Digital Solutions Competition 2017

At the end of 2016, the sectoral program „Promoting Gender equality and women’s rights” launched the GIZ-wide competition “Empowerment of women through digital solutions“ calling for proposals of measures that use an innovative “digital solution” which specifically strengthens women and girls and helps reduce gender-based discrimination.

The competition triggered a great response: a total of 63 contributions were submitted, covering an impressive variety of regions and sectors. This multitude of proposals clearly shows that there is huge potential for digital solutions in empowering women and promoting gender equality.

Eventually, three winning measures were selected by a jury consisting of representatives from different GIZ-units (Sectoral Department, divisions G200 and G400 of Sector and Global Programs) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The implementation of the three awarded digital measures will be financed and backstopped by the sectoral program:

Women Plant Doctors 2.0

In Tunisian rural areas women traditionally play a key role in agriculture: they provide the majority of the agricultural labour force and are engaged in all productive tasks. More and more (young) men are seeking work in urban areas. Female farmers are often the de facto household leaders and decision-makers. However, their productivity levels are low. 15 – 30% of their annual crop is lost by plant diseases, weeds and pests. This is mainly explained by women’s lack of technical knowledge and weak access to information, training and advisory services. Especially young women in rural areas, trained or untrained, have very few job and income opportunities.

The two GIZ programs „Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural development (PAD)“ and the „Green Innovation Center (IAAA)“ in Tunisia jointly implement a PPP measure with two ICT start-ups (German PEAT and Tunisian RGT) to support especially female smallholder farmers to gain access to information and expert knowledge about plant diseases. The idea is to adapt the existing German smartphone-app “Plantix” to the Tunisian context, crops as well as the specific needs of female farmers in Tunisia. Plantix can recognize plant diseases via the smartphone camera and provides information on (organic and conventional) treatment and prevention measures. The app will thus help to increase agricultural productivity, prevent harvest failures and reduce food losses. Additionally, young female agricultural experts in rural areas will be equipped with smartphones and trained technically and economically to work as local service providers – the women plant doctors – helping them to find new job and income opportunities by bringing required information on plant diseases to female farmers.

Progress report June 2017

The project idea, including the adaptation of the app Plantix and the training of the young plant doctors, was widely presented to partners in the ministry as well as students, governmental structures, farmers, and cooperatives in the field. It received a warm welcome and positive feedback as it is perceived as an innovative tool and approach that will help small holder farmers, cooperatives and extensionists in their daily work.

A list of selection criteria was established and a call for participation launched through various channels as local radios, social networks, online media, and local authorities and job centers. It created a big echo and around 400 young professionals heeded the call to participate in the project. In total 70 future plant doctors were selected according to their professional agriculture background, motivation and region of origin with an overall female share of more than 60%. Afterwards all selected young professionals were invited to 6 days of training organized by the local NGO AID with Tunisian plant-experts. The training focused on technical aspects regarding plant diseases, treatment and prevention measures as well as the App Plantix and how to collect the required images to adapt the App to the local context.

The training provides the future plant doctors with profound information on the most common local plant diseases that most frequently infest the six selected crops the project is focusing on (apricots, pasticcio, olives, tomatoes, red pepper and potatoes – dominant crops in Tunisian with importance for small holder farmers, especially women). Afterwards the participants were instructed how and at what stage these diseases should be treated to prevent crop losses, emphasizing the usage of organic treatments as they are less harmful for the environment and the health of both farmers and consumers. After the training, the plant doctors received their new smartphone from the project that will help them to collect the images of diseases plants and send them to the app.

One of the first tasks of the plant doctors will now be to liaise with their neighbors, rural community and local cooperatives in order to regularly undertake field visits to collect each 500 pictures per month of identified diseased plants. Thus, they will not only familiarize themselves with the different forms and gradations of the diseases found in nature but foremost support the process of building a huge picture data base for the Tunisian Plantix version which is necessary to later enable the application to precisely recognize a disease by a simple picture and propose the right treatment options.

Currently the interface and content of Plantix is being translated into the Tunisian Arabic dialect and French language, new content of crops and diseases not present yet (such as olives and pistachio) is developed and around 10.000 pictures of plant diseases have already been collected by the local partner RGT.

Progress report October 2017

The project entered into its concrete phase concerning the data / picture collection for feeding the Plantix algorithm to develop an adapted Tunisian version of the application. Since August, the young plant doctors are collecting a minimum of 500 pictures of diseased plants per month per participant. In total more than 80.000 pictures have been collected so far. The uploaded pictures are frequently monitored by the PPP partners PEAT and RGT in terms of quality and classification to guarantee a high quality data base. Additional support in form of a daily exchange (Facebook, Plantix Forum etc.) was provided in order to address technical questions of the young professionals. Field days with experts from RGT and PEAT as well as the ministry and higher education further increased the technical knowledge of the plant doctors as well as their connections to the farming communities.

A national network and community of the plant doctors was created and is being supported via several activities, meetings, communication material, operational plan, coaching, voting of a steering committee etc. This network was named “PlantMed – réseau des jeunes médecines des plantes en Tunisie”, and constitutes the first ever network of young plant doctors in Tunisia. The network is well integrated into the professional environment and integrates experts from science, education, ministry and the private sector. Special focus is on the female plant doctors and their cooperation. Thus, a special event was held with female experts, farmers and role models to learn about the needs and demands of female farmers, how to increase their access to Plantix via the plant doctors as well as how to become a successful female entrepreneur in the agricultural sector.

The application Plantix and the PlantMed network were presented and promoted in various events and conferences (attended by the minister of agriculture) as well as at the SIAMAP fair in Tunis, the largest trade fair for agriculture, machinery and fishing in Africa with 200.000 visitors. Plantix and the PlantMed network created a lot of interest and noise in Tunisia. During the trade fair more than 300 downloads of the application were registered and the young plant doctors were able to directly get in contact with potential future customers. The fair was a great opportunity to advertise the PlantMed through an own stand, distributing business cards and by demonstrating the precise and fast functionality of the app in practice as well as a competition.

In addition, the plant doctors received training to improve their business and entrepreneurship skills via BUS-trainings, and developed initial ideas for creating their own project and agri-service start-up based on Plantix. To enable the plant doctors to pursue these first vague ideas, a coaching cycle is being developed and set up, integrating soft skills, business model and business plan development.

As the network and the application develop and expand, several institutions and organisations as well as other rural youth show considerable interest in partnering and participating.

App Plantix

Plantix – a short intro (video)


Infotainment app about labour rights

90% of Myanmar’s garment workers are women, most of them between 16 and 27 years old. While working in a garment factory can be economically empowering, the women are at risk of being exploited and of accumulating debt. These risks are minimized if they are aware of their rights and how to claim them at their workplace. Most of the young women own a smartphone. It’s the way to stay in touch with their families and friends, and they also use it for entertainment after a long working day.

The GIZ program “Social and Labour Standards in the Textile and Garment Sector in Asia” hence was looking for a digital solution to empower female garment workers that is informative and entertaining at the same time. The program, in close cooperation with sequa gGmbH, came up with the idea of a smartphone infotainment app about labour rights. Through this app the women can playfully acquire knowledge about their rights and how to claim them in the factories. Moreover, the app will be used to create a peer learning network.

Progress Report June 2017

To harness the energy of the digital potential in Myanmar, sequa gGmbH jointly with the   GIZ regional project Social and Labour Standards in the Textile and Garmet Sector in Asia (SLSG) pioneered the development of two educational smartphone apps: the newest is an interactive game called “Sat Yone Superstar” (Factory Superstar) which won the support from the GIZ ‘Competition to empower women through digital solutions’.

The new app, which is developed in partnership with the EU-funded SMART Myanmar project, also led by sequa, is designed to teach garment factory workers about Myanmar’s labor laws, about workers’ rights and about safety in the workplace, via action-oriented games and quizzes. SMART Myanmar’s technical team developed the game contents based on context-rich work experiences with more than 200 factory managers and workers from more than 40 garment factories.

Common safety hazards are included in the game including fire and boiler safety, chemical management, personal protective equipment use and various other relevant topics. Characters must master these topics to advance levels and earn rewards. Quizzes on labor laws with more real-life examples are dispersed throughout the game, such as overtime laws, freedom of association and employee contract requirements. As such, it is meant to provide the foundation for women to claim their rights at their workplace.

Another app on labor laws called Shwe Job (“Golden Job”), was translated into English for dissemination to other Asian countries and will be available on Google play store by end of November 2017. The app also informs workers about their legal rights and about occupational health and safety issues. Shwe Job is more reference and story-oriented whereas Sat Yone Superstar takes a more interactive gaming approach. The apps complement each other and cater to somewhat different audiences and preferences.

The digital approaches are flanked by several analog measures such as Sunday Cafés, where women can come together on their days off and get services for conflict mediation and legal counseling. Sequa gGmbH and SLSG facilitate regional knowledge exchange on these measures and the apps, so that women-focused NGOs from Cambodia and Bangladesh can benefit as well from these innovative, digital solutions.

Progress Report October 2017

The local IT Firm Nex has been engaged in developing contents for the Sat Yone Superstar game. The design of the game characters, virtual rooms and objects has been developed and the actual development of the app is almost complete (this includes rooms, menu, movement of the characters and their integration into the game). The beta-version is expected in December 2017. The release of the app in the google play store is scheduled for January 2018.

The upscaling efforts of sequa and GIZ on the usage of Shwe Job were successful: The Myanmar version of Shwe Job has been used by almost 5.000 Myanmar workers between May and October 2017. A social media campaign on Shwe Job, which is supported by the C&A foundation, reached out to almost 50.000 Myanmar workers. In August 2017 the app was presented to more than 200 factory managers. To reach viral effect, a social media campaign was initiated to promote Shwe Job on Facebook. As of today (31 October 2017), the page has more than 41,000 likes.

sequa gGmbH, SMART Myanmar and SLSG jointly organized a half-day seminar in August 2017 on the most relevant labour laws for factories in Myanmar. The seminar obviously met the demands of the factory management: Aiming at hosting 70 managers, the event attracted over 200 participants that attended to hear lawyers from Luther Law firm answering questions on existing labour laws in Myanmar and recent updates.

Short Film on Sunday Cafés

Fight violence against women through an app

A recent survey found that 86% of women in Lesotho have experienced gender-based violence (GBV) in their lifetime. Lesotho has committed to eliminating all forms of abuse and violence against women by ratifying numerous international treaties and conventions and by passing related legislation. However, the country’s problem in regard to GBV remains at the level of enforcement and response, especially in remote and hard-to-reach rural areas. Only 26% of GBV victims report the abuse to the police, and in the vast majority of cases the police try to mediate between perpetrator and victim, rather than treating the case as a criminal offence. Furthermore, the potential of IT and Social Media is not fully exploited for tackling development challenges in the country.

It is against this background that a GBV pilot project, implemented by the EU- and German-funded GIZ-program „Participatory Initiative for Social Accountability (PISA)”, seeks to contribute to the prevention of GBV in Lesotho through the development and introduction of a digital solution (Smartphone-App). The app shall inform women about their rights GBV-related services and provide a safe space for “virtual support groups”. The pilot project seeks to test a basic version of the Smartphone-App in selected communities in Lesotho and to garner lessons learnt for potential upscaling.

Progress report June 2017 

During the first quarter of the pilot project, the structures were put in place for implementation, including establishing a partnership between PISA, the NGO Gender Links Lesotho and the IT-service provider Mainlevel AG. Workshops and brainstorming sessions were held to define roles, plan activities and develop preliminary specifications and ideas for the App.

Next steps are the mapping of capacities at council-level, the selection of pilot areas, the identification of a user group, content development, programming of the test version of the App and sensitization and training of stakeholders and users.

Progress report October 2017

The pilot project was initially meant to reduce the levels of GBV in Lesotho through the use of web designed applications for reporting cases of GBV in a friendly and safe environment. However, because of more time required to build effective partnerships with the police and challenges regarding the capacities of the Child and Gender Protection Unit, the focus of the project changed. The project now envisions the development, design and programming of a mobile application that serves the purpose of informing women of rights and services in regard to GBV and providing a safe space for women to share experiences and network.

The mobile app has been given a Sesotho name “Selibeng“, which translates to a well. In Lesotho, a well is a place where women gather to collect water every day and where they usually share information about issues that affect them. The application is also “a well of knowledge” that women will use to get more information about GBV that will help them to speak out and bring levels down.

The second quarter of the project implementation was spent on developing content and framework to be used in the smartphone application for the virtual support network. The training manual has been developed and it will be used to provide training to the beneficiaries. The training is meant to increase the knowledge of survivors on different forms of GBV, the legal frameworks available in the country and the services available within their communities to help reduce the level of GBV. The content on the mobile app will be presented in different audio-visual formats (texts, photo, audio and video) to accommodate low-bandwidth settings. As such part of content development has been the production of video clips and audio clips.

The pilot project is going to be implemented in twelve local councils in the three selected districts. Sensitisation meetings were held with the Gender Focal Persons of those councils. These meetings were meant to make them aware of the project and to seek their buy-in and support. The Gender Focal Persons also act as coordinators for the target group as they have to identify the survivors within their communities using the existing structures.

Gender Links Lesotho is using its flagship project, the Centres of Excellence for Gender in Local Government (COE) as a basis for the implementation of the pilot project. The COEs represent a unique, on–the-job approach to training and frameworks for effecting change at the local level by changing the attitudes of men and boys while creating safe spaces for women and girls.

After the identification of the target group, the risk and needs assessment workshops were held with the women who have been selected as the user group. These workshops resulted in identification of potential risks and enable mitigation strategies to be developed. As a next step, the app will be tested and the experiences shared with other stakeholders.

Fight violence against women through an App  – a Project from Lesotho

After completion, learning experiences and possibilities for a scaling-up of the piloted measures will be compiled and made available to other programs. This not only contributes to the GIZ corporate objective “Increase digital innovative capacities”, but also improves and increases the gender equality portfolio!

Further information and updates on the implementation of the three awarded measures will be available on this website soon.

For any inquiries concerning the competition please contact:

Have a look at the German Blog Post about the corresponding Event in Bonn.