AppsForAsia: Harnessing technology for society's sake

  • Winners of the AppsForAsia contest share their vision for their solutions, and motivations
  • Striving to use technology to give back to society and also to create sustainable business endeavours

AS clichéd as it may sound, technology can be a true catalyst for change and has for decades helped ordinary people wanting to contribute to society. In fact, this is the very trait that led three winners of the recently concluded Microsoft Malaysia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) AppsForAsia -- Redesigning Development programme.
 
AppsForAsia: Harnessing technology for society's sakeAccording to Microsoft, AppsForAsia is a Microsoft-ADB initiative that was aimed at harnessing the creative power of hundreds of independent software vendors (ISVs) across Asia to create sustainable solutions for the economic, commercial and social benefit of governments, non-government organisations (NGOs), citizens, and enterprises in the region.
 
The programme was rolled out as a series of application development contests in Australia, India, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, where ISVs and developers were introduced to the identified needs of thousands of end-users across Asia in seven key sectors: Civil society, education, governance, transport, urban development, water, and youth.
 
“We are extremely proud to partner with ADB for AppsForAsia to develop innovative solutions to address real-life challenges for the benefit of local communities,” Dinesh Nair, director of developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft Malaysia, said in a statement.
 
Throughout the contest, developers were given access to Microsoft’s Cloud platform, Windows Azure, as well as deeper insight into the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 operating systems, to develop applications using the cloud across various platforms and devices.
 
Developers were also given technical and architectural consulting, as well as support, as they developed their applications to address real-world needs. ADB in turn provided developmental challenges to participants in seven key sectors and technical guidance support to programmers and developers.
 
Three teams – Centium Software, DreamX, and Gnowledge – represented Malaysia and are among the five country teams that showcased their creative solutions at ADB’s 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in New Delhi, India from May 2 to 5, 2013.
 
Centium’s Blood Request & Receive System (Blood R2 System) app addresses communities’ blood donation needs by matching blood demand and supply.
 
DreamX’s winning entry, EPIC Hope, is a collaborative platform that connects and empowers communities in Malaysia to get involved in building sustainable housing for indigenous peoples.
 
Gnowledge is a public Internet portal that enables everyone to create, publish, share and take tests, exercises and assignments.
 
AppsForAsia: Harnessing technology for society's sakeDigital News Asia (DNA) spoke to them to find out more: G. Saravanan, chief technology officer (CTO) at Centium; Ker Jia Chiun, co-founder of DreamX; and Choong Chong Yew (pic), CTO of Gnowledge.
 
Here are excerpts from the interview:
 
DNA: What were the motivations and/ or inspirations for your project and why did you choose to do what you did?
 
Saravanan: We created a blood bank mobile app which helps to connect needy patients with possible blood donors, in times of emergency, thus saving lives. Obviously our passion is to save lives through use of technology, and through our 10 years of experience in developing hospital information systems and blood banking systems, we were able to help not just hospitals and healthcare institutions, but also make patients’ lives much easier and safer.
 
Ker: We began with an aspiration to make changes in the world. Since our company is great in utilising technology to solve problems, we decided to put our skills to help people across the world through the use of technology. In this case, we decided to use our skills to tie up with EPIC Homes to create this platform, which is aimed at making the world a better place by building not just houses, but homes for indigenous peoples.
 
Choong: We started out trying to meet a real need. A friend asked if I knew of any ‘homework’ app for his kids. His kids were memorising answers from books and assignments given to them rather than learning. So one thing led to another, which finally led to the conception of Gnowledge.
 
Educators use Gnowledge to create, publish and assign tests to their students, using it to extend teaching beyond the classroom. Students consume the assignments given to them by their educators. Parents use Gnowledge in a similar way to educators, except that they create tests and assignments for their children.

Next: Challenges the teams faced and plans for the future

 
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