CodePhil: Digital Literacy in Rural Philippines for Sustainable Livelihoods & Community Resilience

CodePhil aims to teach, empower, and connect the youth in Northern Samar, Philippines through digital literacy skills. Our initiatives will allow low-income high school students to learn the valuable skill of typing, computing, and programming with the ultimate goal of enabling decent jobs for youth, community resilience, and breaking the cycle of poverty in the community. It promotes innovation and appropriate technology solutions for community-building and sustainable livelyhoods.

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About This Innovation

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Community partners working on CodePhil a 501(c)3, recognized non-profit organization:

Global Poverty Initiative at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, Columbia University, Bagong Kulturang Pinoy (BKP), Catarman Rotary Club, Filipino Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Lavezares Local Government Unit, University of Eastern Philippines 

CodePhil has done an needs assessment and identified the following as key gaps to address:

Northern Samar is the 9th poorest province in the Philippines with a 61.6% poverty incidence rate as of 2012. The slow rate of economic growth is a result of poorly designed anti-poverty interventions, weak education system, high youth unemployment, underperforming agricultural sector, and natural disasters. 

In an effort to boost the public education system, the Filipino federal government has recently launched a computerization program and increased investment in ICT infrastructure. Under this program, numerous schools, including those in Northern Samar have been receiving equipment such as computers, monitors, projects, and even smart boards.

Challenges: teachers’ limited trainings with computers, inadequate access to software, lack of locally-adapted typing/computing education programs, poor internet connection. Therefore,  computer classrooms at schools remain unused and are deteriorating instead of providing an essential tool to students. In addition, due to the remote location of the island and lack of strong IT infrastructure, students lack awareness in IT careers and potential to use technology for entrepeneurship, decent jobs, community sustaiability, and more.

Our goal is to not only attract but retain decent jobs to the rural areas and encourage entrepreneurship that promotes sustainable livelihoods at the community level towards local implementation of the SDGs.

How does your innovation work?

CodePhil believes that a strong computer programming and digital literacy education for low-income youths living in developing countries to be essential for the following reasons:

1) close the gap in education between developed and developing countries, high and low-income families, and rural and urban areas;

2) create equal access to digital literacy to democratize use of and ensure appropriate applications of ICTs;

3) promote decent jobs for youth, encourage youth entrepreneurship to create jobs in the community that fill community-identified needs, and promote innovation;

4) diminish poverty in the Philippines in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1. 

We aim to do these in 4 ways:

(T) Teach computer programming and entrepreneurship skills to rural high school students living in poverty;

(E) Empower students to leverage computer programming to solve the challenges of their respective communities, pursue careers in the IT sector, and break the cycle of poverty;

(C) Connect Filipino high school students to mentors in the IT industry;

(H) Hack IT solutions to community problems at an annual Innovation Summit in collaboration with high school students, college students, and IT companies.

What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

Last summer, we launched our first pilot in Lavezares, Northern Samar, Philippines. We taught 49 students at Basilio B. Chan Memorial Agricultural and Industrial High School and trained 2 ICT (information communications technology) high school teachers on Python and HTML. We taught two different coding programs at the pilot launch. The first was Scratch, which is a free visual programming language to teach fundamental programming concepts such as variables, objects, control flow, arithmetic. The second was Sphero, an innovative programming language to interact with robots, visualize codes through robots. Based on our survey of the students we taught at the end of 3 weeks of teaching, we found that 82.5% of students were more comfortable using a computer after CodePhil.

What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

This project comes as a successor to our pilot program in the summer of 2016 and will help set a precedent for computer science education in the region of Northern Samar that will allow for future development and opportunities for communities to build upon. This year, we are planning to expand to three high school in the towns of Lavezares and Allen and reach over 150 students.

After reviewing feedback and suggestions from students and teachers in Northern Samar last year, we are introducing a new programming curriculum that revolves around web-development. Students will learn the foundations of web-development such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

This summer, we also plan on holding CodePhil’s first ever Innovation Summit. This 3-day Innovation Summit will be designed to bring the technology-related career interests of young students in the rural Philippines to the forefront. We aim to host over 200 participants, ranging from tech recruiters and professionals, government representatives, local business owners, and college and high school students, and offer a combination of career sessions, college-research poster sessions, workshops, and presentations that emphasize the importance of a college education and the future of technology in the Philippines.



I'm fascinated by what you do and think it is fantastic! I would love to meet with you at GIW this Thursday or Friday to learn more about what you are doing, if you have any available time. I could share with you what we are doing with our Coverage as a Service innovation for rural populations, as well, if you were curious. But I really just want to learn more from you about your work. You can reach me by email at if you would like to talk more. Thank you and I hope to hear from you. Be well, Elizabeth Griffin, Director of Outreach at VANU