Tag Archives: tech4impact

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.

Wearables for Good Challenge by UNICEF

The Apple Watch, the Fitbit, Google Glass and many other wearable tech are luxuries for tech-savvy consumers. But could wearable tech be used for diagnosing deadly diseases, monitoring pregnant mothers’ health, tracking air quality, alerting people with “push notifications” or warning of an earthquake’s early vibrations?

UNICEF, in partnership with the microprocessor company ARM and the design firm Frog, is hosting the Wearables for Good Challenge. Blair Palmer, innovation lab lead at UNICEF, says in this summary story from DevEx that UNICEF’s interest in convening the challenge is to “ask these questions and provoke the industry and people to think differently on a global level and not just have these things come out of Silicon Valley. The wearables challenge seeks applications that can provide low-power, unintrusive, highly durable solutions in low-income settings, and many sensor technologies fit that bill. Close to 1 billion more people are expected to come online by 2017, and UNICEF is taking note, Palmer said.

The challenge is now closed to applications. The challenge has garnered 250 submissions from 46 countries across 6 continents, with nearly 2000 registrations from 65 countries. 10 finalists have been selected. Each finalist will then be assigned to work with 1-2 coaches during 2 calendar weeks (10-28 September). Coaches will provide feedback to finalists in order to help hone their ideas for final submission. The challenge partners will award $15,000 to two winning proposals for wearable and sensor products with social impact potential. The winners will be announced by November 2015.

A summary of the finalists:

Communic-AID: A wearable device that facilitates record keeping, aids in the tracking of medications that have been distributed in a post-disaster context and allows the patient to take part in their treatment.

Droplet: a wearable water purification device in the form of a bracelet, to make safe drinking water available to everyone

GuardBand: a system that helps protect children from abuse and observes their health.

Khushi Baby: a wearable platform to bridge the world’s immunization gap is a system for tracking vaccination and mobilization in the last mile.

Raksh: named after the Sanskrit word “safeguard,” this is a low cost (25$) bluetooth-based, ear-worn multi-parameter monitoring platform.

SoaPen: a wearable and portable soap re-designed to encourage hand washing amongst young children to reduce the risk of catching and spreading disease thereby increasing their lifespan.

teleScrypts: seeks to solve the challenge of providing health care workers with advanced healthcare technology in low resource communities at a low cost.

TermoTell: a real time temperature monitor and alert system, designed to save the lives of children under five at risk of Malaria.

Totem Open Health: an open platform and ecosystem for wearable health technology, including: sensors, data collection, storage, sharing, analysis and algorithmic interpretation.

WAAA!: Wearable, Anytime, Anywhere, Apgar is a mobile phone, text-based surveillance service that systematically transmits live APGAR data via soft patch sensors located on a newborn baby.

Follow #WEARABLESFORGOOD and @UNICEFinnovate on Twitter for updates about this and other similar campaigns.

UNHCR mobile phone usage in refugee situations – pilot project

SMS as a tool for humanitarian aid is becoming an increasingly common tool, and you can find several examples of this highlighted on the TechSoup Public Computing, ICT4D, and Tech4Good forum branch – most posted by me, because I’m oh-so-interested in this subject.

UNHCR Innovation recently piloted an SMS system in two UNHCR operations: Esmeraldas, Ecuador and San José, Costa Rica. There is an online article highlight its experiences piloting FrontlineButt in San José, Costa Rica and lessons learned. The project, named Ascend, began as a collaboration between Stanford University and UNHCR Innovation.

The goals for this particular pilot were:

  1. How do we best utilize SMS to connect with refugees residing in an urban area?
  2. How do we embed a new tool like SMS in organizations to be sustainable, even after the pilot is over?
  3. What types of utilities does an SMS application need to appropriately handle the requirements of UNHCR and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff?

A few key takeaways were observed: one, the need for message classification to handle a large number of inbound SMS (think Gmail classifying messages as priority or not priority); two, the ability to have a feature rich application to conduct polls and surveys via SMS; three, a focus on visualizing the data received and report generation in order to convey effectiveness to potential donors.

Before the implementation of the project, project organizers sat down with four refugees to get feedback to help with this project. The interviews are available here. In short, some key takeaways were:

  • Phone presence – most of the interviewees had mobile phones and used them, though some only used them for family matters. The majority cited mobile phones as a good means of reaching them. There were also two who said it was better to call rather than send an SMS.
  • SMS uses – by and large, most of the interviewees wanted more information on activities and opportunities that were available to them. In addition, some thought it would be a good way to ask questions to UNHCR, ACAI, or Aprode.
  • Challenges faced – the biggest challenges for the refugees upon arrival was surviving in a context they were not used to. In a similar vein, they also found it very difficult to find jobs.

At the end of the monitoring and evaluation phase, UNHCR again contacted the same refugees to get their opinion on the project. These interviews were conducted over the phone and the interviews can be viewed here. The responses were overwhelmingly positive which is a big success for the pilot as a whole.

My favorite takeaway:

Initially we had started the pilot with a prepared list of contacts to message. Sending the blast welcome message explaining the project elicited many responses saying, “Who is this?” or “Why am I receiving this?” After interviewing refugees we began to see a pattern. People were hesitant to trust a message from an unknown number. We ended up tackling this issue by first advertising the number in UNHCR and the other NGOs so that people would become familiar with the project and expect to receive messages. In addition to that, we set up boxes in which people could drop their contact information and we would then add that phone number to the FrontlineButt database. In this way we increased trust in and awareness for the project.

Here’s the full article from UNHCR.

And for some perspective, here’s an article from October 2001: Handheld computer technologies in community service/volunteering/advocacy .

where are the evaluations of hacksforgood/appsforgood?

Just found this out: the city council of Ivano-Frankivsk, a municipality in Western Ukraine, initiated a project for the creation of a mobile app to improve service delivery and expand opportunities for collecting the public’s feedback. On 18 January 2014, UNDP help to launch the app, making it available for free on Google Play. “Containing information about the city, its executive authorities, and a useful telephone directory of 500 contacts of relevant public authorities, the app also provides easy access to municipal emergency services. Crucially, it also allows citizens to report cases of corruption via 14 different anti-corruption hotlines at local, regional, and national levels. The claims and petitions filed will be addressed within the legally established timeframe of 30-45 days.” Here’s the official story from UNDP Europe and Central Asia.

Ukraine really is quite a tech-savvy country – as I mentioned earlier, re: the late Ukrainian journalist Ihor Kostenko, who was killed earlier this year in a Euromaidan protest, being named Wikipedian of the Year for 2014. And, as you may recall, I blogged earlier about the development of a citizen reporting system for post-conflict areas in Ukraine, one that could be accessed by a computer or a smart phone, where citizens could report on a particular issue, and these reports could be mapped and shared, etc.

But with all that said, just as with app launches and hackathons / hacks4good in the USA, there seems to be no followup. Are any of these apps4good projects sustainable? Are there more users of the apps now? How many cases of corruption have been reported to date with this particular app that was launched earlier this year? Has the app – or any apps six months later – been improved in any way? Has any hackathon products or apps4good had any evaluation yet and, if so, what are the results?

I’ve been trying to find examples of citizen reporting apps being used by governments to respond to citizen reports – about illegal waste dumps, infrastructure issues, misuse of official vehicles, whatever, in any country. And so far… I’m finding only stories about the launch of the app. Like this one in Montenegro. In addition to getting answers to the questions in the aforementioned paragraph about all these apps for good, I’d like to read a success story about the government being responsive to the data generated. It seems to me some of the requirements for this to happen would be:

  • the government designating an office and at least one staff position as being responsible for reading every submission, evaluating it, passing it on to the appropriate people for action, and following up to make sure action was taken – and if not, getting back to the reporting citizens as to why not.
  • the office and staff people assigned to be responsible for reading and responding to the data generated by the citizen reporting app being evaluated regarding their performance in responding to the information, and that evaluation being made public.

I did hear of one project in Kyiv, where citizens can report housing problems via a web site, and, according to the person that referred such to me, it is actually working: “There is a system that a person leaves a request (reports a problem), the housing department employee checks it, and fixes the problem and reports back on it.” So it seems to be working exactly because it’s addressed the two aforementioned bullet points – or, as my colleague put it, “such a system can work only with local authorities, who will implement the projects, and have access to the ground, and resources.”

It’s wonderful to see so many tech4good / apps4good / hacks4good initiatives anywhere in the world, Ukraine or otherwise, but I fear we’re spending all our attention on their launch, and not nearly enough on their impact and sustainability. And if we don’t focus on those things, then they are just tech fluff.

Greetings from Ukraine.

Who Takes the Lead on Exploration of Tech at a Mission-Based Org?

IT managers and IT consultants play an essential role in helping mission-based organizations – nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, community groups, etc. – to use technology to meet the goals of the organization.

That said, however, an IT manager is not always the best person to lead at a mission-based organization regarding what Internet, computer and smart phone tools an organization or department should be using.

When I first began encouraging organizations to explore the possibilities of virtual volunteering back in the mid 1990s, many of the outspoken critics of virtual volunteering were IT managers at nonprofit and government agencies. Many IT managers were not supporters – they were OBSTACLES. The same was true when I began promoting accessibility as a fundamental element of web site design a little while later. In both cases, IT managers threw up a variety of arguments as to why neither of these strategies were worthwhile for mission-based organizations, almost all relating to cost or security and they expressed great fear at the “vast” amounts of work that pursuing either of these activities would cause them and the organization. Some IT managers even went so far as to tell managers of volunteers they were not allowed to involve volunteers via the Internet.

Thank goodness so many managers at mission-based organizations explored technology issues on their own, and became experts in their own right regarding how virtual volunteering, web accessibility, and other tech-related practices could be used in their organizations and could benefit their clients, employees and volunteers. I worked with many nonprofit managers, particularly managers of volunteer, helping them to develop counter arguments to IT managers reluctance to let them explore the use of various ICT tools in their jobs. The drive to use the Internet and computers to work with volunteers, as well as to make nonprofit web sites to be accessible for people with disabilities, has been lead by NON IT staff!

That isn’t to say that all ICT consultants and managers try to block the exploration and use of ICTs in nonprofit activities. Many have been quite supportive of mission-based staff’s exploration and use of ICTs – and, indeed, of virtual volunteering and accessibility. But the reality is that ICT consultants and managers need to work directly with nonprofit staff that are managing client programs, managing HR, managing volunteers, and so forth in making tech-related decisions TOGETHER. They need to listen to the organization’s volunteers as well. IT managers need to listen and to support these employees and volunteers in exploring tech that could help them in their work with the organization.

Many publications have tackled the subject of how to address non-IT staff resistance at mission-based organizations to using Internet and computer technologies. Let’s explore the other side of this issue: how have you, as a non-IT staff person at a mission-based organization, overcome IT staff or consultant resistance to things like:

  • installing and supporting your use of a database program or other software that you feel that you need in your job
  • involving volunteers via the Internet, including having interactive features on your web site for volunteers
  • making your web site accessible for people with disabilities or others using assistive technology
  • exploring the use of Linux or Open Source technologies at your organization

A version of this article first appeared in Tech4Impact, my email newsletter, in January 2003. 


NGOs are using the cloud – but there are barriers

(by Patrick Duggan, TechSoup Marketing & Technology Writer; original post here)

In 2012, TechSoup Global, in collaboration with our partners around the world, conducted a survey of nonprofits, charities, NGOs, and social benefit organizations around the globe.

We wanted to better understand the current state of their technology infrastructure and their future plans for adopting cloud technologies.

With more than 10,500 respondents in 88 countries, we’re pleased to add this data to our ever-evolving resources for nonprofits, NGOs, foundations, and those who support them.

What Did We Find?

NGOs are using the cloud. 90 percent of respondents worldwide indicated using some type of cloud technology, from “lightweight” services like email and social networking to “heavy weight” services like databases and web conferencing.

There are barriers. Our survey found that lack of knowledge is the biggest barrier to additional cloud adoption, cited by 86 percent of the global respondents. Lack of knowledge was consistently reported as a barrier across geographies and organization sizes.

We also found that:

  • 79 percent of respondents said the biggest advantage in adopting cloud technologies is administration-related, followed by cost savings and improved opportunities for collaboration.
  • 53 percent of respondents reported they plan to move a significant portion of their infrastructure to cloud-based systems and services over the next few years.

How does your NGO compare? In the report, we examined what cloud applications NGOs are currently using and plan to use in the future, on a global and regional level.

If you’re wondering if your fellow organizations are using cloud-based tools like office and accounting programs and collaboration software, our report has the answers.

And more! Read more about our key findings. Learn about the current state of cloud computing at NGOs around the world, what these organizations see as the challenges and advantages of cloud technology, and how your own organization’s technology stacks up.


Read the Report 

Why We Conducted the Survey

We had three objectives in mind when we conducted this survey:

  • Gauge how NGOs are responding to cloud computing in terms of current use
  • Measure what NGOs perceive as the barriers to, and advantages of, cloud computing
  • Better understand these organizations’ plans for adopting cloud technologies

In short, our hope is that understanding NGOs’ perspectives on the cloud will not only provide insights for NGOs but will also help TechSoup Global and others better support nonprofits and NGOs in making informed decisions about whether cloud solutions are right for them.


Also see these results of survey regarding volunteer management software.