The University Consortium for Evidence Based Approach (EBA) to the Emergent Issues in Asia--known as the EBA Consortium--is a collaborative initiative between Keio and seven of ASEAN's top universities to provide talented students with the ability to identify and tackle new issues emerging in Asia. Selected for the Japanese government's "Re-inventing Japan Project" in 2012, the consortium's program adopts a combination of remote learning and practical fieldwork projects allowing students at each of the member universities to equip themselves with skills in Information Technology and social development as well as specialist knowledge in areas such as disaster and security, health, energy, and environment.
As the program enters its second year, Keio Global spoke to faculty members and students from Keio and other consortium universities to find out more about this unique alliance and its work so far.
Professor Jun Murai
Dean, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
The program's core concept of adopting an "evidence-based approach" was originally inspired by evidence-based medicine, the practice of accumulating and applying extensive medical research findings and integrating it with clinical expertise to find the best means of treatment. Professor Jun Murai, one of the key faculty members involved in EBA, explains the significance of adopting this approach: "we are now living in the information society and the age of Big Data, and it is important to be able to easily access and work with all the available data, be it from academic institutions, industry, or any other sector. We need to ensure that students are equipped with the skills they need to seek out and analyze this data and use it to devise new solutions to new issues that arise."
In order to provide students with a wide range of skills and knowledge, the eight consortium members create a diverse program drawing on the strengths and expertise of each university. Professor Murai emphasizes the active participation of each of the members: "The consortium is an autonomous network of universities and each of the universities has its own role in devising the program. This structure is not easy in practice, but I believe it is really important that we all participate on an equal footing."
Professor Shinnosuke Obi
Graduate School of Science and Technology
While the program works across geographical borders, it also allows for integration among academic disciplines. Professor Shinnosuke Obi of the Graduate School of Science and Technology touches on this characteristic of the program: "Here at Keio, Faculties and graduate school at Shonan Fujisawa Campus(SFC) and Graduate School of Media Design(KMD) play central roles in the project, but the Graduate School of Science and Technology also takes a very active role. Before EBA, these faculties and graduate schools were already involved in collaborative initiatives with institutions in ASEAN countries, such as School On Internet Asia Project(SOI Asia Project) at SFC and the Graduate School of Science and Technology's role in the AUN/SEED-Net , an ASEAN regional project of JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency. Forming the EBA consortium was a significant opportunity to build on the fact that we share these common networks and to recognize that the issues we are tackling cannot be solved by applying one single academic discipline. We need to work together across both geographical and disciplinary borders."
Professor Keiko Okawa
Graduate School of Media Design (KMD)
"Each university in the consortium is a top university in its own right, but the program offers students an education they cannot receive in their home university alone," says Professor Keiko Okawa, who plays a key role in facilitating the program as coordinator at Keio. She notes the positive progress of the program this year: "Students worked really hard through a combination of video and realtime sessions and produced a great final project."
At the same time, the practical fieldwork opportunities so far have allowed students to work together and inspire each other firsthand. "Students can open up their eyes to the world and change their perspective. As they travel and interact back and forth across Asia, hopefully the students will see that they are free to work across Asia," adds Professor Okawa.
Professor Hasanuddin Z. Abidin
Institut Teknologi Bandung
Professor Abdullah Zawaji Hj. Talib
School of Computer Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
The consortium brings Keio together with seven of ASEAN's top universities: Chulalongkorn University, Thailand; Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Vietnam; Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia; National University of Singapore, Singapore; Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia; University of Malaya, Malaysia; University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines.
Prof. Abidin, from Institut Teknologi Bandung, emphasizes the importance of international diversity: "At ITB we push the students to have an international experience--we encourage them to go abroad, experience different cultures and learn to appreciate them."
Prof. Abdullah Zawaji Hj. Talib from Universiti Sains Malaysia, notes the shared goals reflected in the consortium's central concepts: "the aim of EBA is to promote resilience, innovation, and sustainability, and this is very much in line with our university vision of sustainable development."
In order to fully equip students with the ability to tackle Asia's emerging issues, classes are offered both in basic skills--including governance, social innovation and advanced IT--and specialized areas such as energy and environment, health environment, and disaster and security. Building on Keio's more than ten years of experience with online learning environments through the SOI Asia Project, classes are offered through a remote learning environment allowing students to study together and experience a diverse curriculum while at their respective universities. This is reinforced through practical courses, including internships, short- and long-term fieldwork, and exchange programs, which encourage students to put what they have learned into practice.
The first of the EBA fieldwork projects, the Minamata fieldwork program, was held in August 2013. This project brought together a group of 9 Keio students and 14 ASEAN students from EBA Consortium universities to look at the issues surrounding Minamata disease, which was caused by mercury pollution from a chemical factory and affected the city of Minamata, Kyushu, in the 1950s. Fieldwork participants attended an orientation session held at Mita Campus to get to know each other and take a tour of the campus, before visiting Minamata, where they gained an overview of the issue from specialists, and visited the work places of the victims and other related facilities to see and hear evidence from local residents.
The Minamata Fieldwork August 2013.
From left: meeting with members of the community; visiting the Minamata Disease Resource Museum; making bookmarks with patients at Hotto house; receiving a talk from Dr. Masatake Fujimura of National Institute for Minamata Disease on the mechanisms of Minamata disease
Professor Keisuke Uehara
Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
Professor Keisuke Uehara described the benefits of the fieldwork: "Although the problems surrounding Minamata disease are relatively well known, few people realize the depth to which it affected the community. While those affected were initially united by their shared experience, the lawsuits that were meant to help the afflicted also led to division within the community. Deep rifts formed in the community and the challenge is to bring the community back together. You can't really appreciate those issues unless you actually go there and talk directly with the local people; this means talking to a range of different groups--local business, local people, and local government--and then reflecting on what you discovered. Our fieldwork is not simply about trying to find solutions to stop such problems but also about investigating in depth what kind of costs arise."
This year three fieldwork projects in Japan are now in the planning stages--a second fieldwork trip to Minamata, an expedition to observe conservation issues in Fujiyoshida-shi, part of the recently designated World Heritage Site, and an visit to the areas affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. There will also be a number of other fieldwork trips held in the other countries represented in the consortium, such as fieldwork to research disaster prevention activities after 2004 and 2006 earthquakes in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (temporally canceled because of volcanic eruption in East Jakarta, February 2014.)
Internships are also offered as opportunities for students to gain practical experience both in other member universities and in industry. Students Salah Salem from Universiti Sains Malaysia and Dita Oktaria from Universitas Brawijaya are currently taking part in an internship in Japan, including two four week sessions at SFC and one four week session at Yamaha Corporation in Shizuoka prefecture. They shared their thoughts on the internship and the EBA program.
Undergraduate, Faculty of Computer Science
Doctoral program, School of Computer Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Salah "I am researching database security. I thought it would benefit my research in terms of the globalization of the data and how we can deal with it in terms of protecting privacy. I think this experience might help me put my research in a context that will help me to finalize it. Then I will become involved in this through SOI Asia Project--at my university. I have learned during this last four weeks on how we deal with distance education; there are pros but also some cons that we have to work on improving in the future."
Dita "My focus is in multi-media networking--I am a SOI operator in my home university--so I was glad for the opportunity to come and focus on that here at Keio. I love the system we are creating at the Wasabi web development workshop so I am going to make it my final project at my home university. On the non-technical side, I have experienced a lot of Japanese culture; for instance, things here are so orderly. I hope people in Indonesia can adopt the positive elements of Japanese culture."
The EBA courses are designed and offered by all EBA member universities and will be offered as open education resources in cyberspace, available to all students from member universities.
For more information on courses, please visit:
Open seminars are open online meetings held monthly to share information about the consortium and its projects, including up-to-date research and details of upcoming courses and fieldwork projects.
For more information and a schedule of upcoming seminars, please visit:
For more information about the consortium: