A Small Innovation Reaps Big Rewards

A FILIPINO advertising agency found an innovative solution to the perennial problem faced by elementary school kids in the Philippines: carrying heavy textbooks.

Elementary school kids in the Philippines have become susceptible to scoliosis or other physical ailments related to carrying such heavy books to school on a day to day.

The solution? Old analog cell phones that can be utilized as “books.”

Makati-based DM9 Jayme Syfu created the TXTBKS campaign for their long-time client, SMART Communications — one of the largest telecom companies in the Philippines.

The idea is to load the contents of textbooks into SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, which can then be installed into old analog phones.

The campaign serves a dual purpose: find a renewable way to recycle old analog phones and literally get the heavy load off the backs of elementary school children.

This creative innovation has led DM9 Jayme Syfu to win the much-coveted Grand Prix Award (Mobile Category) at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity,  one of the most prestigious international annual advertising and communications awards ceremonies.

DM9 Jayme Syfu contended with 101 shortlisted candidates around the world for the award.

“I’m still in a state of shock,” said Merlee Jayme, DM9’s Chair and Chief Creative Officer to Adobo Magazine. “This is the first-ever Grand Prix for the Philippines and it’s also our first-ever Mobile win, which makes me very proud for the country.”

The award was given on June 19 and since then, DM9 Jayme Syfu’s  SMART ‘TXT BKS’ campaign has been receiving a tremendous amount of support from the public.

In a follow-up phone call to the Asian Journal, DM9 Jayme Syfu’s Executive Creative Director Eugene Demata said the agency approached SMART last year about the ‘TXTBKS’ campaign.

“We wanted to come up with something unique that we can offer to our client,” Demata said in an overseas call from the Philippines to the Asian Journal. “That’s how the textbook project came about.”

Demata said he remembers seeing elementary school-aged children carrying “these heavy backpacks and doing that has a long-term negative effect on their back. It could lead to scoliosis.”

Demata said the idea of marrying textbooks with mobile phones seemed to be an appropriate confluence, especially for a country known as the text capital of the world.

The project is currently in the pilot testing stage in several schools in Makati and nearby provinces, like Tiaong Elementary School in Bulacan province and Makati Elementary School, Demata said.

“The first pilot testing started late last year and lasted for months. We are in the process of [doing] more pilot testing now together with SMAR,T in preparation for rolling out the project nationwide,” he said.

Demata said that school children are adapting well to the new technology and that their grades are improving.

“Right now, we got an average of 90 percent in test performance, which is comparable and sometimes higher when they’re using actual text books — a good sign that once fully implemented, the innovation can help students excel. Aside from unburdening them with heavy loads, the project makes studying more fun and engaging,” Demata said.

Still, there are skeptics out there who point out that reading text on a small screen could lead to poor eyesight for the children later in life.

The small screens also lack other educational elements like breakout boxes, graphics and artwork.

Demata dismissed these claims, saying that the screen and font size are ideal enough for their size and age.

“Based on the initial testing, the results are very encouraging and the feedbacks are good. Right now, the tool is working well with the students and teachers,” he said.

SMART and DM9 Jayme Syfu are hoping that this method of learning can be adopted countrywide.

“The project aims to address the problem of providing public school children the convenience of tablets and e-readers,” Demata said.

“By turning old feature phones and surplus SIM cards, we will be able to solve several problems like students carrying too many heavy textbooks, affecting them physically and mentally. The tool will also help learning to become easier, fun and engaging.”

Demata quoted Ramon Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) as saying that “SMART TXTBKS is relevant in a country where majority of the people still use feature phones, and where many families cannot afford e-book readers and tablets.”

Demata said they are in the middle of talks with the Philippine Department of Education.

Together with SMART, they “are optimistic that this will be rolled out nationwide soon. The pilot tests are encouraging and the tool was well received by the students, the teachers and the parents.”

(LA Weekend August 3-6, 2013 Sec A pg.10) 

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