Tag Archives: apps4good

ICTs to reach & educate at-risk communities

Apps, social media, text messaging/SMS and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) are already playing a crucial role in educating people regarding public health issues, reaching marginalized communities and helping those that may be targets of harassment and discrimination. But in all of these tech4good initiatives, the importance of safety and security for those doing the outreach and those in the target audience is critical. People trying to promote a tech4good initiative do not want the technology to be used by hostile parties to identify, track and target people based on their health, lifestyle or beliefs.

For those interested in using ICTs to reach marginalized communities, or those interested in how to communicate vital information about topics that are frowned-upon in religiously conservative communities, the new publication Pioneering HIV services for and with men having sex with men in MENA: A case study about empowering and increasing access to quality HIV prevention, care and support to MSM in a hostile environment, is well worth your time to read. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded this project, and the 48-page publication was produced by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and co-authored by Tania Kisserli, Nathalie Likhite and Manuel Couffignal. The publication includes two pages on how ICTs help to reach hidden communities threatened by police raids and rising homophobia in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region – for instance, how applications such as Grindr that are frequently accessed by men having sex with men (MSM) in the MENA region and provide virtual venues for disseminating information on HIV prevention, treatment and support services.”

The publication includes two pages on how ICTs help to reach hidden communities threatened by police raids and rising homophobia in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region – for instance, how applications such as Grindr that are frequently accessed by men having sex with men (MSM) in the MENA region and provide virtual venues for disseminating information on HIV prevention, treatment and support services.”

This is from the report (note that this is with British spellings):

In 2015, the partners of the MENA programme implemented a pilot online peer outreach project to reach more MSM, in partnership with the South East Asian Foundation B-Change Technology.

In order to improve the understanding of the online habits and behaviours of MSM, two anonymous web surveys were launched online to collect information among MSM (living in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia), recruited via Facebook and instant messaging channels. The first survey assessed technology use and included questions about mobile devices and tech-based sexual networking. The second survey collected further data on social media behaviours, with questions about using social networks, interpersonal communications, and negative experiences online. The results confirmed the penetration of internet and mobile technologies in urban centres, and highlighted the widespread use by MSM of mainstream social networks (predominantly Facebook) and global gay dating apps, especially in the evening. The predominant website for sexual networking was reported to be Planet Romeo; the predominant smartphone app for sexual networking was Grindr. The results also revealed that while MSM use smartphone instant messaging (SMS and Whatsapp mainly) to communicate and chat with friends, they tend to use the telephone when communicating with health providers. Sexual networking among this cohort demonstrated a preference for web-based methods versus offline (public space) networking. A significant proportion of negative experiences using social media or apps was also reported, in particular cases of breach of confidentiality online.

Based on these findings, the partners designed a pilot information and communications technology (ICT)-based intervention. Experienced peer educators created avatars representing different profiles of beneficiaries, collectively designed an online peer outreach intervention and developed the corresponding standard operating procedures and M&E framework. This was identified as the most feasible output based on existing resources and ICT experience. Building the capacity of community groups for this intervention would result in more effective use of popular social media platforms for MSM-peer outreach activities. Local trainings of ‘online peer educators’ were organised to strengthen digital security, content creation systems, online outreach procedures, conduct of peer educators online, and M&E framework to measure the outcomes towards the HIV continuum of care.

The trained ‘online peer educators’ created ‘virtual peer educators’ accounts/profiles and contacted MSM though internet and social media in their respective countries, mainly on Facebook, Whatsapp, Grindr, Hornet, Planet Romeo, Badoo, Tango and Babel, and mostly during evening and night shifts. The objective was to contact MSM not reached by the usual outreach in public spaces, and hence continue expanding the package of prevention services available to MSM. They provided interpersonal communications on HIV and STIs, disseminated IEC materials online, encouraged them to take an HIV test and referred them to prevention services provided by the partner organisations, as well as public health services in their country.

This test phase lasted from July to September 2015 in Agadir, Beirut, Tunis and Sousse. The results were promising; during the month of September 2015, the six online peer educators of ASCS in Agadir for instance reached 546 MSM via chat rooms, websites, apps and instant messaging. They referred 148 MSM for an HIV test and 86 MSM for an STI consultation. During this period ASCS noticed an increase of number of MSM visiting the association to collect condoms and lubricant; ASCS peer educators appreciated this new type of outreach work compared to street outreach, the latter being uneasy due to growing harassment of police. Some challenges that peer educators faced online were similar to ‘traditional’ or face-to-face outreach work: high interest in sexual health, initially reluctance to visit association or uptake services, or to change risk behaviour.

“The virtual prevention pilot project has allowed us to reach a significant number of MSM, in particular those who remain hidden and aren’t reached through our outreach activities in the streets.” — peer educator and university student in Morocco

Some of the lessons learned from this pilot project:

  • Overall high acceptability: many MSM are eager to engage in an online conversation about HIV and STI prevention, rights and services; virtual spaces are perceived as safe to talk freely about sexual practices with no face-to-face bias; however, a significant proportion of MSM contacted online refused any discussion relating to sexual health and HIV.
  • Strong operational procedures and human resource capacity are required to maintain a high quality ICT tool that maintains privacy and confidentiality; consequently, organisational ICT capacity needs to be assessed and strengthened before initiating an online prevention project.
  • Monitoring and evaluation challenges: it is not easy to measure service use or user engagement online or to clearly show the link between use of ICT and uptake of services; monitoring of referral pathways between outreach CSOs and friendly providers needs to be aligned to track referral from virtual spaces to services.

One thing I do wonder: were any of these people involve volunteers?

Also see:

Tech & communications jargon versus reality

The Guardian, a media organization based in the UK, has a wonderful online program called the Global Professionals Network, “a space for NGOs, aid workers and development professionals to share knowledge and expertise”. They also have an occasional feature called “The Secret Aidworker,” a column written by anonymous aid workers, talking about the not-so-great parts of humanitarian work.

The most recent blog is an aid worker talking about the “dark side” of humanitarian / development communications. Like me, she trained as a journalist, and it affects both her approach and her ethics regarding public relations and marketing. I was so struck by these two paragraphs from her blog:

The international community is too focused on using gimmicks in outreach campaigns rather than considering who their audience is and what they want. I was recently asked to design an outreach campaign to educate the local community we work in about the work we do. So keeping in mind the low literacy rate of our audience and the limited access they have to online and print media, I designed a communications campaign accordingly. However, that was considered old and outdated.

For my organisation, the use of new technology such as apps and social media held priority over the local regional media, even though I explained much of these were inaccessible to the people we were trying to reach. Too often people think that if a country has access to the internet and mobile phones, every one has access. They don’t consider the cost of mobile data, the literacy rate, or if the locals would even use their devices the same way as in the US and Europe.

Oh, I SO hear this! Not just in humanitarian work, but in all communications work for nonprofits, governments and other mission-based organizations, anywhere. I hear from nonprofits wanting to explore using SnapChat that haven’t updated their web site in months.They want to host a hackathon to develop an app while their manager of volunteers is refused money for posters for a volunteer recruitment campaign. They want to know the best engagement analytics software to purchase while their online community is quiet for weeks, with no staff posting questions, no volunteers sharing information, etc. They want a crowdsourced fundraising campaign but haven’t sent thank you’s to donors this year. They want a viral online marketing campaign to promote something but balk at the idea of a staff person visiting area communities of faith and civic clubs to build personal relationships with local people, especially groups that represent minorities that are under-represented within the organization’s volunteer, client and donor base.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have long been a promoter and advocate of ICT4D. I wrote one of the first papers – back in 2001 – about handheld devices, what were then called PDAs (personal digital assistants), in health and human services, citizens’ reporting, advocacy, etc. I am a pioneer regarding virtual volunteering. I use, and advise on the use of, social media to promote a variety of information and network with others. I regularly post to TechSoup’s Public Computing, ICT4D, and Tech4Good community forum branch about apps4good – smart phone applications meant to educate people about maternal health, help women leave abusive relationships, connect people with emergency housing and more. So I certainly cannot be accused of being a Luddite. But with all that said, I also still see the value of, and know how to leverage, printed flyers, printed posters, paper newsletters, lawn signs, newspaper ads, radio ads, radio interviews, TV interviews, TV ads, onsite speaking engagements, display tables, display booths and other “old fashioned” ways of communicating.

This aid workers blog reminds me of the early days of the World Wide Web, when I would hear an executive director of a nonprofit or the director of a government program talk about how great the agency’s new web site was, but as they talked, I realized they’d never looked at it themselves, and weren’t really fully aware of what the Internet was.

wizardToo many senior staff are bedazzled by buzzwords and jargon they’ve heard from consultants, giving their employees orders to do something based only on what they think is “hip” now. I am just as frustrated by organizations that overly-focus on the latest social media fads for communications as I am by organizations that ignore all things Internet and smart phone-related.

What should you do if you face this in the work place? Use small words and lots of data with your senior staff, and stay tenacious. Remember that a list of potential expenses and budgets for time can make a case for you to do a comprehensive, realistic communications plan. And be explicit and detailed on how your communications efforts will be evaluated for effectiveness.

My other blogs that relate to this:

Snapchat’s Potential Power for Social Good – with REAL examples

snapchatThe vast majority of nonprofits, NGOs and community-minded government programs do not have the staff nor the expertise to use every social media tool out there, or even most of the most-popular tools, especially with so many funders refusing to fund “overhead.” That means these mission-based programs are often late adopters when it comes to social media tools – it’s a wait-and-see-if-this-will-stick-around attitude.

During workshops I’ve lead in the last 12 months, I have been getting asked a lot about SnapChat. If you don’t know, SnapChat is a phone-based app that uses photos or videos, with text, to create its messages to an account’s subscribers; you have a fleeting moment to captivate your audience, because 10 seconds after a user opens the message, it disappears. Nonprofits, government agencies and other mission-based folks have asked me if I think it’s worth their time to use to get a message out. My answer is always, “it depends.” IMO, it depends on if you have a program about which you really, really want and need to reach tech-savvy young people. But to work, the messages have to be specifically targeted to that audience and platform (just 12% of SnapChats millions of users in the U.S. are 35 to 54, though they company says that demographic is growing). In other words, you can’t just repurpose what you’re posting to Facebook or Twitter.

Starting in 2013, every few months, there’s an article touting the possibilities of Snapchat for nonprofits – the latest is this article on Snapchat’s “Power for Social Good”. IMO, most of the articles, even this latest one, are just hype – yes, I’m sure everyone is talking about SnapChat at the big Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this year. Yes, 90% of Snapchat followers are now consuming the content, but that was a similar number for Facebook or Twitter in the early days – it will plummet as more people use it, as more PARENTS use it, as people subscribe to more and more users, etc.

Still, given that Snapchat isn’t yet saturated with advertising (the company is still working on an ad model), and that it has an excellent viewer rate (around 90% of messages are viewed by subscribers), and that millions of young people are using it, the platform has promise, at least this year, and maybe for another year or two, as an effective outreach tool for people under 35 in particular.

Most articles about Snapchat use by mission-based entities are about its potential, not about how it’s actually being used by nonprofit, NGOs, government agencies, schools, etc. So, let’s look at three REAL examples of mission-based organizations doing something with SnapChat that made it worth their time (and note, these actual examples were REALLY hard to find):

Tenovus, a Welsh charity helping people with cancer, used Snapchat to generate media coverage for Volunteers’ Week in the UK. The charity teamed up with WalesOnline and asked supporters to take a #selflessie – a selfie of them doing something selfless – and send it to the charity and WalesOnline via Snapchat. The response was, apparently, excellent – but it would be interesting to know how many of these young people had perceptions changed about cancer, how many became volunteers for the cause, etc.

DoSomething.org is one of the largest nonprofits for teens and young adults in the USA, connecting 13-to-25 year olds to a wide variety of social causes and ideas of how to get involved. SnapChat users fall almost exactly within that age demographic. So, for instance, the organization ran a campaign in February called Love Letters, to encourage young people to make Valentine’s Day cards for homebound seniors, and to create excitement for the campaign, a staff member dressed up as Cupid and made a Snapchat story, using a series of photos with text, explaining that he was going to go out onto the streets of New York City and deliver Valentine’s Day cards, and he encouraged SnapChat followers to vote via text if he should deliver the cards by bike, ice skates or on foot in Central Park. The idea was that, if young people laughed at the photos and voted, they were more likely to make cards for seniors – though there’s no data on how many actually did so.

Save the Children has been using SnapChat since 2015. According to a thread I found on Facebook, “We have found we are getting HUGE engagement vs. other platforms (50% of our audience viewing our stories). We’ve used it for events like UNGA and our Gala, but find the best stories are those from the field where we are showing the children and families helped by our programs.” Save the Children exported their messages for their SnapChat photos that created a story about live in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp for Syrian refugees, so the messages wouldn’t disappear, and you can see this SnapChat campaign via Facebook. Unknown: were minds changed about refugees? Was there an increase in donations from young people because of this Snapchat use?

I still say “it depends” on whether or not a nonprofit should use Snapchat, but I will say that every nonprofit should be encouraging volunteers to use their social media channels, including Snapchat, if they are on it, to talk about and/or send pictures of themselves in action supporting a non-profit’s mission, like preparing food, cleaning up a trail, sitting at their computer while engaged in virtual volunteering, etc. But the organization needs to provide repeated guidance on this: volunteers need to always adhere to your organization’s social media policies regarding sharing photos online, they need to provide info on how their friends could also participate or get more information, etc.

A great way to involve young volunteers might be to invite them onsite to talk about how the nonprofit  might use Snapchat to promote a specific message, and how those young people could actually undertake the activities for this to happen; this isn’t so that the nonprofit doesn’t have to get paid staff to do it but, rather, because these volunteers actually might be the best people to lead this activity, better than paid staff, because the organization can involve young people in a very memorable way and in a leadership capacity, and in a way that might become a story in-and-of-itself for the media. Just be sure that screen-capturing is a part of the campaign, so you can preserve and review messages long after those messages disappear on Snapchat!

Even if SnapChat loses its shine in a year or two, your use of it won’t be time wasted; we live in an era where we must be much more nimble in crafting our messages for different online platforms. What you learn using SnapChat is going to help you use whatever takes its place as the shiny new popular kid in a year or two.

Update March 25: justgiving.com has an article called 7 charities that totally get Snapchat (no publication date given) and it highlights Do Something Snapchat activities (see above), as well as:

The organization Penny Appeal and World Champion Boxer Amir Khan’s Snapchat story of welcoming Syrian refugees as they landed on the Greek island of Lesbos, to create awareness about their plight.

Young Enterprise NI in the U.K., which uses Snapchat to provide young people with “bite-size” business tips and advice.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution, also in the U.K., which uses it to “have conversations with our supporters… to raise awareness of our lifesaving work.” The RNLI has used it to organize competitions, share coastal safety advice and tell stories of their volunteer lifeboat crew.

MuslimAid, a charity in the U.K. that says it uses it “as a key volunteer recruitment tool and as a hassle-free way of bringing their events to life.”

Brazilian environmental NGO OndAzul, which shared 10 second Nature Snapfacts with their followers. “Teens who opened their Snap would catch a fleeting glimpse of natural beauty being destroyed by man made hazards.”

The Danish branch of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) used Snapchat to emphasize the speed at which endangered species disappear. Each ad featured one of five endangered animals with the tagline ‘Don’t let this be my #LastSelfie’.

Update April 5: Beth Kanter has a new blog that adds a few more examples and links to some tutorials.

vvbooklittleI’ve read a lot about SnapChat, and the suggested practices talked about in the aforementioned case studies yet again confirms what Susan Ellis and I promote in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. Tools come and go, but certain community engagement principles never change, and our book can be used with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference.

Mobile Phones & Public Health – online course, March 28-April 22

Reminder: use the code “liberation” to get $295 course price.

TC309: mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health

March 28th-April 22nd 2016
 
Course Description

In 2016, the number of global mobile subscriptions will reach 8.5 billion — more than the number of people on this earth, and it took a little more than 20 years for that to happen. Yet at the same time, health systems around the world are struggling to:

  • Provide access to affordable healthcare for all
  • Treat infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis
  • Address crippling maternal and child mortality rates in low-income countries
  • Manage non-communicable diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Diabetes
  • Tackle infrastructure and supply chain challenges in remote settings
  • Train frontline health workers to provide care to vulnerable populations

Increasingly, Ministries of Health, companies, NGOs, and various bilateral and multilateral donors are looking to mobile phones as part of a solution for responding to these challenges.

This four-week, online certificate course will focus on building mHealth skills that revolutionize approaches to patient care and management, point-of-care support, health education, remote monitoring, diagnostics, supply chain management & logistics and more.

A growing number of mHealth projects have been implemented across the world from Guatemala to Uganda, from India to Argentina – we will explore what has worked and what could be improved with each example, and invite participants to share their own experiences in managing ongoing projects.

Apply Now: https://www.techchange.org/online-courses/mhealth-mobile-phones-for-public-health/

Course Topics and Featured Tech
Week 1: Introduction to Mobile Phones for Public Health
Week 2: Strengthening Health Systems
Week 3: Citizen-Centered Health
Week 4: The Future of mHealth

Course Objectives

At the conclusion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • critically analyze both the opportunities and the pitfalls that emerge when working with mobile technology to improve public health outcomes
  • connect relevant development theories to the technological strategies and tools discussed in the course
  • manage specific mHealth software platforms and tools
  • design dynamic and effective strategies for using tools and platforms to improve mHealth efforts
  • become more confident using mobile technology to address public health challenges

Course Methodology

  • This course is delivered entirely online over a period of four weeks.
  • This course features several live interactive guest expert sessions each week with leading practitioners, software developers, academics, and donors.
  • Every live event is recorded and archived for you to watch later.
  • This course also features a unique hands-on learning environment with animated videos, technology demos, practical activities, networking events, office hours, participant presentations, immersive simulations, and more.
  • TechChange recommends budgeting a minimum commitment of 5-7 hours per week and scheduling time for the course around your existing obligations.
  • Participants will have access to all course content for at least 4 months after course completion so the material can be completed and revisited later.

Course Price

  • $295 if you use the discount code: “liberation”
  • $495 if application and payment is submitted by course start date
  • Group discount rates available. For more details, please contact us social@techchange.org.

Firsts… or almost

logoI didn’t invent virtual volunteering. I started involving online volunteers in 1995, and did a workshop that same year about it for what was then the Nonprofit Center of San Francisco (now Compasspoint), but I didn’t know it was called virtual volunteering, a term coined by Steve Glikbarg at what was then Impact Online (now VolunteerMatch), until more than a year later. I know, and frequently remind people, that online volunteers have been providing services to various causes since the Internet was invented, long before I got online in the 90s. But I was the first to try to identify elements of successful engagement of online volunteers, via the Virtual Volunteering Project, I think I was the first to do a workshop on the subject, even if I didn’t call it that, and I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t write the first paper on using handheld computer tech as a part of humanitarian, environmental or advocacy efforts – I wrote the second. At least I think it was second. It was published in October 2001 as a series of web pages when I worked at the UN, at a time when handheld tech was called personal digital assistants, or PDAs. People are shocked that the predecessor to the smartphone and cellphone was used to help address a variety of community, environmental and social issues before the turn of the century, that apps4good isn’t all that novel of an idea.

And I probably didn’t write the first papers on fan-based communities that come together because of a love of a particular movie, TV show, comic, actor, book or genre and, amid their socializing, also engage in volunteering. Those kinds of communities played a huge role in my learning how to communicate online with various age groups and people of very different backgrounds, which in turn greatly influenced how I worked with online volunteers. In fact, I can still see some influences of that experience in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. But I stopped researching them in 1999. So I was quite thrilled to recently to find this paper, “The media festival volunteer: Connecting online and on-ground fan labor,” in my research to update a page on the Virtual Volunteering wiki that tracks research that’s been done regarding virtual volunteering. It’s a 2014 paper by Robert Moses Peaslee, Jessica El-Khoury, and Ashley Liles, and uses data gathered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, in September 2012. It is published on Transformative Works and Cultures, an online journal launched in 2009 that looks at various aspects of fan fiction (fan-created fiction inspired by their favorite movies, TV shows and books), comic book fandom, movie fandom, video game fandom, comic and fan conventions, and more.

It’s nice being a pioneer… though I don’t think my early contributions are much to brag about. But I do enjoy seeing things I thought were interesting back in the 90s finally getting the attention they deserve.

Also see

Early History of Nonprofits & the Internet.

Apps4Good movement is more than 15 years old

vvbooklittleThe Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, a book decades in the making, by Susan J. Ellis and myself. Tools come and go, but certain community engagement principles never change, and our book can be used with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference.

Fewer Pilots, More Scale: Making Digital Development Work

Back in September 2014, I starting whining about the lack of anything sustainable coming from most of the hackathons / hacks4good / apps4good I was seeing popping up all over in support of nonprofit organizations, government initiatives and various communities, in the USA and abroad. My whining culminated in this blog, where are the evaluations of hacksforgood / appsforgood?

I’m so pleased to see this outstanding blog (IMO) by Ann Mei Chang, Executive Director at U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID, which says, in part:

“despite the potential impact, distorted incentives encourage one-off, flashy pilots (many sourced through hackathons, contests, and PR opportunities), undermining the potential for sustainable and scalable digital solutions. In fact, the proliferation of duplicative and uncoordinated mobile health applications caused an overwhelmed Uganda Ministry of Health to call a moratorium on further efforts in 2012, to ensure a focus on interoperable and sustainable systems… (in developing countries, there is) a lack of relevant platforms and infrastructure (that) means that developers end up spending the vast majority of their time rebuilding similar components from scratch, ending up with less time and money to truly innovate. Too much time and effort is wasted on duplicative work like beneficiary registration and tracking, negotiating and integrating with mobile operators, and promotion and distribution. The result is one-off systems that are fragile, unintegrated, not designed to scale, and unsustainable.

“This cannot continue. The development community needs to invest in reusable systems and the collaboration necessary to build and use these systems. This will mean smarter solutions designed for scale and sustainability.”

Right on, Ann Mei Chang & USAID!

In addition, Ben Ramalingam’s recent Institute of Development Studies blog points out that responsible digital development must also consider the risks of unintended consequences, exaggerating existing inequities, security, and repression.

USAID helped draft the Principles for Digital Development, a set of best practices for building technology-enabled programs, starting with the user. The Principles have been endorsed by over 50 development organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Sida, UNICEF, WFP, and USAID. In February, USAID launched a report based on conversations with donors, implementing partners, and development practitioners to better understand how the Principles work in real-world contexts and how we can best integrate them into our organizations.

Also see:

 

UNICEF invites orgs to apply for funding for tech innovations to help children

global_logo_2013UNICEF is inviting technology organizations developing tech solutions with the potential to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children to apply for funding from its recently launched Innovation Fund.

UNICEF Innovation Fund plans to invest in open source technologies by increasing children’s access to information, opportunity and choice. UNICEF identifies opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups. They are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.

The fund focuses its investments on three portfolio areas:

  • Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation;
  • Real-time information for decision-making; and
  • Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport.

The projects must be open source and have a working prototype. They can involve developing a new technology, or expanding or improve upon a preexisting technology.

Key Dates

  • 1 February 2016: Launch of global Requests for Expressions of Interest
  • 26 February 2016: Closing date of the Requests for Expressions of Interest
  • Early-March 2016: Selected companies and institutions will be contacted and will receive a Request for Proposal
  • Mid-March 2016: Virtual or in-person pre-tender briefings with selected companies and institutions will be held
  • End-March 2016: Full technical and financial proposals are due from selected companies and institutions
  • Early-April: Contracts will be awarded to selected companies and institutions

More information about the challenge and how to submit an idea.

For more information about UNICEF’s work in innovation, visit: www.unicef.org/innovation and www.unicefstories.org

Follow on Twitter: @UNICEFinnovate

Also see this TechSoup thread about UNICEF’s Wearables for Good Challenge 

 

Using a Cell Phone or Feature Phone as a Smart Phone

Millions still use a cell phone or feature phone, not a smart phone. For them, text messaging remains powerful, even essential.

I just updated this list of tips for Using a Cell Phone or Feature Phone as a Smart Phone. You might be surprised on just how much people all over the world – and right here in the USA – are doing with a cell phone!

More resources would be welcomed.

Apps4Good movement is more than 15 years old

Back in 2001, while working on the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), launched by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and hosted by the United Nations Volunteers programme (part of UNDP), I wrote a paper on Handheld computer technologies in community service/volunteering/advocacy. It’s a compilation of examples of volunteers, citizens, grass roots activists and others using handheld computers – what then were called personal digital assistants (PDAs) –  or mobile phones as part of community service, volunteering and or advocacy. I found examples from health and human services, from environmental science, from citizen reporting initiatives and from activists. My favorite example was a project where software was developed for PDAs that allowed illiterate trackers in Africa to record wildlife observations by selecting icons from a set of pictures that depict various species and animal behaviors.

That was 14 years ago, before the term apps4good came into vogue, and some of these initiatives were already more than a year old then – that means apps4good, using mobile phones for good, is a movement that’s more than 15 years old. Some of the initiatives I wrote about are still in existence. Some have long ago ended – but similar initiatives, and much more advanced ones, have popped up since. For instance, there’s the Smart Health App, which focuses on providing accurate baseline information resource on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and is currently available in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Ghana, and Senegal. Or mPedigree, a phone app which allows pharmaceutical retailers and users to verify the authenticity of a drug; this is done by text-messaging a unique code found on the product to a universal number.

My point is this: humanitarian aid workers and people working for nonprofits and NGOs anywhere, including volunteers, are using such tools in ways beyond just fundraising. Here are articles with more recent examples:

role of networked mobile technologies in improving sanitation

From a report on the role of networked mobile technologies in improving sanitation:

More than mobile phone ownership, the level of sophistication of mobile services in many countries, such as mobile money, mobile internet and machine-to-machine connectivity, starkly contrasts with the status of sanitation services. For example in Kenya, where access to sanitation is reported at 30%,10 people are more likely to conduct financial transactions through their mobile money account (59% of the adult population use mobile money) and browse the internet on their mobile phone (up to 40% of the population), rather than benefit from the dignity, privacy and convenience of a well-maintained toilet.

This year, with the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals aiming to set targets for the next 15 years, there is no doubt mobile devices, technologies and services have a role to play to support bridging the current infrastructure divide.

The GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities (M4D Utilities) programme sees an important opportunity for mobile ecosystems to help solve some of the sanitation access challenges in emerging markets, including data collection, monitoring, operation and maintenance, financing. Adding to our ongoing work in the energy and water sectors, this new report aims to outline how mobile channels can support sanitation service delivery while building new engagement models with customers in underserved settings.11 Unlike the energy sector where mobile tools are increasingly integrated12 in decentralized solutions, mobile in the sanitation sector is at an early stage of development. What is needed to better understand the role and impact of mobile in this sector, is a collaborative approach to mobile technology integration, grant support for developing and piloting such innovative solutions and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the impact of these innovations in the service delivery.

To be more blunt: convincing communities of the benefits of using toilets and of the health risks of open defecation are first, critical steps in implementing successful and sustainable sanitation services, something in which the world vitally, critically needs. This kind of convincing is done through involving communities in the design, operation and monitoring of sanitation services, and messaging that forces them to recognize that open defecation and similar unsanitary practices causes sickness and disease. Such convincing needs to be done through a variety of measures, and these activities can be supported by text messaging, social media, even ring tones.

This report is from the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, created in 2007 and bringing together mobile operators, donors and the international development community in demonstrating the positive social impact of mobile technology. The foundation has a board of directors “independent ” of the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM/GSMA), an industry group representing “the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The GSMA Foundation provides resources and support to GSMA programmes in the vital areas of healthcare, agriculture, finance, digital identity, utilities and the inclusion of women and girls in the digital economy.

(a little late for #worldtoiletday, I know – sorry)