Photo: Kyaw Zin Hted

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded everyone of the need to stip action by communities, private sector and government everywhere to conserve and protect nature and secure the environmental commons. While everyone agrees with this noble objective, finding practical and innovative development solutions to complex every day challenges requires ideation and extraordinary commitment to translate the ideas into action as well as building a catalytic enabling platform to seed, nurture and promote new ideas. Kyaw Zin Hted, one of the winners of the 2019 Hackathon organized by UNDP and Ooredoo Myanmar in the Climate Change thematic category exemplifies this approach. Hted with his innovative idea to develop an app called the Sein Platform has earnestly set out to encourage people, especially youth, to help conserve nature through individual or group actions and synchronizing them to become a movement for nature conservation and climate.

The idea for the innovative app came to Kyaw Zin Hted during a visit to relatives in the countryside some years ago. Along the route, he remembered passing numerous roadside dumps and ponds filled with used plastic bags all the way to the village . it was as a stark reminder of the challenge of increasing plastic pollution. Once buried under the soil, plastics are hard to break down and could remain as solid waste up to 1,000 years. “Over time, cumulatively, these plastic bags degrade soil and make land infertile and unfit for production. In water, they split into tiny pieces and clog waterway and contaminating the environment” Kyaw Zin Hted said.

An undergraduate studying mining at Yangon Institute of Technology, Kyaw Zin Hted has been reading and studying the impact of human technologies on nature, both as an academic study and applying the same to real world challenges, which is his passion. After a trip to the village, he became deeply interested in waste and its sustainable management. In Kyaw Zin’s own words, “ I read numerous documents at the (university) library as well as online about waste management, and how it affects the environment and undermine conservation efforts which could otherwise reduce potential climate change impacts.” He felt compelled to do more. The breakthrough opportunity for him arrived on the scene with the announcement of the 2019 Hackathon, for which he ideated and subsequently created the Sein application as one of the winning apps.

Photo: Kyaw Zin Hted

“The Sein platform has employed creative ways to stimulate people’s engagement, said Kyaw Zin Hted. We encourage individuals to plant seeds in their gardens or plots. In this way, people would feel closer to nature, together with nature thereby instilling the care and love for nature in people’s minds; hence, conserving nature and biodiversity.” This would be the first step, he added. On winning the 2019 Hackathon, he says “It was a watershed moment in my life. I felt that my vision for life has changed”.

Kyaw Zin Hted was one of the panelists for the virtual panel discussion on ““Linkages between biodiversity, environment, education, climate change and COVID19”, jointly hosted by UNDP, Wildlife Conservation Society Myanmar and Ooredoo Myanmar in commemoration of the 2020 World Environment Day. He talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the youth of Myanmar and the opportunity it provided. “ I see COVID-19 as an opportunity. Stay at home directives, social distancing measures and school closures have encouraged young people to go more and more online.” He plans to reach out to the youth through social media and get them to join the campaign to conserve nature. “The youth are always looking for a noble cause. We will encourage them to join us,” said Kyaw Zin Hted.

Photo: Innovation Hub

Kyaw Zin Hted intends to develop an application for the Sein Platform that can be downloaded freely in Google Play Store to mobile phones, making it more accessible. He has already approached the Forest Department which has agreed to provide various seedlings free of charge. And there is more: “We have plans to expand it into a social entrepreneurship and use innovative ways to solve community-based issues and challenges. To promote the campaign, we will reward participants’ action for nature activities with a point system. The acquired points can be rewarded with , say mobile phone top-up cards. We are talking with businesses like Ooredoo Myanmar to participate in our platform/ campaign. We will charge fees for managing their Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns. In this way, the platform will be sustained.”

Looking ahead, Kyaw Zin Hted is optimistic. He says, he foresees the youth taking a leading role in biodiversity conservation and in the fight against climate change. He said, “I appreciate UNDP and its partner organizations for giving the youth the opportunity to voice our ideas and thoughts. The Innovation Hub for SDGs gives us a wider network to develop and implement our ideas.” Referring to the Sein Platform, he added, “ It is the first step, small but easily manageable. We will start this way.”

The Innovation Hub for SDGs is a community space for youths and tech entrepreneurs to showcase innovative ideas to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through digital innovation. It is supported by UNDP and Ooredoo Myanmar.

The Hackathon is a special initiative of UNDP and Ooredoo Myanmar to promote and scale up digital innovation and entrepreneurship amongst the youth in Myanmar.

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