Congratulations to the ISIF Asia Grants and Awards winners for 2018

This year ISIF Asia will award USD 210,000 to 10 organizations in the Asia Pacific to support research and development of Internet technologies for the benefit of the region. This year’s funding round marks our 10th anniversary of operation in the Asia Pacific.

We received 236 applications in total for the four funding categories that were announced earlier this year. The applications came from 28 economies across the region. We were very excited to see that around 60% of the applications received were submitted for our new “Gender Empowerment and Innovation” category. It was also very encouraging to receive applications from economies that have never applied for our funding before. Similarly, the application process reflected a variety of stakeholders working towards the development of the Internet. We see those as great indicators about the relevance of ISIF Asia as a mechanism to support the development of the Internet across the region.

The funding will be distributed among organizations representing a wide variety of stakeholders: Government (1), Civil Society (3), Private Sector (2), Social Enterprise (1), and Academia (3) as well as very interesting geographical spread across 9 economies: Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, The Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Awards

The ISIF Asia 2018 Award winners will each receive USD 3,500 plus a travel grant to the 2018 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that will be held in Paris, France from 12 to 14 November 2018. Their work will be featured as part of the Seed Alliance Awards ceremony, which will be held on 13 November 2018.

“The 2018 ISIF Asia Award winners are truly innovative initiatives, where access to Internet technologies with a social purpose, clearly show a positive impact to improve the lives of people in the communities they serve in the Philippines and Myanmar. Their experiences and knowledge help overcome the challenges that the developing world faces,” Duncan Macintosh, APNIC Foundation CEO said.

Award winners

Community Networks

  • Community Cellular Networks in Rural Aurora, University of the Philippines – Diliman, The Philippines.

In partnership with a local telecom, the team has developed and deployed a GSM Community Cellular Network in rural Philippines to bridge ‘last mile’ connectivity issues in isolated and relatively poor communities. As of 2017, they have also begun deploying them in partnership with local NGOs, primarily cooperatives, to provide basic cellular services to subscribers.

Gender Empowerment and Innovation

  • Tech Age Girls Myanmar, Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation, Myanmar.

This initiative has successfully supported female community leaders (aged between 16-20) through the ‘Tech Age Girls’ program from community libraries that have been playing a key role in digital inclusion and gender equality in Myanmar. The finalists are selected to implement their own community projects ideas to support their communities.

Grants

As Head of Programs for the APNIC Foundation, I am really impressed by the proposals selected for the ISIF Asia 2018 Grants and how they highlight the main technical, operational and development issues that concern the Asia Pacific Internet community. I am confident the outcomes of their work will continue to support an open, stable, and secure Internet that serves the needs of the people in our region. The APNIC Foundation is particularly glad to see how the distribution of funds reflect regional and stakeholder diversity and the clear links that every project has to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Grant winners

Network Operations Research

  • Measuring and Detecting Network Interference in Southeast Asia, Sinar Project, Malaysia. Grant award: USD 20,000.

This network measurement research aims to show current and past Internet censorship and network interference in media, political criticism, religion, gender and social media networks in South East Asian economies using network monitoring nodes around the region. There will also be a pilot gender gap social audit conducted for a marginalized urban community in Malaysia to research and measure non-technical gaps in Internet access such as affordability, Internet literacy, knowledge or rights, and accessibility and availability of gender-related content.

  • Establishment of a Carrier Neutral Software-Defined Internet Exchange (IXP) Point and Training Programs for Capacity Building in Managing IXPs, Lahore University of Management Sciences – LUMS, Pakistan. Grant award: USD 30,000.

This project aims to deploy a Software-Defined IXP and training programs for IXP development in Pakistan to assist operators to enable new applications such as application-specific testing, traffic redirection through middleboxes, and inbound traffic engineering. While the project centres on a Pakistan IXP, it will eventually be made available to other least developed economies in the region. Another benefit of the project will see costs associated with IXPs reduced via automatic configuration management and dynamic policy assignment.

Community Networks

  • Community LTE in Papua, Yayasan Noken Baliem Mandiri, Indonesia. Grant award: USD 23,000.

This project seeks to deploy the first locally-owned and operated handset to support LTE networks in the world to rural Papua, Indonesia, using low-cost eNodeBs and a custom developed enhanced packet core. YNBM was granted a special experimental cellular license to explore this new rural access technology in Indonesia by the Indonesian Telecom Ministry.

  • Connecting the Unserved – Bhutan’s First Trial with TV White Space Technology, NANO, Bhutan. Grant award: USD 30,000.

Given Bhutan’s challenging physical environment and Internet connectivity issues, this project aims to explore the feasibility and suitability of TV white space technology as an alternative broadband option to unserved areas in the economy.

Cybersecurity

  • RPKI Monitor and Visualizer for Detecting and Alerting for RPKI Errors, ZDNS Labs, China. Grant award: USD 30,000.

This project will implement a RPKI security mechanism to offer a distributed, stakeholder-based counter to the power imbalances arising from RPKI’s hierarchical system. The proposed mechanism detects adverse actions in the RPKI and alerts resource holders to these actions that adversely affect their holding, so that errors can be quickly fixed. The mechanism also enables each ISP to decide whether to accept or defer accepting PRKI database changes that appear to be adverse.

  • A novel graph analytics theory model to mitigate IoT botnets attacks for big data, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM), Malaysia. Grant award: USD 13,000.

This research aims to use the Graph Analytics Theory model to analyse the behaviour of IoT botnets using a reverse engineering approach to distinguish IoT botnets from raw infection codes and develop a new Graph Analytics Theory model for detecting IoT botnet attacks. The expected outcome of the research is to be able to remove and quarantine the suspicious codes as well as be able to detect behaviour changes in IoT devices.

Gender Empowerment and Innovation

  • NextGen Girls – Internet Security Ambassadors Project, Shilpa Sayura Foundation, Sri Lanka. Grant award: USD 30,000.

This project aims to upscale the ISOC 25 Under 25 Award winner, ‘Respect Girls on Internet’, by developing a network of university and high school girls studying ICT. The goal is to develop females to pursue emerging IoT security careers to help build a safer and secure IoT environment for women, including training 40 female university students to become Internet Security Educators.

  • Increasing the Safe Use of Internet by Women and Girls, Child Helpline Cambodia, Cambodia. Grant award: USD 22,000.

This is a project to strengthen the capabilities of 16 existing helpline ambassadors on the safe use of the Internet and how to report online abuse to Child helpline Cambodia. The 16 ambassadors will organize five pilot ‘echo awareness’ sessions on the safe use of the Internet for girls and women in their communities. The project will also support: free helpline telephones; an online question and answer platform, with information on the safe use of the Internet and gender equality; response to reports of online abuse; and refer victims to psycho-social support services.

The APNIC Foundation and ISIF Asia thanks all the applicants for sharing their ideas with us, the Selection Committee members for their hard work to arrive to this great outcome, and to APNIC, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Internet Society for their generous funding contributions for 2018.

Apply Now for 2015 eNGO Challenge

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The 2015 eNGO Challenge Award aspires to create an ecosystem by recognizing and honouring NGOs which are using Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital media tools for good governance and practices that are benefiting societies and communities at large. It is a joint initiative of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF).

The eNGO Challenge is open in six categories for best use of ICT, mobile, digital media & new or social media by an NGO for:

    • Best Use of Website & Internal Tools (Website):website
      This category focuses on NGOs that are using website to showcase their activities, projects and local content to get networking and support from funding agencies. This category also welcomes NGOs that create awareness on certain issues through campaigning.

 

  • Best Use of Mobile content & Apps (Mobile):mobile
    This category focuses on NGOs that have used mobile tools/Apps for their internal &external communication to drive social change. For example,an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses connectivity through mobile phones, sms, video calling or any other means to engage and empower communities at large.

 

 

  • Best Use of e-Commerce (e-Commerce):ecommerce
    This category focuses on NGOs who have used ICT and digital media tools such as e-Commerce, mobile phones, online shopping and social media networkssuch as Facebook & Twitter to promote their business meant for the benefit of a community. For example, an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that usesa website or social media networks for the promotion and trading of products for the benefit of a community.

 

 

  • Best Use of Software Automation & Networking (Tools):tools
    This category focuses on NGOs that use digital media tools for improving and enhancing their organizational efficiency by using networking and software tools such as Wi-Fi, Skype, Tally etc. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category thatuses video-conferencing technology to connect with their regional partners or does staff capacity building program with various ICT tools.

 

 

  • Best Use of social Media (Social Media): Slocial Media
    The category focuses on NGOs that use social media as a tool to get solutions for and from the communities. For example, an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses Facebook and twitter to engage communities or inform them about issues.

 

 

  • Best use of e-Content (incl. Audio / Visual / Radio): econtent
    The category focuses on NGOs that empower people to use video or radio to help communities raise their voice for their problems. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that facilitates people to record video or participate through community radio to share messages or register complains or highlight social issues.

 

The eNGO Challenge Award is open to any registered NGO from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. There are no charges applicable for the eNGO Challenge Award Nomination process.

Your NGO should fulfill the conditions of being an active & ICT based organization. Interested entities can take part in eNGO Challenge by either applying online or contacting expert panel for the nomination process through engochallenge@gmail.com

Overcoming School Failure in Rural Sri Lanka with Shilpa Sayura

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In Sri Lanka, the school is free, and the country has, therefore, an excellent educational record. Basic literacy rate is one of the highest in Asia, and the teacher-pupil ratio is up to 1:20.

And yet, when looking at the smaller picture, the situation turns out to be less glowing. In 2011, a study showed that 20 percent among the rural poor never make it to secondary school, dropping out before Grade 5.

This is in part due to financial reasons, as many rural parents cannot meet the hidden costs of their children’s education. School failure also comes from a lack of qualified teachers and educational resources. Ill-prepared, a majority of students fails to pass the junior high school entrance examination.

Helping his daughter out

In 2004, Niranjan Meegammana witnessed his daughter’s failure at school. His family used to live in a rural town, but at the time, he was working in Colombo. He could not provide daily support to Poornima, and her academic performance slipped.

Had Niranjan been uneducated, the girl would have never got to junior high school. But her father was the first person in his village to ever graduate from college, and he believed education was important. As he could not afford private tuitions for his daughter, he turned to the Internet.

The Shilpa Sayura journey

Being a web specialist, Niranjan had heard of e-learning, and he decided to give it a try. He created an online course based on his daughter’s textbook. Immediately, Poornima’s grades improved. At the end of the school year, she passed her O level exam, and she was even top of her class.

Niranjan was impressed by her daughter’s achievement. He also started believing he could help other rural kids succeed in their studies. He made the leap in 2006; it was the beginning of the Shilpa Sayura journey. A few dedicated teachers got involved, and together, they designed an innovative e-learning program. Eight years later, their impact on rural education in Sri Lanka has been unprecedented.

Educational pragmatism

In 2006, Niranjan’s priority was to improve the learning experience of the students. Being a practical man, he decided that all the lessons would be in Sinhalese and Tamil, Sri Lanka’s primary languages. He also adapted the content to the local context and developed interactive movies and animations to make studying more exciting for these rural kids.

In a country where the national curriculum is based on the British teaching model of the 1950s, the Shilpa Sayura method was somewhat of a revolution. But for the students, it made the difference. They could not only relate to the content; they could also study at their own pace, either by themselves or with their friends. As a result, they have become more engaged in their studies, and the retention rate has skyrocketed!

Reaching the rural youth

Niranjan’s other achievement is to have actually reached the rural youth. In that respect, the partnership with the “Nenasala Telecenters” has been a critical move.

These Telecenters were launched in 2005. It was an initiative of the Prime Minister who aimed at expanding the access to ICTs. There are now 700 Telecenters, and they are disseminated throughout the country, even in the most rural areas.

Today, the Shilpa Sayura program is available in 150 Telecenters. Students are free to come and use the computers to further train themselves or upload the materials onto their SIM card. And since there are more than 14,000 lessons and 7,000 tests covering both the primary and secondary curricula, Telecenters have become highly popular!

New opportunities for the rural youth

Since 2007, 80,000 young people have taken part in the Shilpa Sayura program. And everywhere, grades have improved.

In Siyambalanduwa, for example, the pass rate for the O level exam in mathematics has increased from 51.2 to 78.2 percent. In Lahugalla, a war-affected and poor village, some two students got a high distinction for their results in math. And in Thalakumbura, young priests even managed to pass the examination for national school.

As for Poornima, she made her way to college, developing over the years amazing creative skills. In 2011, she became an Adobe Youth Voices scholar, and she recently produced an award-winning short movie on child soldiers in Sri Lanka!

Will Wikipedia Zero Inspire Local Language Content?

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

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

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

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

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