Civil Society Groups Learn to Harness ICT at ‘Tech Camp’

By San Yamin Aung 16 January 2014

RANGOON — About 150 members of 80 Burmese civil society organizations (CSOs) participated in a US-funded ‘Tech Camp’ in Rangoon this week, where they learned how to use information and communication technology to promote their organizations’ goals.

The two-day event began on Monday at the Myanmar ICT Park and was organized by the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO) and the United States Embassy.

“There are many ways to apply technology in civil society works. This conference will let them know how technology can help. We also hope to develop a network through this conference and foster collaboration between civil society and technologists,” Nay Phone Latt, MIDO’s executive director and a well-known Burmese blogger, said during a press conference.

Fifteen international and local tech experts instructed dozens of CSO members on ways to use ICT for fundraising, advocacy, monitoring, mapping and other activities, according to Yatanar, a MIDO staff member.

She said the CSOs were taught, for example, how to raise funds through so-called crowdfunding, a technique whereby people network and pool their money through an online campaign. They also learned how to secure their organizations’ digital information and protect it from hackers, Yatanar added.

She said particular attention was paid to using ICT for election monitoring during Burma’s much-anticipated 2015 elections, which are expected to be the country’s first free and fair elections after decades of military rule.

“Election monitoring is a topic that most participants were interested in and foreign technical experts want to help them learn techniques,” Yatanar said.

Some 30 students from Rangoon’s Technology and Computer University also joined the event and participated in a training session dealing with online education.

Zaw Thurein Tun from Sagaing Youth Network said he had learned how ICT mapping programs could be used to create flyers that explain to the public where to find polling stations. He said he also learned about a digital complaint-registration program that election monitors can call by phone to file election irregularities.

The system can be used, he said, “to report if some injustice and threats happened during polling, and all election information from across the country can be shared by using this network.”

Ola, a coordinator at Green Network, an environmental group, said he had benefited from courses on the issue of digital security.

“Without safely saving our data and information, we can’t do our work,” he said. “And if someone hacks or disturbs our data that was saved in a computer or accounts, we need to know how we can get back in and how we can protect that information.”

He added that the CSOs also learned about how hackers can enter their computers and remotely turn on installed video and photo cameras. “Others can then take photos of us, so we need to cover that camera,” Ola said.