all in
education.

Surely, these appreciations are significant as both stimulus and outcome of the project. Yet, the main purpose of the project was to enable the students and people with various disabilities. So, the outcome should be measured by the aid, reduction of hassle and indicators of success of the beneficiaries. More than 100,000 students with visual disability, print disability and learning disability can now read and listen to their textbooks that significantly improve their learning now.

The Access to Information (a2i) programme is continuously working on accessible education for the visually impaired. Low-cost digital braille display and low-cost DAISY multimedia book players are being developed locally to read these DAISY digital talking books. Bangladesh wants to make people with disabilities resilient rather than ‘assumed liability’ of the society. Ensuring inclusion of all including people with disabilities, especially in education, will aid human-centric and sustainable development of Bangladesh.

The education and life as a whole for Rafi and his family, representative of thousands of beneficiary households, has become much easier these days. Rafi can use either smartphone or computer to access his reading materials.

How to Ensure Long-Term Sustainability for a Chuuk Computer Lab

Thanks to funding from the Internet Society Community Grant Program as well as from the Information Society Innovation Fund (isif.asia) a computer learning lab has been established at the Chuuk Women’s Council!

Our goal in establishing a computer lab in the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) is with the aim of empowering and connecting, with ICT, the women of Chuuk State, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

The Chuuk Women’s Council is an established umbrella organization for the different women’s organizations across Chuuk State, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, practical skills-building for employment opportunities, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts.

Given the existing strengths of the center and the breadth of the programs already on offer, we believe that the technology of this computer lab will serve to complement and enable this organization that is already extremely successful in its non-technical endeavors.

In planning the computer lab, we looked at five key ways to assure long-term sustainability:

  1. Computer Hardware (Rugged, Portable, Low Energy Usage, Good Performance & a Webcam)
  2. Software (Office Software, Typing Aid, Basic ICT Skill Modules, & Virus Protection)
  3. Internet Access (WiFi, Bandwidth)
  4. Training (Basic ICT, Email, Web Searching, Office Software)
  5. Support and Maintenance (Shares, Onsite, Software/Hardware Repair & Remote Troubleshooting)

With our solution requirements and guidelines, a plan was developed and agreed upon with project partners. The support for this computer lab was linked to the PISCES project that during 2012 deployed solar powered wireless connectivity to Chuuk. Building on the connectivity and the capacity built during the PISCES project, the ISIF Asia program has supported 2 consecutive grants to iSolutions to connect schools and improve the solar powered infrastructure available.

It is our hope and intent that this computer lab at the Council’s facility, accompanied by trainings in how to make use of the technology and the Internet, will greatly enhance the existing CWC offerings and will empower Chuuk’s women to use ICT’s communications and information capabilities to enhance their own quality of life and improve their own communities.

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The CWC has an existing room within their facilities designated to serve as the computer lab: where the sewing classes currently take place!

Thanks to the mobility of the laptops comprising the lab, they will be able to utilize the room as a sewing room in the mornings, and as a computer lab in the afternoons, with the added bonus that the sewing machine bases can very conveniently serve as “desks” for the laptops.

Alternatively, the laptops can easily be brought to any room within the CWC to be used for training, education, or any ICT skill based needs that will help the staff accomplish their tasks.

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We started on-the-ground in Chuuk by preparing the laptops at iSolutions, a small company co-founded and directed by project partner TR Mori, pioneering community Internet access through the only cyber-café and computer repair center in Chuuk.

Many of the iSolutions staff helped out with standardizing the programs (listed below) loaded on the laptops, password-protecting them, and installing Reboot Restore RX on each of them for virus protection/removal upon reboot.

We selected Intel Classmate Laptops for the lab, because they are quite energy efficient (important on any small island!), have a speedy processor and long battery life, and are wrapped in a ruggedized and durable housing—not an insignificant point, given that they will be moved each day to create the computer lab/return to a sewing room.

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The programs/features installed included:

  • Windows 7 OS
  • Web Browsers (Chrome and Internet Explorer)
  • Office Suite Software (Open Office)
  • Communications Software (Skype)
  • Rapid Typing
  • Multi Media (webcam software and a multimedia video player)
  • PDF viewer
  • GCF Learn Free
  • MicSem Videos

Once the laptops were ready, we headed over to the CWC for a meeting with the staff, to talk with them and inquire what they had in mind for the computer lab. They were all quite interested in the technology, and were eager to improve their own computer skills.

We asked them what they hoped to be able to do with the computers, as well as spoke about the possibilities for the women who live in more remote locations to be able to use the technology. They expressed that because of the strong person-to-person networks they already have in place, any local chapter of the CWC, from one of the Lagoon Islands for example, could request a training session to take place. They believed this would prove very popular.

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In the meantime, we got started on helping them develop their own computer skills that afternoon. They eagerly jumped in, using the Rapid Typing program, listening to music, using the video camera, and trying out Open Office.

We returned the next day, set up the lab, connected the laptops to the Internet, and held our first training session in the brand new CWC computer lab. Since our “students” had already used the laptops the day before, they were not timid to try anything.

Since we had Internet connectivity today, we surfed to the web, and the two women who didn’t yet have email addresses were already attempting to use Facebook (where they soon discovered they’d need to obtain email addresses in short order)! We tried out the Rapid Typing program again, and then it was time for some multi-media: We watched some videos from MicSem and GCF Free Learn—which proved to be very popular and entertaining.

When I said goodbye to them, they all called out goodbye back, but they hardly even looked up as our team left, they were so engrossed in using the laptops, and certainly not ready to stop after a few hours! That was fantastic.

We are working on editing a video that we made about this experience, so watch for the video to be posted. We also anticipate a return visit in November of this year and to reporting back on how and for what the learning lab is being used.

In the meantime, we also looking forward to hearing more about developments at the CWC’s computer lab in real time; how the staff are using the laptops/lab, when the training sessions for community members will start, and even more exciting developments I couldn’t possibly predict!

Written by Dr. Laura Hosman, assistant professor at Illinois Institute of Technology. Read her blog here.

How Indonesians Use ICT and Social Media for Disaster Management

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Indonesia’s Internet penetration isn’t impressive – only 15% of its population is online. However, Indonesia is the fourth populous country, and 95.7 of its users who are online, are on social media (IPRA, 2013). 60 million Indonesians are on Facebook, trailing only the USA and India in total number of users, (Techiasia 2012, WeareSocial 2014). According to the social media agency, Semiocast, in 2013 Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta is also the Twitter capital of the world, with more than 2% of the world’s 10.6 billion tweets .

Indonesia also has the distinction of being at high risk of disaster. Sitting on the Ring of Fire, Indonesia has a history of seismic disaster and is ranked 12th in mortality risk based on the 2009 International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. For example, in 2010, Mount Merapi erupted in Yogyakarta, killing 353 people and since then both Mt. Sinabung and Mt. Kelud volcanos erupted.

The Mt. Sinabung volcano eruption left 16 people dead after four months of eruptions. Around Mt. Kelud, signs of eruption started recently and in February 2014 the government urged for evacuation. The Mt. Kelud eruption occurred on 13 February 2014, and the local government imposed a 10-kilometers exclusion zone to prohibit any activities until March, forcing the evacuation of 100.000 people.

Local government had planned early to alert local inhabitants of the potential for disaster. Prior to the eruption, in the coordination meeting, the vice of local police used several types of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to disseminate early warning regarding the potential of disaster (Surya Online, 2014) and it is interesting to see how the community has utilized their technology to help them in disaster management to avoid more victims and reduce the risks of the disaster.

A comprehensive disaster management consists of 4 phases: mitigation (prevention to reduce risk prior to the disaster occurs), preparation (action to make sure sufficient response and effective recovery), response (immediate action at time the disaster is occurring), and recovery (after disaster when the victims return to home) (Alexander 2001 cited in Coppola, 2007). According to Anggunia (2011), during the Mt. Merapi eruption case, web, online, and social media tools were used in emergency response.

Here are several examples of how the local community used ICT and social media, by taking the story from the recent Mount Kelud eruption in East Java and surroundings, as disaster management tools.

Mitigation and Preparation

In mitigation and preparation, the related government institutions utilized a web portal JalinMerapi.net, which integrates old and new communication technologies, to support coordination between officials and the local community. For example the Geology agency updated the mountain activity status to help local government decide about evacuation needs. Using ICT, the vice police of Kediri district, near Mt. Kelud, disseminated evacuation orders via text message, allowing farmers to evacuate their livestock to safe places (Surya Online, 2014). In social media, the official Twitter account of National Geology Agency or BadanGeologi, National Disaster Management Body (BNPB) posted early warning on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted on February 5th, the BNPB official Twitter account announced that due to the status of the mountain activity, it was escalating its status to Caution (level 2 of 4: status, normal, caution, alert, and watch out), and BNPB coordinated this message with the three affected districts’ disaster management agencies. Five days later, it raised the mountain activity status to Alert level.

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Response

During the response stage, people used social media for posting latest situation in the area of Mount Kelud eruption. Two hours after the eruption, “Mount Kelud erupts… hopefully no casualties”, said Efa on her Twitter account, who lives 35 km from Mt. Kelud, joining multiple users who shared news and information via social media, especially people who live or have family within the area of disaster. Twitter was full of tweets that talked about the event. At least 10 tweets every second were published, most of them were meant to pray for the areas affected by the eruption (Tempo, 2014). The sand and ash rain were the hottest topics on Facebook in the region.

Social media was also used by people from abroad, especially those who intended to travel near to the eruption, to ask about airport openings and the situation caused by volcanic ash. This widespread information allowed people around the world knew the latest situation in the vulnerable areas. Some people and independent organisations spontaneously opened disaster aid programs and posted and promoted them through social media.

The hashtags #PrayforKelud and #Kelud became trending topics of the week on Twitter. People used them to spread information, raising awareness of when the next disaster might happen. People in other part of the nation also used social media to help friends and families around the areas of disaster. For example, they posted how to anticipate and deal with the volcanic ashe This kind of information was very useful.

In addition, social media helped enhance people’s solidaritiy, awakening empathy to help each other. A face book user said, “Social media helps communication process in managing the disasters, particularly person-to-person interaction which is then going to the broader audiences. This can encourage more people to have empathy and help the victims.”

Recovery

In the recovery stage, this leds to a rise in funds and aid from people across the nation, including spreading information about fundraising events. Twitter was used to manage aid distribution. For instance, users told people about when and where victims were allowed to return home, so aid could be distributed to other evacuation places. “Please note, for friends who want to bring aid, that refugees in Batu city – Pujon already back home yesterday”, said @NgalasAdventure. “Aid can be distributed directly to Selorejo – Ngantang – Pare or districts in Kediri: Kepung district, etc”, said his next tweet.

Even a week after eruption, there were still over 1,000 tweets mentioning #PrayforKelud and #Kelud per day. Most of them shared information of victims returning home, because the status of the mountain already changed into Alert status on 20th February 2014. Other people used Twitter and Facebook to inform others on the things victims needed, such as @RYMovement who said “RYM for Humanity: victims around eruption area need more shovels, hoes, tarpaulins and carpentry tools to clean houses.”

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However, this kind initiative mostly comes from grassroots community activity. There was lack of formal organization in managing disaster communications using social media. But the good news is that people organized themselves based on trust, with less government intervention through social media.

After the disaster, the trend shifted. Twitter became an official channel for Indonesian’s president to give his after disaster testimony through his official personal twitter account @SBYudhoyono :

“After speaking with evacuees in three regencies and two municipalities, I can say that I am satisfied with the disaster relief operation. Thank you.” (@SBYudhoyono in Jakarta Post, 2014)


Contributors

Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia works as Database Analyst at West Kalimantan Provincial Government, Indonesia. She holds an M.Sc in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) from The University of Manchester.

Larastri Kumaralalita is currently member of e-government laboratory in University of Indonesia. She gained MSc. of Management and Information Systems at Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), University of Manchester, and Bachelor in Computer Science, majoring in Information Systems, at Computer Science Faculty, University of Indonesia.