02 Mar 2014
By Online Communications Assistant James Brindley and the PR and Outreach Specialist of the UNDP/UNV 'Social Innovation and Volunteerism’ project Bakhrom Radjabov
What makes a great innovator? The ability to see a problem that no-one else notices, and to come up with a solution that not only addresses the matter but helps to solve a myriad of other concerns. More often than not, such an insightful person can come from the most unexpected of places.
When Ulugbek Musabekov was a high-school student, his interests ranged beyond those of his peers. While other students were merely focused on their studies, Ulugbek was interested in how the school functioned as a whole and asked questions beyond his years: How did students and teachers interact? How could the success and shortcomings of students be identified to parents, and how could greater communication improve the quality of education on offer?
What had to be improved, he decided, was efficiency – an office full of paperwork did little to assist the exchange of information between homes and classrooms. When he left school and began his university studies, he felt a responsibility for ensuring his younger brother received a high standard of education.
Later as a student at the Management Faculty of the Tashkent State University of Economics, Ulugbek decided that the solution to improve communication between teachers, students and parents was the e-Diary of Students, which would keep track of a student’s progress at school. This diary would be open to parents whose children are in attendance, and would not require constant internet connections. With a grant from the UNDP/UNV project 'Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan', the road for the programme’s establishment was cleared.
“In my opinion, this programme has great prospects,” said Ulugbek, now 20 years old. “Its use in all educational institutions will improve the quality of education and student’s behaviour.
“For parents it will provide an opportunity to take better care for their children, for teachers it will save huge amounts of time and reduce paperwork, and for educational institutions it will be another reason to equip classrooms with internet and computers.”
Like all ideas, Ulugbek’s changed a little over time to meet the needs of users, and to make sure that once it was started to be used it would be sustainably applied. The first challenge he faced was convincing his partners, including teachers, that a shift from a paperwork based system to an electronic one was well worth the effort.
“One of the main problems I encountered was the fact that many people are afraid of innovation, especially when it comes to online systems. Many teachers were set in using paperwork, and saw coping content onto an electronic system to be extra work,” he said.
While Ulugbek helped to address the matter of shifting a reliance on paperwork through attaining assistance from school administration, he decided that the system may be more appealing if it could operate offline. With assistance from a technical team and a mentor, and with the support of two teachers of two schools, Ulugbek created a system that parents could access on school computers and through SMS.
In its current incarnation the e-Diary has received positive comments from teachers and parents, and indeed there have been positive reflections in student performance. With approval and support from the Government of Uzbekistan, Ulugbek hopes that he will find additional funding for the development of an e-diary that can be implemented nationwide.
“Ulugbek’s creativity, determination and ingenuity are the exact qualities that the minigrant project wants to bring out of Uzbekistan’s young thinkers,” said manager of the UNDP/UNV 'Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan' project Bokhodir Ayupov.
“He has come from a position of insight, developed a concrete and original idea, and acquired the assistance, direction and agreements needed to bring this idea to life. He and other minigrant winners are role-models for Uzbekistan’s inventive minds.”
The e-Diary of Students is one of 150 youth initiatives in Uzbekistan that have received funding through the minigrants funding project. Small-scale fund packages have been provided to youth-led projects that use innovative means to address social and community concerns, that are sustainable, that can be prototyped, and are suitable for national scale-up.
The UNDP/UNV 'Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan' project has provided other assistance to Uzbekistan’s volunteers and activists of all ages, locations and socio-economic backgrounds, to help them overcome local, regional and national challenges they have identified.