Step Up Completes COVID-19 and Higher Education Research

Step Up Consulting has recently published the results of its research on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education in South Africa, Australia, and the Philippines. The research was funded by the International Telecommunications Union through the Connect2Recover global competition.

Connect2Recover is a global initiative that aims to reinforce the digital infrastructure and digital ecosystems of beneficiary countries.

In 2021, the International Telecommunications Union launched the “Connect2Recover Research Competition” to identify promising research proposals that will accelerate digital inclusion during the COVID-19 recovery globally.

The objectives of the competition were to improve research focus on digital resiliency and digital inclusion to build back better with broadband for pandemic recovery; to build a global research community of think tanks and academic institutions around digital inclusion; and to promote knowledge sharing that informs targeted practices to build back better with broadband.

The proposal submitted by Step Up Consulting titled ‘Making Higher Education Truly Inclusive’ was selected as one of fifteen successful applications. You can find on this project website the findings, insights and recommendations that have emerged from the ‘Making Higher Education Truly Inclusive’ research project.

Step Up Completes Strategy Sessions with Sinar Project

Step Up completes almost 3 months of strategy sessions with Sinar Project of Malaysia to finalize the organization’s five-year strategic plan. The final Strategy Session with Sinar was conducted on 28 April 2022 online, with key officers of the organization.

Sinar Project was formally established in 2014 as a limited liability partnership in Malaysia. From its very inception, the organization aimed to promote transparency, accountability, and openness in government by improving people’s access to public information and data that impact people’s lives.   Sinar Project believes that when citizens have greater access to data and information they are able to demand accountability from the government, better participate in decision-making processes involving public welfare, and contribute to the overall well-being of society. 

Step Up’s strategy advisor, Michael P. Canares, was the lead consultant hired by East West Management Institute to undertake the strategy planning process.

Step Up Conducts Research on Mis- and Dis-information in Asia

Step Up conducted research on mis- and dis-information in Asia from March to April this year as a contracted research for an international organization. Its strategy advisor, Michael Canares, was contracted to undertake the task.

The research focuses on four important questions; (1) what types of misinformation and disinformation occurs in the region?; (2) who are the perpetrators?; and (3) what are the common responses currently implemented to curb the practice?.

The Philippines figured prominently in the research. The country covers a wide range of political mis- and disinformation including black propaganda and smear campaigning occurring largely during election period. The danger of mis- and disinformation in the country is that online violence breeds into physical violence, including threats to safety and death of victims.

The research was completed in April 2022.

Step Up Trains Ugandan CSOs on Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning

Step Up’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares, was contracted by Common Ground Consulting to train civil society organizations (CSOs) on monitoring, evaluation, and learning. The training, which was held on 15-18 February 2022 via Zoom, is part of the various training programs conducted for Ugandan CSOs by the Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA) training program funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Twenty-two CSOs attended the training. The cohort included representatives from the Uganda Women’s Network, the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders, White Ribbon Alliance, Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, ICT Policy Center for Eastern and Southern Africa, among others.

Synchronous sessions took place from 1 to 5 pm Uganda time (5 to 10 pm Philippine time). Asynchronous sessions, on the other hand, took place every morning of each day through organization-based assignments that are required to be presented during the synchronous sessions each day.

The participants appreciated the training design and delivery. At the end of the training, most of them were excited to use their knowledge to improve the M&E systems of their organizations.

Step Up Wins International Research Competition

Step Up Consulting is one of the 15 research teams across the world awarded by the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations to undertake research on how to accelerate digital inclusion during the COVID-19 recovery globally.

The research competition, dubbed as Connect2Recover aims to “reinforce and
strengthen the digital infrastructure and digital ecosystems of beneficiary countries as they
adjust in the wake of COVID-19 and remain resilient in times of disasters”. The research competition is one of the preliminary activities of the initiative aimed at “identifying the
gaps and bottlenecks in the effective use of digital networks and technologies”.

Step Up Consulting team will consist of Michael Canares and frequent collaborator Francois Van Schalkwyk of Stellenbosch University based in South Africa. The project will focus on the connection of marginalized university students during and after the covid-19 pandemic to new modes of higher education delivery to ensure greater inclusion and unlock the socio-economic development potential of higher education. The issue of emergency remote teaching and learning in higher education and the consequences of this shift on marginalized students given the challenges of unevenly distributed ICT infrastructure and internet affordability has received some attention in the media and, to a lesser extent, in the academic literature.

However, little has been done to synthesise the observations and information on the issue, especially across multiple contexts. Nor have efforts been made to connect the covid-19 experience to the broader literature on infrastructure, access and inclusion. This research project will provide new knowledge related to digital inclusion and will build on previous research undertaken in this area, specifically previous research undertaking by the research team that showed how data activation, intermediaries and the distribution of power are key determinants of digital inclusion (Van Schalkwyk & Canares 2020). The proposed research project will bring into the constellation of determinants the role of ICT infrastructure in fostering sustainable digital inclusion, especially in the context of education.

Step Up Strategy Advisor Facilitates ASEAN Workshop on LMIS

Step Up’s strategy advisor, Mr. Michael Canares, facilitated the ASEAN kick-off workshop on strengthening Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS) as a basis for better skills and employment policies. The workshop, attended by 9 countries across the ASEAN region, was held online last 9 December 2021.

The workshop is part of the project aimed at strengthening the capacities of ASEAN member states to anticipate and match future skills needs through effective labour market information systems, develop a set of evidence-based recommendations in selected thematic areas with the objective to facilitate policy dialogue; and develop national action plans for improvement of the labour market information systems.

The workshop was organized to level-off expectations and understanding from among key stakeholders and agree on the principles, guidelines, and procedures for the conduct of project. This also includes, among others, an agreement of the desired goals of the project, an agreed set of indicators to gauge progress, and the roles and contributions of each stakeholder.

The workshop was sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) of the Government of Vietnam. GIZ and ILO lead the implementation of the project.

Step Up Strategy Advisor Speaks at Indonesia’s Ministry of Home Affairs Forum

Mr. Michael Canares, Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor was invited by the Indonesian Ministry of Home Affairs to speak at their workshop on “Leading Innovation in a Digital World”. The workshop was held online, attended by more than 200 participants – leaders of MOHA across Indonesia, last 24 November 2021.

Mr. Canares spoke about data-driven governance. He was invited through the Ford Foundation, once a partner of the Open Data Lab Jakarta where he was the Senior Research Manager for digital citizenship for almost three years. Mr. Canares spoke about concrete examples were governments across the world use data to improve public service delivery, strengthen effective public management, increase accountability mechanisms for public officials, and enhance citizen participation in governance.

Step Up Conducts Training on Local Road Asset Management for Negros Oriental

Step Up Consulting strategy advisor was invited by the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental to conduct a training on Local Road Asset Management for the members of its local road network management committee. The training was conducted online last October 29-November 5, 2021.

The participants comprised of representatives from the provincial offices of engineering, accounting, planning and development, budget, treasury, internal audit, general services, and assessor. The training was based entirely on the Local Road Asset Management Manual (see picture above) prepared by Mr. Michael Canares for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with funding and technical support from the United Nations Development Program.

On 16 November 2020, DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano issued DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-155 mandating the adoption of the Local Road Asset Management Manual by local government units. This aims to improve the valuation and recording of local road assets for better local road management.

Step Up Advisor Moderates ASEAN Conference on Climate-Smart Land Use

Mr. Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor of Step Up Consulting will be the moderator of the upcoming ASEAN Conference on Policy and Governance for Climate-Smart Land Use. The conference is organized by the ASEAN Climate Resilience Network with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through the Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). GIZ collaborates with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and several other partner organisations to hold this conference.

The conference will be held online on 16-18 November 2021. The conference will tackle three themes, namely:

a. Multi-level Governance for Climate-Smart Land Use

b. Inclusive and Participatory Policy Making for Promotion and Adoption of Climate-Smart Land Use

c. Enabling environment for private investments into Climate-Smart Land Use

The conference is expected to attract policy-makers from ASEAN member states working in the fishery, agriculture, and forestry sectors, rural development and environmental activists, development agencies, research institutions and civil society organisations from across the region.

Step Up Publishes Three New Papers on Open Contracting during the time of COVID

Step Up Consulting has recently published three research papers on open contracting and its role during the COVID 19 pandemic. The research conducted in 2020 covers two countries, Guatemala and the Philippines.

Hivos, a non-government organization based in the Netherlands, commissioned the research to provide evidence that can be used by local actors and donors in the design, implementation, and advocacy for inclusive crisis response and recovery.

The research highlights at least four key findings:

  1. During during times of emergencies, it is easy to ignore differences in context, needs, and vulnerabilities.
  2. Poor inclusion outcomes in COVID-19 response are a result of the lack of participation of people outside government in the design, implementation, and monitoring of initiatives to contain the virus and cushion the population against adverse economic impacts.
  3. Data and information is a critical component in a more effective and inclusive emergency response. When information is provided, it opens up spaces for discussion, contestation, and productive collaboration.
  4. The role of intermediaries can not be overemphasised in ensuring that procurement during the times of crisis is transparent and accountable. Without intermediaries, like media, watchdogs, or social accountability advocates and organisations, to scrutinise procurement records including those indicating the receipt of goods and services, as well as its consequent distribution and/or utilisation, a more accountable procurement process can not be achieved.

The full paper for the Philippines is available here while that of Guatemala can be accessed via this link.