May 18, 2018

China is a unique market, particularly for platform entrepreneurs. More than half of the country's population, or around 731 million people, are already active internet users - 95 percent of these accessing the internet through mobile phones. Despite the large consumer base, China has highly restrictive internet regulations. Nonetheless, local Chinese sites and apps keep emerging, replicating the features of foreign versions blocked by the government. These have become the engine of the Chinese e-market. Three homegrown social media are playing an increasingly important role in Chinese life. WeChat is hailed as "an operating system for life" in China. It... more »


May 11, 2018

The interplay between technological development and jobs has been a preoccupation of late for the world’s preeminent international bodies. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), four regional multilateral development institutions, including the ADB and the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have all issued comprehensive reports on this issue in the past two months alone. This issue dominated the ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting in Manila last week. What the reports tell us is that new technologies will irrevocably change employment affecting domestic and international labor markets, that there are positives and negatives associated with the relentless... more »


May 9, 2018

Singapore is leading in Southeast Asia for digital healthcare. In addition to the strong internet connection and high smartphone penetration that allow Singaporeans to be early adopters of technology, the country's success is also due to the government's active promotion and adoption of innovation in healthcare - including putting data security regulations into place. Three interesting examples of transforming technology in Singapore's health sector are as follows. The Health Cloud (H-Cloud) is a project of Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) with Schneider Electric to provide a single platform to store and consolidate all patient electronic medical records (EMRs). Clinicians can... more »


May 1, 2018

Last week, prominent policy think tank the Indonesian Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) discussed recent research conducted with the Asia Internet Coalition that highlighted the astonishing growth of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook. The research reinforced that these OTT platforms are transforming from information platforms to trading platforms and, in so doing, are a dynamic force in promoting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Indonesia. This is of no small significance. SMEs represent an estimated 99 percent of all business in Indonesia and are the country’s main provider of employment. This event profiled a cookie... more »


April 30, 2018

As the world's second biggest fish producer, Indonesia has significant interest in safeguarding its waters from illegal fishing. This has been promoted under the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration, whose vision is turning Indonesia into a global maritime fulcrum. Jokowi has shown no hesitation in using a strong-arm approach to protect the country's sovereignty and wealth - including implementing a ‘Sink The Vessels’ policy and making global efforts to categorise illegal fishing as a transnational crime. Despite the controversy around Indonesia’s actions to publicly sink illegal ships, Maritime and Fisheries Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, has been a tough implementer of the policy.... more »


April 24, 2018

The tech industry has been growing rapidly around the world, bolstering global economic growth - and Asia is no exception. Tech start-ups have fueled the economic engine in Southeast Asia, managing to secure massive investments. Singapore's Lazada and Indonesia's Tokopedia are cases in point. Moreover, China's tech sector is growing, with Chinese ICT firms naturalising technological innovation once dominated by the United States and using it as a source of strength to expand Chinese firms' grip in the global market. Regardless of the politics, competition in the tech sector is healthy. There is now more public demand for trained and skilled tech employees.... more »


April 16, 2018

Online platforms already facilitate legal processes—such as this example from Singapore—and help people to locate legal services and information about justice processes and options. Impressive steps to digitize judicial systems have been taken in countries as far afield as Australia, Pakistan and Turkey. Adding a layer of complexity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the machine learning that helps achieve this, are now increasingly touted as a new frontier in justice sector reform. This technology, argues proponents, provides a possible solution for everything from helping courts assess risk, to assisting judges determine jail time, and even to replace judges and attorneys entirely.... more »


April 13, 2018

Blockchain is crucial for development, as it offers transformative solutions to tackle global problems, including climate change and world poverty. Despite the promising future, the technology itself is still far from mature. This, along with the unregulated nature of blockchain is making the Chinese government nervous. Despite assuring the people that China is prioritising blockchain and will support the technology to develop, the government is actually tightening their regulations, particularly on cryptocurrency. China is a highly potential market for cryptocurrency, being a home to the world’s biggest community of Bitcoin miners. However, in the past year alone, the country has passed... more »


April 2, 2018

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is a highly ambitious vision that will require more than government-to-government means, such as international treaties, conventions, or aid. Collaboration and dedication—involving governments, private companies, civil society and other social entrepreneurs—are needed at every level. In the foreword of the Think Global, Trade Social report, Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and Linda McAvan MEP, the chair of the European Parliament’s Committee for International Development, highlighted how entrepreneurship shapes the nature of the economy and affects global sustainability. Consequently, social entrepreneurs are now rising as the backbone for SDG implementation as they prove... more »


March 22, 2018

Regulating evolving technologies is a delicate balancing act. Too much regulation can stifle innovation and deter investment. On the other hand, too little regulation can create uncertainties, arbitrary enforcement and—once again—stifle innovation and deter investment. Singapore has been touting its regulatory environment and actively promoting itself as a Smart Financial Centre.  Its well developed financial system and regulatory framework is a pull for foreign investment—as noted by, for example, PING, a Chinese insurance group that launched an online investment platform in Singapore last year. Singapore routinely ranks among the top countries in the world for ease of business. In addition... more »


March 20, 2018

A recent article on e27 highlighted Impact Terra, a Myanmar social startup that provides digital services to farmers and organisations. Its mobile app, Golden Paddy, offers early identification of pest and diseases and flood and drought warnings, helping farmers make informed decisions. The app also allows organisations to get data reports with information on farmer profiles and price fluctuations of local markets, thereby increasing market access and financial inclusion.


March 18, 2018

The Asia Foundation announces the launch of a brand-new initiative, The Partnership for Online Platforms & Sustainable Development (POPS), designed to explore the intersection of technology and inclusive growth in developing Asia. The launch event and panel discussion on digital-driven solutions for economic empowerment, digital citizenship, education, and inclusive growth across the region is slated for March 30 in Bangkok during United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UNESCAP) 5th Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development. What can be done to help entrepreneurs with great ideas for positive social change to make their dream a reality?... more »


March 15, 2018

Diastika Rahwidiati is Deputy Head of Office for Pulse Lab Jakarta and on the POPS Advisory Council. She is passionate about civic innovation, and especially interested in the thinkers, doers and fixers that create positive change across Indonesia.   POPS is delighted to have enticed you onto our Advisory Council.  Welcome! Thanks, Andrew! Really happy to be on board! Tell us a little about the work of Pulse Lab, here in Jakarta and more broadly. Pulse Lab Jakarta was set up about five years ago to be an open space where scientists, government staff, civil society and development partners could... more »


March 12, 2018

This January, AbilityNet, a UK-based company that helps disabled people to use digital technology in daily lives, highlighted the 10 most popular tech innovations of 2017 that can assist disabled people. These innovations range from providing customised mobile settings for people with tremors to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help blind people to 'see' the world through spoken cues. Image credit: Aipoly Vision App on Youtube.


March 10, 2018

Sahib Anandsongvit had a problem: his family, who ran a boutique hotel business in Bangkok, constantly needed to find skilled workers to repair rooms, clean facilities, or perform other services on short notice. Traditionally, Thai small business owners looking for service providers have relied on word of mouth, or flyers pinned to trees and telephone poles around the city. But how can one be sure that the provider is trustworthy, and how can they be found quickly for emergency repairs? To address this problem, Sahib co-founded a new company called Seekster. Unlike a traditional business in this space, which might hire... more »


March 9, 2018

Here at POPSDev, we have been blogging recently about the ingredients that provide a strong foundation for creating, growing and sustaining online platforms for development. The recent Indonesia Australia Digital Forum 2018 produced buzz about one critical ingredient: Indonesia’s fast growing innovation ecosystem. But is this speed of growth alone a cause for celebration, or is it also exposing a missing middle? Our research has indicated three implications. Firstly, the ecosystem’s maturity is haphazard. Products and solutions are rushed to full-scale implementation straight after prototyping, eluding the critical ‘middle’ development stage. Secondly, innovation actors tend to be siloed in their... more »


March 5, 2018

The Economist recently published an excellent Leader on how new technologies are revolutionizing health care—from video games that stimulate targeted areas of the brain in tackling attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to Artificial Intelligence trained to identify cancerous tissues. At the most progressive end, Sweden is highlighted for its goal of giving all citizens electronic access their medical records by 2020. Due caution is raised, however, about the need to protect patient privacy while trumpeting open data and the challenges in actually doing so.     Image credit: jypsygen


March 4, 2018

Last July, a blog post in Tech for Korea highlighted a Korean company, Humart, that is promoting an online mental health coaching service, called Trost. This platform is designed to overcome the significant obstacles to receiving mental health counselling—including the inconvenience, cost, and societal taboos related to confronting mental health. Trost is also using big data to customise counselling sessions and programs.   Image credit: Platum


March 1, 2018

By Stephanie Arrowsmith and Andrew Thornley Stephanie Arrowsmith is Co-Founder of Impact Hub Jakarta.  Andrew Thornley is the Managing Director of Saraswati, a private Indonesian company that manages web publication and outreach for the Partnership for Online Platforms for Sustainable Development (POPSDev). The POPSDev blog features routine information as well as event notices concerning online platforms for development. We are also interested in related offline events and processes that promote effective collaboration. Contact us if you have information to share.   When it comes to emerging trends in digital technology, the impersonal—from devices to data, bits and hits—has its place. But there... more »


February 23, 2018

The digital divide is the gap between those who have ready access to internet and the devices that facilitate online connectivity and those who do not. This divide is referenced within countries and also between countries and across regions. Here in Asia and the Pacific, there remains a vast range in rates of internet connectivity and mobile phone penetration between countries—with the digital divide as large as anywhere else in the world. The significance of this rests in no small part on the relationship between advances in information and communication technologies and positive socioeconomic transformation. This spotlight on Laos is... more »


February 19, 2018

For our first POPS Profile we are pleased to turn the tables on one of the region’s most prolific journalists. Jeremy Wagstaff has worked in Asia for more than 30 years, as a journalist for Reuters, BBC, The Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review, as well as a consultant in development, media, elections and technology. You have been reporting in Asia since before the advent of social media. How has technology itself changed how the media report on technology? The technology has changed immeasurably and yet not at all. We still write on computers, we still write... more »


February 17, 2018

There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of people in the Asia-Pacific that are accessing the internet for the first time. According to a recent report, in Southeast Asia alone there are 330M internet users, 70M of whom have connected since 2015. However, for digitalization to reach its fullest potential, users must first trust the technology they use. In Microsoft’s most recent Security Intelligence Report (SIR) many emerging economies in Asia are identified as among the world’s most vulnerable to malware and similar cyber threats. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the most at-risk, followed by Cambodia and Indonesia with Myanmar, Nepal,... more »


February 8, 2018

Refugee assistance is a global concern. Here in Asia and the Pacific, challenges persist from Afghanistan to Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. Conflict relating to refugees simmers and occasionally boils over. Encouragingly, over the past few years there has been an escalation in initiatives to explore technological solutions to improve the lives and livelihoods of refugees around the world. Here is a snapshot of some notable initiatives, including the media coverage they have received: Supporting information and services Last year, The Atlantic explored several apps for refugees. The cross section of apps selected represented some of the priority challenges in... more »


February 7, 2018

Digitisation of medication data. In the Philippines, handwritten paper logbooks of patients’ medical data have long been a problem in the health industry. Pharmacists waste significant time filling in logbooks manually while it is almost impossible for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to monitor reports from active pharmacies spreading all over the country. Tapping into this potential, a start-up company called mClinica created a mobile app that digitises prescriptions and keeps track of patients' medication data. It offers a win-win solution for everyone: patients who use the app will receive discount on their medicines, drug companies can monitor their... more »


February 6, 2018

There is broad agreement that innovation relies on conducive and sustainable ecosystems. But what exactly are these ecosystems and how best to nurture them? In late 2017, Saraswati conducted research with support from KOMPAK on promoting sustainable innovation ecosystems for social impact in Indonesia—with a focus on East Java. This research took a systems approach—which suggests that sustainable development outcomes rely on the contributions of multiple and connected actors—and referred extensively to commonly agreed stages of innovation for development. Key findings from this research, which were presented and discussed at the Indonesia Australia Digital Forum 2018 in Jakarta on 1... more »


February 2, 2018

Online platform development is increasingly recognized by governments in the Asia-Pacific region as a means to promote economic growth and help low- and middle-income countries reach the Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations. However one of the major impediments to ensuring that entrepreneurs are able to realize their vision and potential, are restrictions placed by governments globally on cross-border data flows. Cross-border data flows are critically important for companies across all sectors of economies and particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 98% or more of all enterprises in most countries in Asia.[1] Access to... more »


January 12, 2018

As an increasing number of policymakers, governments and international development organizations focus on online platforms as an economic development strategy, and to increase employment, it becomes important to better understand how digital labor and the rise of the gig economy create a need to reconsider, or perhaps, reinvent the social contract. In the world of work, citizens, the state, and the market are continuously interacting, and their relationship evolves constantly. As a result of this process, an implicit social agreement, or social contract, often emerges that broadly determines the relationship between the actors and establishes guiding principles[1] Online platforms are... more »


December 4, 2017

Websites have long been the online platform of choice for international and national development partners to market their programs. But as technology is supporting new channels for more interactive communication and collaboration, the humble website is gradually making way for more all-purpose “Knowledge Hubs”. But what exactly is a Knowledge Hub, and what are some of the ingredients of its success? Websites share and store information, and typically drive one-way communication, from the administrator out. Knowledge Hubs, on the other hand, are more than just an online archive. We are in an era of rapid information sharing, and online platforms... more »


November 29, 2017

A recent post about research around the multi-year, multi-donor Making All Voices Count (MAVC) innovation initiative aimed to shock with a bold banner bearing an ominous headline: A Lot of Civil Society Organizations Have a Secret. Their Tech Projects Are Failing.  But is this really such a secret? Innovation for development is in its still in its infancy and ideally built on shared values that include a greater willingness to risk and embrace failure. And no-one with a history of working in support of civil society could argue that civil society organizations are or should be natural leaders in technological... more »


November 29, 2017

Mention online platforms to people in Asia, and odds are that ride sharing apps will be top of mind. The last few years have witnessed extraordinary growth of these platforms across this region. Southeast Asia alone is expected to witness growth in its ride sharing market from US$2.5 to US$13 billion between 2015 and 2025. But do these platforms strive to support the public good? Increasingly, the companies behind these behemoths view, implement and promote their apps as not only profitable but also development oriented, as significant contributors to positive social impact.   Perhaps the biggest name of all, Uber,... more »


November 13, 2017

Online platforms for development cater to a range of audiences and on a range of issues. Three such platforms in Southeast Asia—those hosted by Phandeeyar in Myanmar, Development Innovations in Cambodia, and GovInsider in Singapore—provide a wealth of useful information and nicely represent these varied orientations. Phandeeyar is the first local startup accelerator ever established in Myanmar. Proudly positioned itself as an innovation lab, Phandeeyar offers a collaborative space for tech community, mentoring and skill building, as well as funding opportunities. Last year, the lab received US$2 million grant to incubate potential tech startups, including the country’s open data platform:... more »


October 3, 2017

The lucrative promise of e-commerce is alluring for developing economies, particularly in Asia. Considering this emerging market of around 4.8 billion people with transaction value of USD 2.35 trillion in 2017, e-commerce is mushrooming at a vast rate across the region. Firms are racing to innovate, so they can better tap into the perks of trading globally. This leads to exciting development of m-commerce (sales via mobile devices) and s-commerce (sales via social networks). SaleStock, an Indonesian fashion e-commerce company, has a pronounced mobile shopping presence through their website whilst MatahariMall, a Lippo Group e-commerce venture, began with a mobile... more »


September 20, 2017

Blockchain is fast becoming fashionable in international development discourse. The World Bank, USAID and UN agencies such as UNICEF are touting the potential development benefits of this unregulated decentralized digital ledger. Blockchain has graduated from its association with Bitcoin and international crime and is now being heralded as the possible solution for everything from climate change to world poverty. For the more self-reflective development partner, it could even help in tracking aid spending. The problem is that most of us have little clue where to begin with Blockchain. In one effort to tackle this knowledge gap, Abt Associates, the Australian... more »


September 20, 2017

The village of Khun Tae lies along a rutted, dirt road, high in the mountains of Northern Thailand. An expansion of the electrical grid and widening cellular coverage in the region have brought new opportunities to this once-secluded village of the S’gaw Karen people, but it has also created new societal pressures. Even though the S’gaw Karen are part of Thailand’s largest minority ethnic group, the Karen, they are still grappling with how to maintain their unique cultural and linguistic identity in the face of pressure to integrate into mainstream Thai institutions. One way the people of Khun Tae have taken... more »


September 19, 2017

To the hundreds of millions of people in Asia with access to the web, online platforms have emerged as valuable tools for navigating this connected world. In sectors as diverse as finance, logistics, cross-border trade, talent acquisition, household services, and the traditional buying and selling of goods, online platforms are reshaping the way people interact and businesses operate. By 2020, over a billion people in the Asia-Pacific alone will be served by platforms. Online platforms—or over-the-top providers, as they are also known in technology circles—are far more dynamic than these uninspiring names imply. And they can significantly support development goals.... more »