USAID Recognizes Open Institute and 8villages for Innovative Mobile Apps

USAID RDMA Director Michael Yates (center) with Mobile Solutions M4D Contest Award Winners Javier Sola of the Open Institute, fi
USAID RDMA Director Michael Yates (center) with Mobile Solutions M4D Contest Award Winners Javier Sola of the Open Institute, first place (right), and Sanny Gaddafi of 8villages, second place (left)
Richard Nyberg/USAID

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BANGKOK, January 7, 2014 – Innovative non-governmental organizations applying cutting-edge technology to reach remote Cambodia voters and to provide Indonesian farmers with seed and harvest offers have won the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Regional Development Mission for Asia Mobile Solutions for Development Award.

Open Institute’s Structuring Partnerships for an Innovative Communications Environment program in Cambodia won this first USAID contest highlighting promising mobile solutions in Southeast Asia that have the potential to impact development outcomes in climate change, food security, health, governance or biodiversity.

Judges picked Open Institute for having developed a variety of effective and innovative interaction voice response (IVR) applications for civil society organizations in the human rights, governance and health sectors. The IVR platform is connected to all mobile operators in Cambodia and is accessible to most callers in the country. An example of their services is the Election Hotline that contains information on how, when and where to vote; voters placed over 600,000 calls to the platform in one election cycle. 

Open Institute will use the award funds to develop an IVR system that will give the largest minority in Cambodia -- Phnong -- access to 50 articles of Cambodian Land Law in their native language, enabling them to understand their legal rights relating to land ownership.

“This is an excellent example of the innovative ways in which mobile solutions can help to improve development outcomes and empower communities with better information,” said Michael Yates, USAID Asia Mission Director. “Asia needs more innovative solutions like this and needs to bring them to scale, working with partners in the public and private sectors - to bring about more effective development programs.”

Second prize went to 8villages and its rural social networking platform that allows smallholder farmers and agribusiness to share user-generated content, such as seeds offers, harvest offers, and get advice through peer questions and answers.  The application generates revenue through advertising and market analytics for the private sector, and through a “freemium” model in which farmers receive basic functions but can opt to pay for additional features.  8villages currently has 4,000 users in Indonesia with a weekly SMS traffic of 300,000.   8villages will use the award funds to strengthen its telecommunication servers to expand to the Philippines.

The three other finalists were: A-Eye, developed by King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), which supports eco-tourism and forest management; Commcare, developed by Dimagi, which provides survey and case management tools for community health and extension workers; and the Fansipan Challenge, developed by FHI 360, a mobile app to encourage HIV testing and care by collecting points and prizes for real world actions.

USAID’s Mobile Solutions for Development in Asia Award winners were announced at the Mobile Solutions Forum on January 6 in Bangkok. Co-organized by USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia and FHI 360 in partnership with Open Revolution, the one-day event provided an overview of mobile technology for development in Southeast Asia. Local technology firms, USAID and its implementing partners, other donors, mobile network operators and academics participated. During the day, participants cast their own votes for their favorite presentation, and Commcare, developed by Dimagi, earned the people's choice award.

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