‘Sup, Doc?

Loads of cool stuff happening.

1. My First Event: I suck at organizing events no matter how tiny. But 2014 saw to it that I cross that bridge too. With the help of my very sweet student volunteer, Arooj Perzada, I gathered a group of about 35-45 people at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) in Lahore, Pakistan for GIST’s live webinar “Crowdfund Your Startup Venture” showing from the State Department in Washington DC, US. You can see the album here courtesy of the amazing The AppJuice team which was our official social media partner. You can also read about the event here and here. You can also watch a recording of the live event here (they took a q towards the end from your’s truly ;) )

GIST TechConnect

2. Bringing Technovation to Pakistan: How many times have you heard that technology is just not for girls? That’s exactly what Technovation is trying to change. Its a Not-for-Profit based in Silicon Valley. It encourages school girls to make smartphone apps using a simple software that works like LEGO-blocks. Girls decide on a social problem, find a way to solve the problem via a smartphone app, and then build a business plan around it. Winning entries get to pitch to real investors in Silicon Valley. How cool is that? NO! That wasn’t a question. It was … kind of … if the answer is YES ITS AWESOME COOL!! *glare. OK so I have been in touch with the team for a while and this year I got some schools in dear ol’ Pk involved. We have the Liberal Arts High School from Islamabad, Alaudin Academy Lahore and Sedna School Hunza. I have high hopes for these girls. Also, if you or someone you know is a phone app developer and would like to volunteer their time (2 hours a week) please contact me. Let’s see how this goes.

Technovation Challenge Pakistan

3. The Portkey: I am suffering from a Harry Potter hangover. I miss it. *sob. Have finally found someone I think I can trust my baby with Yeah am talking about WDL. This company is making my web portal. Am super excited. This is something I have wanted since I started the company but just could never muster up the courage to actually work on it. Also, the fact I am perpetually broke didn’t help things much. I realize that now is as good a time as any. Gotta make it happen. So wish me luck peeps.

4. Elance Trainings: Am starting the first batch of Elance training in Alaudin Academy with a batch of 25 women. Amna Zafar, an Elance user and a very successful freelancer from Pakistan, will conduct the training. If you have any small data entry / data scraping projects you can send our way, please contact me.

Alauddin Academy

5. Guest from the US: Took a one day hurricane trip to Islo-land to attend a luncheon in honor of Catherine Russell, United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. Had met her predecessor, Melanne Verveer, during the famous Project Artemis/GS 10k Women. Found out Saba Nazneen Ghori, one of our hosts at the US State Department, is temporarily working at the US Embassy Islamabad. It was so exciting to see her – like those 3 weeks weren’t just a dream. :) Met some exceptional Pakistani women including Dr Sania Nishtar, Sabeen Haque, and Saddafe Abidi.

6. Hunza on Elance: Great news coming out of Hunza. Just so haters won’t call me names, I am not taking credit for this. The IT Centers are run independently by KADO. I merely advise on best practices, chalking out course work, help with marketing and whenever possible, connect them to work. Trainess at the centers are finding online work. They are involved with writing projects with AllVoices, formatting eBook on Elance. I am soooo psyched for them. Can’t wait to meet them in the summers. Here are some of their stories that they shared independently. WDL NEVER shares personal stories of its service providers.

freelancers in Hunza Gilgit-Baltistan

Didar Ali Hunza KADO

7. Celebrity: 2013 was super awesome. WDL has finally started getting the recognition it deserves if I may say so myself. Was featured on Mashable, Virgin, Ashoka, ForbesElan, Express Tribune, International Business Times, WAMDA, Muftah, TechPresident, The AppJuice. It’s just been CRAZY! I am happy, proud, humbled, nervous.

Mashable

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

*The Elance Training at Alauddin Academy is not an official certification workshop. It’s conducted independently by users of Elance to help trainees use the platform.*

It’s Finally Happening!

i-TECH IT Training Center, KADO

i-TECH IT Training Center, KADO

I’ve been trying to write this blogpost for last several hours but keep hitting delete after just the first sentence. Nothing seems to do justice to how I feel and what I want to convey to you. So am going to cut the c*** and get right to the point. Read this: http://mountaintv.net/how-one-entrepreneur-in-hunza-is-using-the-internet-to-revitalize-his-business/ You may say, so what? I say, you have no idea how HUGE this is or how happy and thrilled I am. Let me give you a bit of a background. The past 2 or 3 years (am forgetting – it’s the age and the after-lunch brain-freeze) I have been closely associated with an NGO called KADO working in Hunza. Was introduced through mutual friends who come 3-4 times every year to Pakistan from Canada to carry out community development exercises in the area. When we were introduced KADO had an Internet Cafe running into loss because of the army run extremely unreliable Internet and the extreme power shortage. I begged the then CEO not to shut down the place and instead use it to train local women in micro tasks. He agreed and I started sending them some work through MTurk and CrowdFlower. The results were heartening. The women worked from 9 AM to 5 PM every day. Of course many hours were wasted due to power outages and slow internet. But at the end of the month they earned about Rs 1000-Rs3000. Karimabad, the town where the IT Center is located has a 100% literacy rate for people 30 and below. And these are people with post-grad degrees from some of the best universities in Pakistan. Yet most of them choose to go back home. In a town of about 20,000 people jobs are hard to come by. A typical school teacher earns Rs 4000 per month (roughly $40). Now the sum they earned through this work wasn’t big, but it gave us a good idea of the change online work could bring into this area. Of course this wasn’t enough to sustain the center. Just when I thought there was no chance KADO would keep the center open, the 25-year old (obviously older than that now) stepped in. Osama was traveling to the Northern Areas. I casually mentioned the Center and asked that he visit if he got the chance. The kid actually went there and not only that he convinced the new CEO to keep the Center open by offering to put the women on his payroll for 3 months!! Mubeen (the CEO) being the gentleman that he is agreed. Both Osama and I kept sending work to KADO off and on but I had trouble convincing people to send them work. To send in trainers. To support and finance the project. Several very long emails were sent. Proposals were prepared for telcos to provide internet to the area. Policymakers and stakeholders in the government were beseeched. I stalked the Lukas Biewald (CEO of CrowdFlower) and other members of his team on social media. All this to no avail. My frustration reached it’s peak when people started contacting me asking for work. Read this note I posted on Facebook. But recently KADO managed to do the impossible. Here is a short description of the project they sent me:

“Enhancing Employability of Marginalized Segments in GB through ICT” is one of the projects of KADO which focuses on providing employable training to the marginalized youth in “Online Earning/Freelancing” and “Alternate Energy Solutions” in Gilgit-Baltistan. This project falls under Fund for Innovative Training (FIT) programme which is co-funded by the European Union, the Kingdom of Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented through GIZ in collaboration with NAVTTC. Through this project we have to train almost 2,500 people in online earning/freelancing in various locations of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with more focus on marginalized segments of the society including poor, youth, women, persons with disabilities and disaster affected people. The trained people will also be facilitated to link them with online employment. To make this happen, KADO has established state of the art IT centres, 07 fixed and 01 mobile IT centre (20 workstation in each IT centre with Laptops; laptops for less usage of energy) with dedicated, reliable and speed internet through satellite down-links VSAT (due to internet issues in mountain areas) and solar power solutions (due to massive load shedding in the area). Expert trainers have been hired to train the target group in many fields including; web-designing, programming, e-marketing, content writing, e-publishing, call centre expertise, forex trading, online accounting and finance and solar power solutions. We expect that this training will have a massive impact on poverty alleviation in the area and reduce the issues related to unemployment among the target audience.

Passu, Gojal, Hunza

Passu, Gojal, Hunza

I am beyond thrilled. one of the tasks I sent them besides the MTurk and CrowdFlower stuff was converting several books that the client sent in scanned jpg format. They not only had to type them out but also format them which was a very tough job considering most had complex graphs and geometrical diagrams. I remember they would work till late at night just to get it done on time because otherwise the constant power outages would have made it impossible to finish on the deadline. The team manager had to travel at night to the next town to email me the complete work as their Internet completely died.

Attabad Lake Hunza Gojal

Attabad Lake Hunza Gojal

I tell you this because everyone needs to understand the commitment these people have to their work. Any work you send them is not charity. You can be sure that those people will work harder than anyone else making sure you get the best quality and the most incredible turnaournds considering their challenges. Just think of the mindboggling possibilities here. A person sitting in Gojal, about 4877 meter above sea level in a town of just 2000 inhabitants working on your crowdsourcing tasks or converting your data into a machine readable format while you are thousands of miles away in DC or London or Berlin! Gojal has been cut off from the rest of Gilgit-Baltistan due to the Attabad lake Disaster of 2010. People here are largely unemployed and survive on food aid coming in from China. This is a story of resilience beyond imagination. Of courage and bravery. Of motivation and a willingness to bring a change.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Snippets from Past Few Weeks

Been a bit disturbed and distracted lately. My country is going through a really tough time and it hurts me to see it that way. Growing up I always thought people hurt other people for money, power, position. Now I am finding out they also kill for God. And a God that they all believe in but each wants the other to believe in Him exactly the same way s/he does. It’s all very confusing. I was going through my Facebook feed and I came across a quote by Rumi that resonates so well with everything happening.

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

Anyway ……

I got great news today from the Hunza today. The NGO that I was working with to help bring digital work to the area has received grants to train 1500 locals in various kinds of online work. 60% of those trained are going to be women. I am so excited I can’t sit still. This area has 100% literacy rate in people 30 and below. They have advance, postgrad degrees from some of the top universities in Pakistan. If this works out, it’s going to be HUGE.

In other news, am thinking of registering TDL as a not-for-profit. Am a bit hesitant as the last effort to register as a sole proprietorship ended up with no results at all. If you know someone who can help me get it done with minimal hassle and a guarantee it will work out, get me in touch please.

Saw my beautiful guapa Amy after almost 2 years! I love technology and above all, Skype. We had a great video call reminiscing, laughing, planning, catching up. Wish everyone could understand that basic human feelings remain constant through every country, age, religion … if you are loved, won’t you love back? If you are respected, aren’t you gonna give it back? And if you are valued, will you respond any differently? I can never understand people who live in a different country but refuse to truly become a part of it because they are afraid of losing their identity or afraid of being treated badly. You receive what you give.

Pakistan mornings and Arizona nights were never filled with so much laughter!!!

Pakistan mornings and Arizona nights were never filled with so much laughter!!!

Ooohhh … had these lovely keychains made for TDL by the very talented Varah Musavvir of Firefly.

We Can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.

The Digital League - Empowering Pakistan One Digital Task at a Time

The Digital League – Empowering Pakistan One Digital Task at a Time

The Beauties

The Beauties

Thought these would be great for some marketing and for friendly give-aways.

Welcoming guys into The Digital League is proving to be a blessing and a great move. I am a feminist at heart and will always give preference to women-SPs over male ones (sorry boys!) but let’s face it – not very many women know setting up CRM systems and playing with SVGs. So am really glad to have these boys on the team now. Something tells me I am going in the right direction finally and it feels good.

OK then ….

byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Digital Marketing Workshop Gone All Wrong

I just couldn’t resist this one. Received the following email from Skill Development Council, Islamabad:

“Become a Digital Marketing Expert”

Attention:HR & Training Heads, Sales / Marketing Managers, SEO Beginners, Web Developers, IT Professionals, Affiliate Marketers, SEO Business Lovers, Marketing Companies, Ad copywriters, IT and Management Students.

Women are encouraged to join this program as it will enable them to start working from their home

Digital marketing has become imperative in today’s business world. Companies are looking for business development professionals who can help them in achieving their online sales targets. Without Digital marketing strategies, proper SEO techniques, conversion optimization methods, good content and handsome targeted traffic no business can succeed online.

Skill Development Council, Islamabad feels proud to announce an Intensive Training on Digital Marketing. Seats are limited and admission will be on first come first served basis.

Hurry up! and register online.

SDC also specializes in customized In-House Training programs tailored to meet the specific training needs of our valued client organizations and to improve performance and effectiveness of its team of professionals.

SDC Islamabad shall be grateful if you may kindly nominate your staff to this valuable training program and forward this information to your friends and colleagues who may benefit by participating in this training course.

Here is what I get my kick from … the formatting of the email is all over the place (LMK in comments if you want me to forward it to you because I suck at html and can’t replicate), the colors used are atrocious (I wasn’t able to reproduce the gem), and the attachment makes me want to bang my head against the wall or ROFL. It’s a DIGITAL MARKETING workshop for crying out loud … and they’ve done a horrendous job of marketing their workshop to me. Totally worth the Rs. 10k they are charging … AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (…contd)

Tell me I am exaggerating!!

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Do it Desi Style

My pretties, I’ve been away too long. Logged in every day, wanted to say hello but always chickened out … writer’s block sucks. But been very happy to see you have all been coming here looking out for me (The Stats Don’t Lie). I love you all too.

But here is what finally made me come out of my miserable, pathetic condition. I made FB friends a few days back with the guy to whom I owe my love affair with online work … Monis Rehman. WHO IS MONIS REHMAN?! Yeah OK … like all of you, I didn’t know about him until a couple of months ago. But I knew his company … Ladies (and only ladies … sorry Gentlemen, I like ignoring you), heard of Rozee? I mentioned it quite a few time on my blog but never tagged it because let’s accept it … anything Paki ain’t poppin’ and imma too cool. *puke*

Lemme tell you my own awesome story once again; I was a school-teacher who had recently left my job and had my fill of lying in, and the urge to ‘do’ something was back with a vengeance. I knew people could get jobs online but had no clue how. So I naturally turned to my best buddy; Google. Stumbled upon Rozee just by chance … was surprised to see a market for online content writers … felt like singing A Whole New World from Aladdin … got my first break with a lady running a content writing shop from her home in Multan (yeah, I have told this story like a gazillion times but it’s for the benefit of new readers … stop being b****y), filled ether-sphere with absolute trash ranging from Benefits of Buying a Condo in Connecticut to How to Get Cat-piss Smell Out of your Carpets, and a lot of other things I am not proud of … but hey, I needed a distraction and it worked (and paid like less than a dollar an hour #SlaveLabor). And then,as they say, the rest is LEGEN-wait for it-DARY!

Why am I retelling something I’ve milked to the max already? It’s for your own good dudettes, stop being cynical … how many of you have tried getting an assignment on oDesk or Elance and ended up saying things your moms should wash out your mouths for? The solution is simple … why did I never think of mentioning it before (???) … look for something on a desi portal like Rozee. There is another one too doing quite well … uhhhhhh … yeah, it’s called Mustakbil. I dunno much about the latter but Rozee is owned by a gentleman from Lahore called Monis Rehman, who also happens to have founded Naseeb which is a matchmaking website for Muslims in the US and the UK. In case you are not impressed enough and thinking of going off for that pedicure, here is why you shallow ones should sit up and take notice: his ventures were funded by investors who backed Google, PayPal, LinkedIn and Zynga (we all know FarmVille, right!). There are an astounding 5000 companies using Rozee as a job board and if you are worth anything, I’m sure you’ll find a good fit for your skill-set.

Wait for a post on another job portal that I am absolutely fascinated with … if you know me at all you should know what I am talking about … ;)

So, if you are not getting any joy on other portals definitely check out Rozee.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Plus: I am more mean than usual because I’ve OD-ed on Gossip Girl the past couple of weeks – no apologies though! ;)

Social Communications Company

That’s what the acronym Sococo stands for. I think I am in love. I simply MUST have this integrated into my soon to be launched (hopefully – sighhhh) website. Obviously I am never going to be able to afford it (notice how I said “going to” and not “gonna” – I am trying to grow up). I am forever broke. But, my sad finances aside, this is amazing. The website’s About page says that, Sococo is a social communications company that develops and sells shared environments for network-centric individuals to work and play. A small piece of advise to people in Silicon Valley – we know you are brainy and your products are usually great but there really isn’t no need to make things sound so complicated!!!

Mr. Scoble, whom I dislike for his past disparaging remarks about Quora, does a far better job of describing it. Sococo gives you a virtual office, where you have an office space on screen. Yeah, so what it essentially does is it provides you with this wonderful tool to work with your remote team where you can have a virtual conference room or office space, you see who is “sitting” in her office, you can call them and have a voice chat. You can even make calls to landlines or cellphones, much like Skype. The thing can even be integrated into your website. Look at some of these images – I am drooling, I tell ya …

How YUMMY is this!

Conference Rooms come in different sizes

 

Your own virtual office - I know mine would read, 'Meryl Streep was a softie!"

You can also share multiple screens. If any of my family or fans or secret admirer is contemplating bequeathing me with half their wealth, please hurry up – because I need this. I really do!  Plans start from $39.99/month to $59.99/month.

OK now – I kept the promise I made in my last post, and actually wrote about stuff that could help you with your online business. I am off now …. To infinity and Beyond …

OK byeeeeeeeeeeee