The Moslem and indigenous mountain people of Mindanao are among the least served populations on earth from the perspective of digital literacy. I discovered Mindanao in 1971 when teaching at Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, placed there by Stanford University’s Volunteers in Asia program, my first job after graduating from Stanford with a degree in anthropology. MSU was closed in late 1972 by Marcos’ declaration of martial law. I returned to the US after 18 months to begin a business career that included 15 years at IBM followed by 25 years as an entrepreneur in a new Russia, adventures described in my first book “Bannana in Russia, Commercializing Transformational Technologies”.
My second book, “Bannana’s Near Death Experiences, Ode to Steve Jobs” is based largely on letters I sent my mother from the Philippines during my time at MSU, which included a summer trip by “smuggling boat” from the Sulus to Sandakan, Sabah and back to the Philippines via Balabak and Palawan.
Marawi reappeared in the world press in 2017 when Islamic militants affiliated with ISIS took over the city, prompting President Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. I decided to return to Mindanao and see if I could contribute to the economic development of a place that had played an important role in my education. At a Rotary Club meeting in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where I was living, I learned about CodePhil a training initiative targeting the underserved populations of the Philippines, the brainchild of students at MIT and Columbia (see www.codephil.com). The students wanted to provide training on how to code to students in Mindanao but were prevented by administrators from traveling there because of security concerns.
I was ready to return to Mindanao and leverage my connection to MSU to have TypePhil, CodePhil’s first product, into the Maranao language. Dean Empig of MSU-IIT Iligan agreed to support this effort with his team. Samuel Matunog, president of the Davao ICT, agreed to sponsor this customization project and asked me to include support for languages spoken by the B’laan mountain people living near General Santos. He introduced me to President Benette Mercado of Brokenshire College who has a team ready to do the customization.
Residents of Mindanao believe that sustained economic development is the key to bringing peace to a region that has seen conflict for over forty years and suffered the deaths of over 150,000 and the displacement of many more. TypePhil’s goal is to make students comfortable with computers as a step into a world full of opportunity for anyone digitally literate. The Philippine government has accepted the English version of TypePhil into its Tech4ED program but has no plans to translate it into the minority languages of Mindanao. The Philippine people have demonstrated their willingness to contribute financially to the rebuilding of Marawi. Contributing to this project is a demonstration of Filipino support for a project the international community is being asked to support in a GoFundMe page (not available to Filipinos)
Other “Bannana books” that may be interesting (as rewards) to funders are “Bannana Returns to Mindanao” and “Bannana Vindicated”, available on both Amazon and Kindle.