Trip Report: South East Asia – Community First and Technology Second

Without doubt one of the best aspects of my job is getting to visit our partners and see firsthand their communities and the incredible work they are doing on the ground to address real social and economic issues.  

Most recently I was in Philippines and Indonesia and had the privilege visiting with two of our partners to observe how by establishing computer learning centers youth and members of the rural community can thrive.  One of the projects visited in Manila included the Bantay Bata sa Kommunidad Center –where we Visayan Forum runs the StepUp project.  It was interesting to see the evolution of this effort since I last visited Manila over two years ago – where the project now has expanded from training girls (rescued from trafficking) in their safe houses to provide training in the community itself giving both girls and boys a career choice, offering them an alternative to overseas work and preventing them from being lured into the sex industry.  The key component of the program is the ownership of mothers in Barangay that allows them to have a direct influence on their daughters and sons and also creates a sustainability model.  Very exciting to see how much positive impact local ownership can have on a project.  In last year’s Typhoon that hit Manila this area was much impacted with flooding and almost all equipment was lost.  With the help from Microsoft employees (including volunteering to clear rubbish and debris from the community) and community they were able to rebuild and re-equip themselves so girls and boys would continue their IT skills training.

In Bali I visited a project run by our partners in one of the poorest communities on the island.  On the eastern tip of Bali in the village of Sibetan, farmers are using the technology center to learn about how they can develop new and improved products from one of the local fruits – Salak – which is the state/provincial fruit of the island.  In partnership with USAID, AUSAID and others and through our CTCs farmers have been able to improve their income through improved marketing, developing snacks from the fruit and drying the fruit.  Kids in the local village and the surrounding villages are learning basic IT skills.  With only three computers the impact is still visible in how much progress they have made to their income.  Farmers from the nearby island of Nusa Penida also visited us at the Sibetan center and informed us about how the technology training center on their Island is leading to better seaweed farming techniques and also helping them develop new products.  They commented that in many cases they have not only increased their income through better farming techniques and access to current market data but also that the ‘middle men’ are often now coming to them to request pricing.  They were extremely grateful that through this support their communities were brought into the 21st century.

Akhtar Badshah

Senior Director, Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation