The Vodafone Foundation and the United Nations Foundation released a new report on innovative uses of mobile technology by NGOs working to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. The report identifies emerging trends in “mobile activism” through 11 case studies, and highlights the results of a global survey of NGO usage of mobile technology.
Here’s a taste of some of the findings from three of the case studies:
Cell-Life, a non-governmental organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, created its “Aftercare” program to work with the public health system and its health workers to provide home-based care for HIV/AIDS patients receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatments. Each Aftercare worker is assigned to monitor 15 to 20 patients. The worker visits the patient in his or her home, and in a one on one session discusses the patient’s current treatment. Using their mobile phones for data capture, Aftercare workers record information about patient medical status, drug adherence, and other factors that may affect a patient’s ART therapy. Aftercare workers then relay this information via text message to a central Cell-Life database. The data sent via text message reaches the Cell-Life server, where a care manager uses a web-based system to access and monitor the incoming patient information. The manager can also respond to Aftercare workers’ questions and provide supplemental information to improve patient care. The information collected not only facilitates individual patient care, but is also used to build a database of information on the severity and prevalence of the South African AIDS epidemic in these regions.
More examples like this after the jump. EpiSurveyor
In 2002, Dr. Joel Selanikio teamed up with computer scientist Rose Donna to form the DataDyne Group, a non-profit dedicated to increasing access to public health data through mobile software solutions. Inspired by an earlier Centers for Disease Control product called Epi Info, Selanikio created EpiSurveyor, a free, open source mobile data collection software tool. EpiSurveyor offers health data collection forms that can be downloaded at no cost and modified by anyone with basic computer skills.
Through the pilot, thirty provincial health supervisors in Zambia and Kenya were trained in how to use EpiSurveyor on Palm Zire handheld computers. The health officers then used EpiSurveyor to collect management data about public health clinics–such as medical supply quantities and levels of staff training. In both countries, officers went beyond the purpose of the pilot to gather additional health data as new needs arose. In Zambia, for example, the supplied PDAs and EpiSurveyor software were used by health officers to conduct a post-measles vaccination campaign coverage survey–the very first time that such a survey had been independently conducted by in-country staff using PDAs.
HOW IT WORKS: EpiSurveyor incorporates a Windows- based “Designer” forms creation application, and a Java-based engine that can run on personal digital assistants (PDAs), smart phones, and soon, common mobile phones. Users start by downloading the software from the DataDyne.org website (www.datadyne.org). Then, using a desktop or laptop computer, they enter the health survey questions into the Designer program. The resulting form can then be published to a mobile device. For data that is collected via PDA or smart phone, once data is collected from the field the mobile device is synchronized with the computer. Data from multiple handsets can then be combined into a single data table for analysis.
And here in the United States
It was while standing in front of the Mission High School near her home in San Francisco, California that Deborah Levine, executive director of internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS-Inc.), a nonprofit she founded that develops “high-tech solutions for sexual health education,” conceived of a potential solution to a pressing public health problem.
Levine had recently been approached by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to develop a website to address rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases among at-risk youth. In 2005, rates of gonorrhea among African-American youth, ages 18 to 25, had gone up over 100 percent, with African-American women being infected by the disease at 12 times the rate of American women of Caucasian descent. With 85 percent of the city’s youth owning a mobile phone, a text-based approach simply made sense.
ISIS hired HipCricket, Inc., a mobile marketing firm in Australia, to program a service it developed known as SexInfo. Next came the task of working with mobile operators to provide mobile phone subscribers with access to the service. HipCricket offered to let ISIS-Inc use its five-digit ‘short code’ during the project’s
start-up phase. Levine was then able to work through an aggregator in the United States to obtain the short code (61827) now being used to access SexInfo.
During the first 25 weeks of the project (April–October 2006), 4,500 individuals accessed the service, with 2,500 taking the steps to retrieve content and referrals. The top three messages accessed were: “What 2 do if ur condom broke,: “2 find out about STDs” and “if u think ur pregnant.”
Eight more case studies are examined in the report. And be sure to check out our interview with report co-author Katrin Verclas.