- United States of America
By Lucy Li and Jiwon V. Park
Northern Samar, Philippines
August 7-28, 2017
Among the forest of coconut trees and mangrove plantations of Northern Samar, one-room huts constructed out of dry palm leaves line the dirt paths. We, along with four other Columbia undergraduates, pass these huts on a motorized tricycle. The laughter of Filipino teenagers walking to school accompanies the vociferous rumble of the motorcycle engine. Despite their smiling faces, their community is the fifth poorest out of 81 provinces in the Philippines.
For communities trapped in poverty in developing countries, such as the Philippines, technology and scientific innovation are scarce. Through CodePhil, we are working closely with the local community to empower and connect youth in rural Philippines through digital literacy skills that enable appropriate technology solutions for sustainable livelihoods.
During our time in the Philippines, our team faced numerous obstacles, ranging from lack of electricity at schools to dangerous weather conditions preventing us from reaching remote islands. Despite the challenges, our team was able to conduct nearly all of our intended initiatives. TypePhil, an offline, educational software our team developed that teaches students how to type properly in English and local Filipino dialects, was piloted at 12 elementary and high schools spanning five islands. We created the software after realizing last year that many high school students and adults in Northern Samar lacked proper typing skills and that nearly all elementary schools in the province were not using computers that were provided by the Department of Education due to a lack of curriculum and teacher training. The response we received for TypePhil was overwhelmingly positive. We spoke to the regional curriculum coordinator of the Filipino Department of Education, who was interested in distributing TypePhil at every public school in the entire province. We met with the national director of the Department of ICT to discuss the distribution of TypePhil at every community e-center in the country (45,000 e-centers in total by 2020), reaching 3 million users. We will be continually launching new iterations of the software in the upcoming months.
From August 26-27, we held the first ever CodePhil Innovation Summit in Catarman, Northern Samar in partnership with the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP). The Innovation Summit was the largest technology event in Northern Samar designed for
high school students, attracting over 150 high school students from five different schools, college students, teachers, and IT professionals. In teams comprising of high school and college students, the participants had the opportunity to ideate technological solutions to improve their community. We successfully signed an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the President of UEP to organize an even larger Innovation Summit next year.
The Legatum Summer Seed Grant provided us the opportunity to bring our entrepreneurial ideas to reality in the Philippines.