ASTANA – The Ozim (Myself) platform is a mobile application providing information and methodological support to parents of children with special needs, including video instructions from qualified Kazakh experts and rehabilitation techniques that parents can use at home. Assem Tazhiyeva, the platform’s founder, spoke to The Astana Times about the creation of the socially significant project, its mission and plans.
The application offers parents access to international studies on early intervention in Kazakh and Russian languages, enables discussions with other parents on forums, and gives a contact list of the country’s rehabilitation centers. The application recently included materials on the early development of children, allowing any parent to find useful information on the app.
Personal experience and the idea
Tazhiyeva developed a deep interest in inclusive education during a volunteering project at Nazarbayev University (NU) that explored families with children with special needs.
“That project transformed me. I’ve known about mothers who are struggling every day,” she said.
Upon graduating from the university, she participated in a joint research project of the Dara charity fund and NU Graduate School of Education on inclusive education development.
During that period, Tazhiyeva gave birth to a third child and personally experienced what parents of children with special needs face.
“I myself knew about the problems like visiting numerous doctors, not understanding what’s happening to the child’s health, searching for information, and facing anxiety,” said Tazhiyeva.
She realized there was no unified source of reliable information about treatment and doctors for such parents and decided to create the platform.
Tazhiyeva gathered a team and sent an application for the social projects competition at NU, where the team won a grant for 10 million tenge ($22,000). The product was then launched in November 2021.
According to Tazhiyeva, they received positive feedback from parents.
“Our mission is to provide access to reliable information from experts. We want to unite experts in the field of early childhood development and parents,” she said.
Social work and collaboration with the United Nations
She also noted that the Ozim platform is not only an application but also a public fund that conducts research in the field of children’s development and participates in social work in this direction.
The team currently explores how the socioeconomic status of the family impacts access to childhood development and intervention with the support of the Central Asian Research Centre for Education Innovation and Transformation (CARCEIT). Preliminary conclusions indicate that early childhood development is the most effective to minimize or prevent disability.
The platform works closely with the UN. They concluded an agreement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to receive financing from the organization.
“I am a member of an inter-agency working group initiated by UNICEF,” Tazhiyeva said.
Vision for the future
The app recently introduced an assessment test to evaluate a child’s development. According to Tazhiyeva, the test will enable parents to take measures on time.
The founder shared plans to expand the app to other Central Asian markets.
“We are working on getting the status of [digital public good (DPG)] owner, which can facilitate simplified access to the other countries,” said Tazhiyeva.
The Ozim platform is one of the first Kazakh IT products nominated by UNICEF for the status of DPG owner.
After the nomination, the IT product undergoes a technical review against the DPG Standard, a baseline of nine indicators.
Upon review and approval, it gets added to the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) registry and becomes a DPG owner. They get access to resources, opportunities, and activities of the DPGA ecosystem, which enables them to scale up their business outside of the home country.