“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”

Big words for a small NGO. Aren’t they? I am sure at some points we are innovators. Even big ones. And so yesterday i had the honor of representing ICT4D.at the UNIDO General Conference 2017. Before i go any deeper: This was definitely an interesting experience and it startet right at the entrance when the severe security measures reminded me of the international importance of the UNO. After receiving my badge i took a look around and was amazed by all the people from all over the world being busy keeping the nations united… And all this right in the middle of the well-known and cosy suburbs of Kaisermühlen in Vienna – surreal somehow…

 

The setting was simple: A round table, 4 panellists, 1 moderator and a small but interested audience. We were asked to talk about our work, our projects and our achievements. Our statements were followed by two questions:

  • Which problems are you solving?
  • How is it impacting society?

In our Vision Meeting recently we asked ourselves who we are and who we want to be as an NGO. And i also asked the other members: “What should i tell those guys at the UNO?…” And the coclusion was to go there without pressure and present ICT4D.at as what it is: A small and very precious family network. We don’t have many members but we support each other in a sustainable way. Once connections are established they are taken care of by our members in Austria and the World.
As it is stated on our website we believe in the empowerement of people through ICT. During my preparation for the event I went through former posts and weblinks and noted a few things:

  • tech will just support and is not the key to success – thinking of our Nimble-project online platforms have always supported the organising process in efficient and effective ways and therefore take some pressure of us so we can focus on our team relationships
  • if it’s not broken don’t fix it – we work not only as a team but also as friends and it feels like a family – it has always been like that in our NGO and we are happy to keep it that way
  • opportunities are endless for good programmers – with code people can create wonderful things, no matter were they live and the barrier to get access to crucial technology is relatively low – a wonderful example are Django Girls

So looking back at the two questions above i have an opinionated conclusion: We are solving our own problems by working on the problems in the world. Sometimes the entire world is small and ends at our front doors, sometimes it seems to have no ending. We are a stable yet dynamic group cause everyone can bring in ideas that will be reviewed and supported and we dont have to climb steep hierarchies within our NGO. Yet it amazes me that we collaborate globally. Thanks to ICT. We connect dots around the world for our impact on society.

Happy and thankful for the opportunity and experience i go on with my work by representing ICT4D.at the European Youth Award Festival in Graz this weekend as a jury member. Wuhuuu! Stay tuned…

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“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”
was published on 30.11.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe, global
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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact

ICT4D Conference Poster

A week ago, I had the pleasure to dive deep into the world of ICT4D at the 9th ICT4D Conference in Hyderabad, India. On short notice I got the confirmation for my ticket while being in Bangalore with one business card, no fancy shirts and an insufficient amount of underwear. So I booked a flight at the same day, the first hotel which popped up on the net (brick-wall-view as I found out later) and went cloth shopping at the airport. I also managed to shift some work load from my company and worked during coffee breaks on other things. I replaced business cards with a smile and pined my last one on my chest – so people simply took pictures. Busy and exhausting four days, but exiting as well. I would like to give here a short overview on what is going on in the world of ICT4D, summarize the talks I enjoyed and state my personal experiences.

Two topics were ubiquitous this year, agriculture and IT support for NGOs. This focus was already underlined in the keynote when one of the main sponsors of the conference, Microsoft, spoke about their engagement with ICRISAT – International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Topics. They use their cloud computing power and Cortana to provide weather forecast for farmers to communicate when to seed out or harvest (and more) to increase crop yield for farmers. The IT support aspect for NGOs was visible due to the high amount of companies offering technologies (hardware, software, data) in order to make their life easier or to collect/organize data in the field, which is also inline with the this year’s conference focus:

This year we focus on using data to accelerate achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to split this blog post into two sections. Firstly, I will give you an overview of talks and discussions regarding ICT4D projects I discovered. This will be just a peak of what was going on, most of the time more than 10 talks were happening simultaneously. Secondly, I took one full day to visit all sponsors and exhibitors at their stands and discusses with them their products, projects and ideas.

 

 

Projects, Talks & Discussions

Leveraging Tradition and Science in Disaster Risk Reduction in Mongolia
Erkhes Batbold
is a project with a goal to reduce the risk of dzud (a Mongolian term for a severe winter in which large number of livestock die, primarily due to starvation due to being unable to graze, in other cases directly from the cold) to herder communities and rural economies in Mongolia through on-demand weather information and increased local planning and risk reduction capacity.
They implemented a national wide SMS based weather forecast system to provide access for everyone with a mobile phone. The speaker underlined the lack of smartphones in rural areas and the importance of a demand requested system to make it sustainable in the long run. They interviewed users on camera to describe their positive experience to spread the word, which worked best for them. The speaker, Erkhes Batbold from Mercy Corps listed some helpful technologies they used to build the system: engagespark.com, darksky.net , ona.io and lts2sms.com. For me, this talk was one of the most interesting, since it is related to my research as well, and as they started to use a Android phone as a SMS gateway to forward the requests to a server and respond then with the weather forecast.
more

‘SMS Quicklearns’ enhances women’s parenting skills in Sri Lanka
Maria Berenguer & Divakar Ratnadurai
SOS Children’s Village Sri Lanka empowers women at grass-roots through mobile technology using “SMS Quicklearns” to enhance women’s parenting skills on the benefit of their children. The feasibility study showed high mobile penetration at the grass-root level and being mainly fishing communities needed cognizance on various social skills to assure a safe and caring home environment for the children. Text To Change Programme disseminates information on child-care, child rights & protection and managing family income with a view to change their behavior for the well-being of their children & families.
This project is as well SMS based and spread information via mobile phones. Users also had weekly meetings to discuss the received lessons which enabled access for mothers without a phone. They also had a trainer visiting the parents. These limitations made it only possible to work in closed groups, but the speaker stated, that they would love to open it to everyone – but as always, the budget is the limit…

e-Monitoring system: Strengthening government school monitoring system
Ruxana Parvin Hossain
e-Monitoring System specifically designed for the use by school monitors to improve the accountability and governance of public primary school system. To strengthen the government school monitoring system of Bangladesh, the Sponsorship program of Bangladesh Save the Children created an Android enabled school monitoring application based on the existing paper based school monitoring checklist and also developed a browser based school inspection data analysis dashboard with various analytical interactive reports. The data is public, the source code is close since it is very specialized.

Education & Livelihoods Track Panel: Learning-People, Processes or Platform
Chris Benner, Anindya Chattopadhyay, PS Gohil, Jodi Lis & Laura Moats
The panel discussed the process to bring education to people with the support of technology. Technology which can help you in your educational project highly depends on your user and your needs. It is crucial to put community and people first, the technology will just support you and is not the key to your success. The panel defined the following steps:
1. Identify and setup the platform/technology you will use.
2. Build up your content, use open resources or create it yourself
3. Implement the e-learning – this is the hardest part.
The discussion shifted then to MOOCs which can be helpful but very difficult to implement. Guidance and personal interactions are very important for beginners. The main problem with MOOCs is, that most of the time already educated users use the service and leave out the target group. They underlined that learning is a social process!
Furthermore, the panel stated that having test groups straight from the beginning is very important. The fact that it is almost impossible to get proper feedback from failed e-learning users. This is very challenging and they have no solution yet to reach out to these important group to simply find out why they failed. The last conclusion was to show the demand to the users. Create motivation by giving an insight what the learners will get from their education. Jobs and placement are most of the time the goal.

There’s no app for that: Preparing for a tech implementation
Aleksa Krolls, Piyasree Mukherjee, Frank Nankivell, Alexie Seller
Ready to implement a new technology — trade in the paper for smartphones, start administering surveys via SMS, transition to a new CRM system? Worldwide, social impact organizations are seeking technology solutions to better manage data, measure performance, report to donors, & address inefficiencies in programs/operations. When it comes to implementing a new tech tool, how do we gauge whether an organization is “ready”? What happens when the technology implementation – inadvertently or advertently – leads to upheaval in the organization’s processes? How can we ensure that technology is a tool underpinning quality delivery, with the focus on impact rather than on the tool itself?
Vera Solutions discussed with three NGO partners on how they worked together to implement a certain technology to support their work. Pollinate Energy, FMCH – Foundation for Mother & Child Health and Liberty Asia all used IT support to streamline and analyse their processes, collect information on the field and/or get more paperless. All agreed on the profound advantages IT can have. “Why do we need a new Technology” is crucial to ask straight from the beginning to really get the solution which fits best. Start with the people, not the Technology.

Digital Village Harisal: Connectedness is the Key
Prashant Shukla
The Maharashtra government and Microsoft have collaborated to develop a strategic framework for smart village adoption and to identify an impact-driven, public-private partnership-enabled implementation model to transform Harisal into India’s first smart village. Connecting a village to the Internet is one of the key elements to make a village smarter. This can be quite challenging due to the GSM coverage in rural areas and land lines are still rare as well. This project uses TV band white spaces – unused VHF and UHF TV channels that can be used to deliver broadband access over wider areas than possible using today’s Wi-Fi spectrum. They connected villages with this technologies and enabled better access to communication, health and education tools.

SESAMA – Mobile application to turn trash into cash
Mita Julinartati Sirait
Waste in the big cities has always been a problem and needs serious handling. Jakarta City every day produces 7000 tons of waste and only about 5200 tons can be transported to the final disposal (TPA) Bantar Gebang by 720 garbage trucks. Of the total trash, 47% is industrial waste and 53% of household waste with a composition of 67% of organic waste; 32.8% inorganic and plastic waste; and 0.2% other debris. In order to support urban waste management, WVI has developed android applications called SESAMA to connect residents with nearby waste bank and help the waste bank managing its administrative works. This application allows residents ordering picking up, tracking their waste amount and checking their money deposit in real time. On the other hand, the waste bank will be able to monitor the waste deposit amount, money deposit, customer’s data and trends of their transaction timely and regularly.

Play.Connect.Learn: Learning to read by playing with apps
Meenakshi Khanna
Play.Connect.Learn, is a digital app that was developed by Sesame Workshop India (SWI) to determine whether exposure to innovative, interactive digital reading content on smart phones would improve the reading skills of children in Grades 1 and 2 who are reading below grade level. SWI leveraged its library of materials to develop 3 packages of reading materials for the app. The app, developed in Marathi, is being used in 4 districts in Maharashtra by low income families. The app includes packages of stories, rhymes and games that become increasingly more complex in content and skills.
They stated that nothing can replace a good pedagogy, but the application is a good tool. Even parents started to learn and like the fact that they use the Sesame Street Puppets in the application. They acknowledged that children lean it many different ways and tried to offer different learning approaches in the application.

Feeding the world with Raspberry Pi
John Anker
The last talk I joined at the conference was about the wonderful Raspberry Pi. John Anker from the Catholic Relief Services simple introduced the mini computer and showed its possibilities. I use the Raspberry Pi as well in my work to teach computer science and attended the talk out of curiosity. The highligt was the Raspberry Pi operated anti mosquito laser gun – pretty cool stuff. I would also like to underline here that the Raspberry Pi is a very good computer for development work. Cost effective and fully operable – surf the Internet, create textual documents (and more) and program for just $30!

 

Sponsors & Exhibitors

a small overview of companies, NGOs and NPOs at the ICT4D conference:

esri – GIS Resources for Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Response
Esri’s Nonprofit Organization Program provides conservation and humanitarian nonprofit organizations around the world with an affordable means of acquiring ArcGIS software and services for organized volunteer effort.
esri.com/nonprofit

Digital Globe – Space Imagery and Geospatial Content
analyses images and processes them for catastrophy management and are partners of Esri. They use the power of the crowed to provide necessary information. Ushahidi from the other side…
http://www.digitalglobe.com/

OMPT – Reducing Worldwide Poverty Through Video Education
provides projector sets with speakers to enable mobile video training. 2 hours of battery life are included, but you can charge the gear with a external battery or from your car to and teach anywhere.
http://www.ompt.org/

Quest Alliance – We design learning experiences that inspire and empower educators and learners alike.
Quest Alliance is a not-for-profit trust that equips young people with 21st century skills by enabling self-learning.
http://www.questalliance.net/

Mango Logic and D-Tree
Mango Logic offers a sophisticated technology to solve complex decision making. Everyone can create a decision tree and a mobile application without programming a single line of code. That’s what D-Tree is doing, they use the technology to provide better Decisions which save lives. D-tree International is harnessing the potential of mobile technology to improve the quality of healthcare provision in the developing world.
http://mangologic.com/ | http://www.d-tree.org/

Social App Hub – India’s largest repository of mobile Apps
Most of the software a NGO needs is already out there and they created a collection of apps for a social cause. Social App Hub helps to find IT solutions for NGOs.
https://knowledge.socialapphub.com/

Anudip – Empowering individuals through digital and workplace skills development
Anudip’s diverse training, mentorship, and employment support empowers marginalized individuals to change their lives by providing training for illiterate people to find a placement. The work directly with the people and use training centers equipped with computer and Internet connection.
http://www.anudip.org/

Akvo – Capture, Understand and Share
Akvo is offering mobile applications to collect data in the field and analyse the outcome. They also have very nice tools of measure water quality with a Android phone.
http://akvo.org/

Open – Security enabled Networks
provides networks in the field and ensure their security. The Swiss based company offers a portable server infrastructure to connect and control the data flow.
https://www.open.ch

Nasscom – Empower NGOs with Technology
NASSCOM Foundation, by leveraging the capabilities of the IT- BPM sector, is meeting the technology needs of NGOs so that they can: scale up operations, be more efficient, increase reach, deliver effective results; and hence realize the goals they are meant to.
http://www.nasscomfoundation.org

Diona – Mobility Solutions
transform mobile devices such as phones and tablets into tools for helping your NGO move closer to achieving its mission. Whether it’s greater efficiency, happier clients, more productive caseworkers, or tracking progress of your projects and clients for better outcomes, we work together to help make your mission happen.
https://ngo.diona.com/

Software Group – Finance
is a global technology company that is specialized in delivery channel and integration solutions for the financial sector, especially in the micro finance sector.
http://softwaregroup-bg.com/

aWhere – Agronomic Data & Agricultural Data Management
Data Management harnesses agriculture analytics to create unprecedented visibility and insight from farm level to national policy. Their algorithms create 41000 weather stations out of 87  Indian weather stations and support local farmers with their technology.
http://www.awhere.com/

Good Bye

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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact
was published on 28.05.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global, south asia
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