The first CityApp Appathon organized jointly by Microsoft and CITYNET (The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements) included 103 developers from across Nepal building web and mobile applications to solve Kathmandu’s biggest urban challenges.
“This is an amazing event and I want to thank CITYNET and Microsoft for organizing it. The apps that our citizens have created will go a long way in ensuring the socio-economic sustainability of our city. It is a great showcase of the power of technology and the role it can play in making cities better for people,” said Kathmandu CEO Mr. Laxman Aryal.
The Kathmandu Valley is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in Asia and with the increased population growth comes issues such as traffic congestion, pollution and insufficient waste management. CityApp Kathmandu saw a variety of apps being built to address a wide range of issues, including accurate demographic information, cultural and heritage preservation, urbanization, pedestrian information, as well as waste management.
“As a citizen of Kathmandu, I experience these issues every day and have witnessed first-hand how important and urgent it is to find solutions. The collaborative approach that the government is taking with CityApp has enabled me to put my programming skills to use for the betterment of the city, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so,” said Yashasvi Raj Pant.
The first place winning app, a solution focusing on public safety called Safety Whistle, was submitted by Yashasvi and teammates Anish Ansari, Gopal Kandoi and Rumi Shakya, who made up Team Conscientious. In this app, users can enter two to three emergency contact numbers and two to three emergency email addresses. If ever the user is in a situation they feel threatened or require assistance, the user simply presses the panic button to activate the app, which will send an SMS or email to the designated contacts. Information will also be sent to the police noting the location of the emergency.
Other winning apps include a patient-centric application that captures interactions between a health care provider and a patient; an app that tracks public transportation arrival times; an information portal that supports communication and collaboration between citizens and the government; and a crowd sourcing app that helps citizens connect to help each other solve community based problems together.
“This groundswell of ideas from the Appathon is a hallmark of Microsoft CityNext, which broadens the city innovation conversation beyond infrastructure alone, centering on helping cities unlock their most important resource—the potential of their people,” said Stefan Sjöström, Vice President of Asia Public Sector at Microsoft.
Winners of CityApp Kathmandu 2014 will work with the Microsoft Innovation Center in Nepal to incubate and further develop their ideas. They will get an opportunity to showcase their apps to city and government officials at the World Cities Summit in Singapore on 1-4 June 2014.
More information about Microsoft CityNext is available here.
By Clair Deevy, Microsoft Citizenship Lead, Asia Pacific
It’s no secret that we live in one of the most diverse regions in the world here in Asia Pacific. We are home to 60 percent of the world’s young people, we have seven time zones and a huge diversity of cultures and traditions. Not to mention the fact that more than 2000 languages are spoken here!
What we have in common is a passion for creation and innovation that in recent history has really started to come into its own. We see an opportunity to not just be the place where things are outsourced to be made but the place where things are invented and created. So imagine if we could have a common language to spark our creative juices?
Learning to code opens up a world of opportunities—just ask the guys who recently sold Whatsapp! That is why we are partnering with nonprofit Code.org to launch the Asia Pacific Week of Code, 21-27 April, through our YouthSpark Initiative. We will be promoting the learning of code by inviting everyone, beginners to advanced coders, to do an Hour of Code or more, and for the pros and more experienced to hold a hackathon.
We’ve launched wespeakcode.net where students can take interactive courses (fancy designing Angry Birds?), teachers can organise coding workshops using our kits and everyone can swap tips and share photos on what they do through social networks. You can also sign a petition to ask for computer science to be added to your school’s curriculum.
Anyone and everyone can join us, but most of all I hope the young people of Asia Pacific jump in and learn this great skill. Let’s not forget that of the total number of youth globally who are not currently in education, training or employment, an alarming proportion (62 percent) are in this region. Maybe this activity could be the path that leads them to be better qualified for employment and entrepreneurial activities.
Coding can come in handy in so many ways. I’m proud to say I learnt to code as a kid (on a Commodore 64), rediscovered my love of coding through HTML in my first after-school job in a government agency and went on to build customisable Excel spreadsheets while working in public relations. So you never know where coding may take you!
Technology lets you be a creator and an architect. Imagine if all young people understood just how powerful learning to code could be. What problems could they solve? What businesses might they start? What fun could they have?
I hope “code” will be added to the curriculum in every school. I hope more women jump in and learn to code. And, I hope you do an Hour of Code, so you can join us on social media to proudly say #WeSpeakCode!
Imagine if all young people understood just how powerful learning to code could be. What problems could they solve? What businesses might they start? What fun could they have?
Clair Deevy, Microsoft Citizenship Lead, Asia Pacific
This is part of a series of articles highlighting the valuable work that Microsoft’s Citizenship Managers are doing in Asia.
As a child, Esther K. Sianipar would chat with her father into the late night about Indonesia’s possible pathways for democratisation. At other times, she would watch the deep discussions between her father and other politicians and activists on the latest events.
Microsoft Indonesia’s Citizenship Manager, Esther, traces her passion for social justice to this influence from her father, Mr Binsar Sianipar. A member of one of Indonesia’s most prominent political parties as well as Indonesia Christian Students’ Movement or Gerakan Mahasiswa Kristen Indonesia (GMKI), he has spent all his life campaigning for an inclusive democracy in the country.
In 1988, Esther's family moved to the United States to accompany her father in his pursuit of higher studies. While observing Indonesia's evolution through crucial periods in the ‘90s, Esther decided to pursue a rigorous exploration of political science and international relations herself, subsequently obtaining a Masters in International Affairs from Ohio University. Since then, she has been working on Indonesia’s development in different capacities. Before joining Microsoft, she worked in the Parliament, as well as with an international organisation and a community-based organisation.
Poverty eradication has always been at the heart of my work,” said Esther as she summarised her career. “I’m most concerned about children and youth. Now, I want to use technology to help them. I’ve seen how the transfer of skills, knowledge and attitudes can help them break free of an intergenerational cycle of poverty.
Esther (far left) with CEOs of prominent nonprofits in Indonesia, after the CEO-Executive Directors Roundtable for NGOs in December 2013.
For the past 1.5 years at Microsoft, Esther has been engaging with civil society organisations through strategic partnerships on issues such as the health and well-being of children, youth entrepreneurship, as well as education and vocational trainings. Her portfolio sprawls across the archipelago of islands, from Sumatra to Sulawesi. One project that left the deepest impression was coordinating Microsoft’s resource donation to three large organisations: the ASEAN Foundation, Palang Merah Indonesia (Red Cross Indonesia) and Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (YCAB). With Microsoft’s donations, including that of technical expertise, the organisations have managed to enhance their core work.
There are more opportunities for public-private partnerships, Esther said. “According to a McKinsey report, Indonesia is an important hub in Asia. It is currently the 16th largest economy in the world, and is predicted to become the 7th largest economy by 2030. Indonesia’s promising future translates into more opportunities for the transnationals moving into the country to contribute back to the local community.”
She emphasises the key to a successful partnership lies in local understanding, and has been instrumental in gathering multi-sectoral support, including that of the government. Last year, she helped to launch the YouthSpark initiative, with one launch event having a whopping attendance of 50,000 people.
“Corporations have to understand the economic, social and political perspectives of the people, and then decide on the causes that are aligned with the company’s mission. Corporations should be well-prepared and have an idea of what they can contribute, even before engaging with local communities. This way, engagement can achieve focused high-impact that’s meaningful for both parties. Partnering is not networking, but working with each other’s mission and strengths to find sustainable solutions for the community.”
This post is part of a series spotlighting Asia Pacific nonprofit organisations that have incorporated a thorough understanding of technology and education into their learning programmes for youth. These organisations attended Microsoft’s Tech4Good Summit (12-13 February 2014) in Singapore.
In Hong Kong, you can get the world’s best technological infrastructure, however, there is a considerable number of disadvantaged and deprived people who remain on the sidelines. Digitally excluded groups are mired in a vicious cycle as they continue to be socially and financially disadvantaged, and closing the gap has become a priority for the Hong Kong government and civil society.
One such nonprofit is The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong (BCGA), which has been promoting the well-being of children and youth since 1936, through direct services, advocacy and research on issues such as the mental well-being, special needs and resource needs of vulnerable families, children and youth.
Children trying out sound recording.
Ida Lim, Assistant Supervisor at BGCA, said, “We’re constantly following changes in society. For instance, the new government cabinet, new secondary qualifications and widening income inequality all affect the young people we work with. We have seen technology help vulnerable groups in certain ways, but we are also seeing low-income families finding it harder and harder to catch up.”
BGCA is now spearheading a chain of educational programmes on digital technologies that aim to do more than simply impart awareness and basic knowledge. These new courses have a heavy focus on coaching participants to solve problems, collaborate and create, effectively training young people to go beyond being mere consumers of technology to being content producers.
One programme, the Digital Creativity Project (DC@7), has monthly workshops to provide hands-on experience with the latest technology such as animation, programming, photo-editing and QR code generation. Children have an avenue to express and explore their creativity through trial and error. This approach not only empowers them with digital literacy, it also drives them to innovate, as well as reinforce their critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills.
A boy tries his hand at drawing with a stylus during DC@7.
Hard and soft skills empowerment is only the first step, as underprivileged youth still need support in accessing opportunities. BGCA and Microsoft have partnered on the ‘Excelling Microsoft Training Programme for Youth’ project to provide 640 underprivileged youth participants with computer skills training, and more importantly, career guidance and entrepreneurship referrals to BizSpark, a Microsoft programme that provides free software, support and visibility to help startups succeed.
Microsoft Corporate Citizenship caught up with Heather Mansfield, Principal Blogger of Nonprofit Tech For Good in Melbourne, Australia to get her perspectives on social media and advice for nonprofits in Asia Pacific.
As part of its Technology for Good programming in Asia Pacific, Microsoft hosts social media workshops for the nonprofit sector. To read about past events, see the event summaries on Storify here. To find out more about Microsoft's resources for the nonprofit sector and upcoming events in your country, subscribe to the Tech4Good e-newsletter.
Stay tuned for the next two parts in this three-part interview series with Heather Mansfield and visit the Nonprofit Tech for Good blog for valuable resources about nonprofits and social media.
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