Two recent reports provide some data and experiences that can help you make the decision to go mobile and guide your planning for mobile health and social change interventions, whether you work in developed or developing world contexts. Both studies focus on the NGO sector so the feasibility and practicality issues are dealt with in a realistic manner.
Rapid Assessment of Cell Phones for Development [pdf] is a publication (2007) commissioned by UNICEF in South Africa to inform a strategy to launch a new generation of cell phone technologies to address development issues, particularly HIV/AIDS. The authors describe the project:
The long term objective of this activity is to support government and civil society programs to leverage partnerships with companies developing cell phone technologies and other related service providers to develop a comprehensive strategy and plan for monitoring treatment adherence, providing information on sexual health including help lines and services and prevention messages by the use of cell phone technology. The potential for harnessing the benefits of cell phone technology in other areas of concern such as gender based violence and violence and abuse against women and children is enormous. Potential, however, is mediated by factors that ensure the success of such initiatives – such as available infrastructure, contextual issues, resources, capacities and location of the project – both physical location and location within a larger project.
The study was done between December 2006 and April 2007 and looked at existing initiatives to deploy cell phone technologies for development and social goals. The mobile health and social change projects they profile in the report are:
- Mobile4Good (Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Cameroon)
- Learning about Living OneWorld UK (Nigeria)
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
- Dokoza Project (South Africa)
- MobilED (South Africa)
- Chipata Women’s Mobile SMS project OneWorld Africa
- Xam Marsé SMS Market Information Service (Senegal)
- Maluleke Project (South Africa)
- Domestic Relations Bill Advocacy (Uganda)
- Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Electronic Delivery of Agricultural Information to
- Rural Communities in Uganda
- Dunia Moja (Tanzania, South Africa, United States)
- Rwanda TRACnet HIV/AIDS Solution
- Phones-for-Health (PEPFAR supported countries
- Connect Africa
- The Village Phone Initiative (Uganda and Rwanda, Cameroon, and the Philippines)
- The Network of Mobile Election Monitors (NMEM) Nigeria
Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs [pdf], just published by the UN Foundation–Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership (2008), reports on a survey conducted in December 2007 and January 2008 of 560 non-governmental organization (NGO) workers to uncover how they are using wireless technology to help reach various social, civil, economic, and political goals.
Among their major findings are:
Eight-six percent of NGO employees are using mobile technology in their work. NGO representatives working on projects in Africa or Asia are more likely to be mobile technology users than their colleagues in areas with more ‘wired’ infrastructures. Ninety-nine percent of technology users characterize the impact of mobile technology as positive. Moreover, nearly a quarter describe this technology as “revolutionary” and another 31
percent say it would be difficult to do their jobs without it.
While voice and text messaging are still the most common applications of mobile technology among NGO workers, respondents report using wireless technology in a number of other ways, including photo and video (39 percent); data collection or transfer (28 percent); and multi-media messaging (27 percent). The survey also finds some NGO workers using mobile technology for more sophisticated purposes such as data analysis (8 percent), inventory management (8 percent), and mapping (10 percent).
The survey reveals that the key benefits of mobile technology for all NGOs include time savings (95 percent); the ability to quickly mobilize or organize individuals (91 percent); reaching audiences that were previously difficult or impossible to reach (74 percent); the ability to transmit data more quickly and accurately (67 percent); and the ability to gather data more quickly and accurately (59 percent). Not surprisingly, then, 76 percent of NGO users said they would likely increase their use of mobile technology in the future.
In-depth case studies are provided across a variety of topics and include:
- Delivering Patient HIV/AIDS Care (South Africa)
- Connecting Health Clinics and Remote Health Workers (Uganda)
- Lowering the Barriers for Access to Public Health Data (Kenya, Zambia)
- Connecting Youth to Sexual Health Information (United States)
- Delivering Food Aid to Iraqi Refugees (Syria)
- Facilitating Communication in Emergency Situations (Peru, Indonesia)
- Text Messaging as a Violence-Prevention Tool (Kenya)
- Text Messaging to Save Trees (Argentina)
- A Survey of Text Message ‘Infolines’ (South Africa, United Kingdom)
- Environmental Monitoring with Mobile Phones (Ghana)
- Protecting Wildlife and Human Wellbeing (Kenya)
Photo from kiwanja.net