Another 6-months gone in a flash, and just like that the 7th cycle of our KP Government Innovation Fellowship Program has come to an end. Every year is special, but this year was full of exciting new initiatives. Not only did we create digital solutions to benefit the citizens of KP, but we also brought more women into the Fellowship mix. Training women from some of the REMOTEST areas of KP (real villages in some cases!), and giving them the opportunity to work alongside skilled professionals on some incredibly interesting government projects.
Since the program began back in October, 19 of our Fellows have partnered with 6 government departments to tackle some of the province’s most pressing problems which were identified by our government partners. And so began the Fellows efforts to come up with the most optimal solutions. The road to success is long, but as a former Fellow myself, I know better than anyone that when you see the results of your work- the impact it has on the communities around you, it is truly rewarding.
This year the Fellowship Program returned to Durshal — our co-working space in Peshawar — following a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic (the 6th cycle was conducted entirely online). As of now, we’re gearing up for the big graduation in May — but more on that later. For now, let’s talk about some of the ways the Fellowship Program is creating impact by building bridges between citizens and the government in the form of its civic tech solutions.
- Diversity and Inclusion: Keys to a Great Fellowship Cycle
Over 7500 candidate applications from all across KP arrived in our inboxes. This was the highest number of applications we’ve received since the program’s inception in 2014, and left us with the daunting task of shortlisting the 7500+ applications to 20, from a vast pool of high quality applicants. We somehow narrowed the list down to 200 and then, through a series of tests and interviews, we selected Fellows for the 7th cycle. This consisted of 15 male Fellows and 5 female Fellows, each representing different districts of KP — from areas as far-flung as South Waziristan and Swat to the more urban areas of Mardan and Swabi. But the diversity was not limited to geographies. Our Fellows also come from various professional backgrounds, ranging from the more traditional tech (coding) ones, but also non-tech backgrounds like content writing, journalism and even fashion design!
2. Developing multiple solutions for millions of citizens, with their input
The digital solutions were built in accordance with design thinking and human-centered design methodologies, with input from end users and citizens collected at every stage of the development process. The Fellows began by conducting user research in order to gather feedback on wireframes and prototypes that they had developed previously. Following that, Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) were produced, and usability testing involving users was undertaken. By adopting a user-centric approach, these solutions seek to meet the needs of citizens by including features and procedures that make it easier for the citizens to access government services and information.
The solutions created included websites, mobile apps, and online portals, all of which were designed to streamline government processes and improve citizens’ access to government services.
3. Training sessions led by some of Pakistan’s most accomplished professionals
During the 7th cycle, more than 60 training sessions were arranged for our Fellows. This was made possible by the exceptional support of our experienced mentors, trainers, and volunteers who contributed to the success of the program.
Ayesha Mehmood, who has been with the CfP family for a while now, was once an intern herself. Now she has come back to the fold to mentor some of the women in our Fellowship and Internship Programs. Although Ayesha’s career has been full of highlights, nothing compares to the bond that she’s created with her students. “Watching Fatima grasp the art so quickly and grow in her skills left me with an overwhelming feeling,” said Ayesha, who is currently working as a Graphic Designer with the World Bank. “I actually felt like I was making a difference and the evidence was before my eyes in the form of this newly trained UX/UI designer!” she said about her student’s swift progress.
In addition to advanced technical topics such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, these mentorship sessions included soft skills training in areas such as public speaking, communication skills, as well as how to maintain one’s online presence, among other things. During their Fellowship, the Fellows also learned about how to apply for remote jobs, freelancing opportunities online, and learning about entrepreneurship and startups, to ensure that they are well prepared to pursue a variety of career options after their Fellowship finishes.
4. Women represented from some of the regions most remote areas — and with better connectivity:
The 7th cycle is the first-ever Fellowship cycle in which women interns from some of KP’s most remote areas had the opportunity to collaborate directly with and learn from the Fellows in the development of digital solutions for government departments of KP. Given the social challenges that most women face in KP — such as the conservative culture and inability to work alongside men — our interns had the option to contribute remotely. Thanks to our partners at PTCL/Ufone, who donated free wifi devices to the program, our women interns could work with the Fellowship cohort, seamlessly.
The interns received training on different product development tasks, including prototyping, user research, usability testing, UX/UI development and documentation to improve their prospects in the job market.
5. Working with the government to make sure the solutions stick:
The Fellows paid extra attention to ensuring the sustainability of solutions post-deployment. This was done right from the start of the solutions development process, where the teams finalized the technology stacks after getting feedback from each department’s focal person. This ensures that the department has the resources to manage and sustain the solutions post-deployment. In addition to this, the Fellows also conducted training sessions with the department and developed documentation and user manuals which can be used to add new features and modules to the digital solutions.
A great deal of effort goes into the success of a Fellowship Program. From the Fellows’ collaboration with government departments to soliciting citizens’ input to ensure the most effective solutions are produced, a number of moving pieces work in unison to ensure the solutions are delivered to the departments within the Fellowship Program’s six-month timeline. Here’s to the 7th cycle and to hoping that the solutions developed will have a positive impact on meeting citizens’ demands and changing their lives for the better.
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