Integra to assist in USAID’s ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) Project

Integra LLC is pleased to announce the award of a subcontract from Nathan Associates, Inc. to provide technical services for the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) project. Funded through USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA), the project focuses on trade facilitation, energy sector development, small enterprise expansion, and telecommunications development. Read more …

Can this be an Opportunity for Mobile Banking in Ethiopia?

Photo Credit: The Economist

I participated in a very informative event this week in Washington DC where a researcher was sharing his experience on “Weather-Index based Crop Insurance for Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia”. As I listened to the discussion as an agricultural information specialist, my concern was what is the role of mobile technologies in this?

According to the researcher, Dr. Shukri Ahmed a Senior Economist, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the concept of crop insurance has a long history from Asia with the leadership of India. However, due to the challenges associated with insurance in general and access to credit to smallholder farmers, the idea somehow waned. But according to Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4), there is overwhelming evidence that uninsured risk can drive people into poverty and destitution, especially those in low-wealth agricultural and pastoralist households. There is therefore a re-emergence of insurance for smallholder farmers across the globe.

The speaker gave a detailed background to the study in Ethiopia and the importance of partnership in the design and implementation of the study. The difference, however, with this new approach to crop insurance for smallholder farmers is the use of index (indices) to support the insurance service, and intervention against emergency situation. But at the same time the study is targeting farmers that are relatively better off and who are already engaged in the market but are not investing in insurance due to the anticipated risks. The outcome of the pilot study is expected to help protect the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, who are vulnerable to severe and catastrophic weather risks particularly drought, enhance their access to agricultural inputs, and enable the development of ex-ante market based risk management mechanism which can be scalable in Ethiopia.

Dr. Shukri Ahmed, Senior Economist at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Unbanked or Branchless Services

Adding another concept to an already very complex issue that tries to combine weather, insurance, credit/finance, and smallholder farming, should be carefully considered. But the key question is whether mobile technologies can play a catalytic role in this entire complex system?

Among the reasons for choosing a given area for the pilot study, include availability of Nyala Bank branches, the vulnerability of yields to drought, the availability of nearby weather stations, and the willingness of cooperatives in the area to purchase the new product. As the pilot study progresses, the possibility of scaling the project across the country is high. But what will be the implications for the absence of banks in the rural farming communities in a country that has an approximately one bank loan per 1000 adults? Can Mobile Banking help understand why smallholder farmers under-investment in agriculture?

A success story of mobile banking by  the Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) in Bangladesh was recently highlighted by the GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked. Interestingly, the story pointed out how DBBL learnt from Kenya’s famous mobile money program M-PESA. Kilimo Salama (KS) is an innovative index-based insurance product that insures farmers’ inputs (seeds, fertilizer, pesticides), and outputs (crop harvests), in the event of drought or excessive rainfall. It uses weather stations to collect data and implements SMS-based mobile technologies to administer and distribute the payouts. Mobile technologies will not only help with the financial transactions such as seen in Kilimo Salama’s case but also in support of the weather stations for timely and accurate decision making for pay-outs.

My conversation with Dr Shukri about the possibility of integrating mobile money into the project to address the challenge of absence of banks in rural Ethiopia, revealed the huge untapped market for Mobile Banking in that country. However, the success of such services depends on a convincing business case for both the banks and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). Most importantly, however, is the state of telecommunication infrastructure and regulation in the country. These need to be in place for services and applications to thrive. With this huge investment

Outside Ethiopia, I believe it is time for African countries to take advantage of the increasing mobile phone penetrations in the continent beyond social networking to general development applications such as for agriculture, health, education, and rural development.

To listen to the audio recording of the event, visit Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

mEducation Alliance Call for Proposals

You are invited to submit a proposal for a presentation, open session or poster at the…
2nd Annual mEducation Alliance
International Symposium:
2012- Partnering for Scale & Impact
September 5-7, 2012
Washington, DC.

mEducation Alliance logoFor this year’s mEducation Alliance International Symposium, we want to highlight your experiences and insights on partnership. What does a successful partnership mean for your work? What are the challenges and opportunities evident in partnerships designed to improve learning outcomes through the use of mobile technologies? What kinds of additional or expanded partnerships could your work benefit from, and what could the mEducation Alliance do to support this?

Under the broad theme of partnerships, we’ll be looking for presentation and open session proposals involving the following themes:
Public and Private Sector Partnership Engagement
Mobiles for Reading
Mobiles for Inclusive Education and Assistive Technology
Mobiles for Education System Strengthening
Mobiles for Youth and Workforce Development
Mobiles for Education in Crisis and Conflict Settings

The Mobiles for Education (mEducation) Alliance is an international collaborative effort between bilateral and multilateral donors, NGOs, foundations, private sector partners, academic researchers, and implementing organizations. Our collective agenda is to explore cutting-edge intersections between mobile technologies, education and development, to reduce duplicative efforts, and promote collective knowledge-sharing. The increasing ubiquity of mobile phones and coverage and the current and possible utilization of other mobile devices, including e-Readers, tablet computers, flash memory, micro/ “pico” projectors, and audio/visual devices among other technologies, provide valuable opportunities for supporting quality education impact in developing countries.

The mEducation Alliance has formed a symposium planning committee, composed of representatives of a number of supporting organizations, which will select 10-15 presentation proposals and 20-25 poster proposals based on a rating system which takes into account: 1) topical relevance to Symposium themes, 2) leading edge research or piloting of highly promising mobile technology utilization for improving quality education impact, and 3) highly participatory and interactive format to encourage networking and partnership development. The planning committee will work with selected presenters to promote interactive presentations to maximize dialogue with the audience. The Alliance will also accept a number of Open Session proposals, which will be reviewed based on the format of proposed session and level of interaction with participants, in addition to the session topic’s relevance to the overarching goals and mission of the mEducation Alliance.
Guidelines on Presentation and Poster Session Objectives
Preferred approaches to sessions include:
- Emphasis on innovative and/or cross-sectoral approaches to partnerships, and on “yet unsolved” challenges in education and the use of mobile devices;
- Innovative, interactive formats, preferably with live demonstrations whenever possible;
- Focus on lessons learned, findings, and project and research designs that have broad applicability to the education sector;
- Highlighting outcome- and impact-level results in education in developing countries; and,
- Sharing useful tools, guidelines, and methodologies that could be immediately applied elsewhere.

Guidelines on Open Session Objectives
Preferred approaches to these informal learning opportunities include:
- Highly participatory dialogs relevant to the Symposium themes;
- Creative formats which encourage networking, partnership building, and knowledge sharing (such as a FailFaire, or other format sharing lessons learned);
- Open sessions organized around a specific focal area of interest, such as geographic regions, educational level, mobile device or languages (sessions conducted in languages other than English are welcome in this regard);
- Sessions designed to delve into reflections on cross-cutting issues and the state of the field, such as ethics, gender, evaluation, or a session looking at relevant technological developments.

Proposal Template
The following items should be covered in proposals not exceeding 2 pages (excluding CVs and examples of handouts, tools, etc.).
- Presentation, Poster or Open Session title
- Type of session (panel presentation, demo, poster, quiz show, debate, discussion, etc.)
- Short abstract of the presentation, poster or session, including 2-3 learning objectives
- Presenters and their relationships to the session content (attach CVs)
- Detailed session outline
- Examples of handouts, tools, guides to be shared with participants
- Contact person and email and phone

Session proposals should be sent by Friday, May 25, 2012, to: mobilesforeducation@gmail.com.

Important Dates
Session proposals due to mEducation Alliance
Friday, May 25, 2012

Selected presenters invited to present
On or before Friday, June 22

Presenters submit all A/V requests
On or before August 1

Final Presentations, Posters, Sessions due
On or before August 8

mEducation Alliance International Symposium
September 5 – 7

Please feel free to share this letter of invitation with relevant units within your organization or to other partners or researchers who work with mobiles in the context of education, but please note that participation will be by invitation only. There are no registration fees for the Symposium, however presenters and participants will be responsible for all travel costs associated with attendance. More information is available at www.meducationalliance.org. Please address any questions to Rebekah Levi (rlevi@jbsinternational.com) and Scott Kipp (skipp@jbsinternational.com).

Tangerine: Early Grade Reading Assessments Go Digital

Photo Credit: eddataglobal.org

The Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), a tool used in over 50 low-income countries and 70 languages to measure students’ progress toward learning to read, is going digital through its new Tangerine™ platform.  The mobile software application designed by RTI International specifically for recording student responses during the administration of the EGRA can now be used by organizations and governments to simplify preparation and implementation of fieldwork, reduce measurement and data entry errors, and eliminate manual data entry.

The EGRA is a 15-minute test administered orally to students in the early grades of primary school.  It was designed by RTI International under USAID’s EdDAta II project to help educators in low-income countries break the pattern of illiteracy among their poor. Since 2006, the EGRA has been used to evaluate students’ foundation literacy skills, including pre-reading skills like phonemic awareness and listening comprehension, which have been shown to predict later reading abilities. Using test results, education ministries and their donor partners are then able to identify and address learning barriers to develop strategies to improve literacy.

But now Tangerine has taken the paper-based EGRA tool to a new level of efficiency. The open-source electronic data collection software can be used on mobile computers, including netbooks, tablet computers and smartphones to enable assessment administrators to:

  • Simplify the preparation and implementation of field work
  • Reduce measurement and data entry errors
  • Eliminate costly, time-consuming manual data entry
  • Provide rapid turnaround of results

Through these advantages and the analysis of results of student populations, policy makers and organizations can respond even sooner to challenges within an education system.  They can also develop appropriate strategies to improve early-age literacy rates, such as improving teacher training programs and curriculum materials.

In addition to the Tangerine EGRA software, RTI developers are currently developing two new tools that can be used by teachers themselves in their own classrooms:

  • Tangerine:Class – a version of Tangerine tailored specifically for teachers to assist in developing and administering classroom based math and reading assessments and interpreting results to inform their instructional practice.
  • Tangerine:Teach – a tool that can interpret results from Tangerine:Class to identify and develop learning materials to address student weaknesses.

To learn more about Tangerine:

The Edutech Debate posted a blog, ICT and the Early Grade Reading Assessment: From Testing to Teaching by RTI’s Carmen Strigel, which offers an in-depth analysis of Tangerine’s application and cost benefits.

There is also a brief video of EGRA being administered using Tangerine.