Heather Esper

iBoP Asia Conference

In early March, I attended the iBoP Asia conference FRONTIERS: Charting the Future of S&T Innovations for the Base of the Pyramid in Southeast Asia to talk about our latest work at theWilliam Davidson Institute around impact assessment. Practitioners, academics, non-profits, and individuals from the private sector and development sector met in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 3rd to share and discuss science and technology innovations for the BoP in Southeast Asia. The event was organized by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC-CRDI), the Ateneo School of Government under the Ateneo de Manila University, and the National Research Council-Indonesia (Dewan Riset Nasional). Be sure to check out an earlier post about the results of iBoP’s first small grants competition.

It was refreshing to hear from an array of interesting ventures regarding their innovative projects and researchers who shared their latest thinking during the day’s sessions.

The keynote speech was given by Al Hammond. Al he shared his thinking on scaling by using examples from his latest work on developing E-Health Points in rural northern India. The E-Health Points provide people in rural areas with access to quality health care similar to what they would find in urban areas including medicines, diagnostic tools, and tele-medicine along with access to clean drinking water. See Al’s earlier blog about his work on NextBillion to learn more.

The plenary talks included:

  • Romdoul Kim from InSTEDD who discussed technologies InSTEDD is using toincrease information flow, cross-sector collaboration, and effective collective action. For example, InSTEDD and the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s emergency information service (EIS) was integral during the Haiti earthquake response. Using SMS messaging, EIS was able to link the injured to aid workers, direct Haitians to hospitals, and help search and rescue teams find people trapped in buildings. She also highlighted other work InSTEDD has done including sending educational lessons through the mobile phone, which teachers can then use for teaching when it is connected to a television. Finally, she shared their latest ideas on using geocharts in rural health systems to track diseases. The geochart is numerically based, so illiterate workers can use it and report cases of different diseases via SMS messaging to a central location.
  • Aji Hermawan from the Institut Pertanian Bogor in Indonesia shared technologies including a fish meat and bone separator, which in addition to separating fish meat and bones from one another, washes the fish meat with cold water and then removes some of the water to end with a product called Surimi, which can be used to make a variety of products including crackers.
  • Dr. Armi Susandi of Institut Teknologi Bandung discussed climate change, emphasizing that an increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclonic systems, sea level rises, flooding, and storm surges will have a profound effect on many BoP households in coastal areas of Southeast Asia. He also noted that many of these households don’t have disaster insurance but are interested in purchasing it.
  • Bobby Agustiara Wattimena of PELANGI Indonesia discussed the latest energy challenges facing the BoP.

Breakouts included sessions on water, ICT and microfinance, energy and agriculture. Some highlights from the breakouts are below.

  • Alexis Baudry from iBoP Asia shared his work on improving access to potable water and sanitation through collective action by using 1) standalone water treatment plants made from local materials with a technology developed by Ernesto Labuntog, and 2) the creation of a daily payment scheme for water instead of monthly payments (since it is often difficult for individuals to ration their money on a monthly basis due to immediate needs on a day to day basis) working with Streams of Knowledge and Maynilad.
  • Susan Luna of the World Fish Center discussed Isda.mobi, which is a mobile phone interface for small-scale fishers to access fishery related information.
  • Ricardo Bahague from the Computer Professional’s Union talked about basic SnT in a Box, which provides free and open source software in basic science and math for teaching.
  • Dr. J.B. Manuel Biona of the Center for Research and Training at Don Bosco Technical College talked about using waste cooking oil to fuel jeepneys, which are a source of public transportation as well as income for low-income families in the Philippines.
  • Ramon Fernan from Action for Economic Reforms discussed the use of coconut and copra for biofuels.
  • Aladino Moraca of the Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation, Inctalked about turning natural waste into organic fertilizer or safe and affordable fuel. The biogas systems installed can be used to generate fuel for cooking as well as liquid fertilizer. He also discussed a bicycle-powered paper shredder that is used to make environmentally-friendly charcoal. The shredder serves as alternative source of income for the BoP and provides a cheap and affordable alternative to gas for cooking. Additionally, the shredder reduces the use of wood in charcoal production.

Other presenters included:

  • Dr. Jessica Salas from Kahublagan Sang Panimalay Foundation, Inc. who discussed engaging farmer-researchers in a study of rainwater catchment systems
  • Niti Bhan of the Emerging Futures Lab talked about payment strategies for those with irregular income at the BoP
  • Felix Tonog from the Enterprise Development Unit of the Philippine Business for Social Progress discussed business development services for the enterprising BoP
  • Wisnu Caroko from SETARA Foundation/NTFP Indonesia talked about developing mutual value creation through a value chain analysis of bio-ethanol and palm sugar production from Aren and Nypah plants.
  • Hazel Alfon of the Philippine Rice Research Institute discussed enabling factors and policies for the BoP to effectively participate in R&D
  • Tuan Luu Minh of the Sub-Plant Protection Department of An Giang, Vietnam talked about farmer and rice quality
  • Joanne Dulce from iBoP Asia discussed promoting science and technology to support climate change adaptation of BoP communities.

The conference closed with the launching of iBoP Indonesia announced by Dr. Ir. Tusy A. Adibroto, DRN Secretary and Project Advisory Committee chair of iBoP Asia.