Where are you from?

I’m originally from Israel, specifically a city south of Tel Aviv called Rishon Le Zion.

What did you do before working at TechChange?

Before I worked at TechChange, I worked as an Animator/After Effects Compositor on a few different children’s cartoons. The shows were produced either in Israel, or in Europe. I worked both in a production studio environment and I spent some time traveling and working where ever I had a stable internet connection and a desk.

How did you hear about TechChange?

I heard about TechChange through a job posting on indeed.com.

What exactly do you do at TechChange? What does a typical day look like for you?

I coordinate the work of our amazing creative team, with the vision of the instructional design team and provide feedback and guidance for different projects. My typical day would start by talking to my team, getting their input on current projects, checking their progress and setting goals for the day. Followed by answering clients and team emails. After that I would go into either storyboarding, drafting a concept note for a project, editing video boards (for animation), animate, figuring out next steps for larger projects, hop on check-in calls with clients or any other task that requires my input. At the end of the day I would make sure that the creative team has delivered completed tasks, check in with Nick or Chris on long term deliverables and plan my next day. The job is pretty diverse and requires a lot of long term planning, as well as attention to details. The things I always try to ask myself are: Are we on schedule? Are we improving? Are the team members in the loop?”

How did you get into animation?

As a kid, I was (and still am) a geek that spent a lot of time indoors watching TV and movies – especially cartoons and Disney movies. With heroes like Bugs Bunny, Spiderman and the Genie, I was amazed by the power of animation. I couldn’t believe that there were people out there creating visual representations for stuff that I thought only existed in my head. Growing up, I went to an engineering high school, and my sense for design and animation wasn’t very encouraged. After I finished my mandatory military service, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) sent me a link to the animation department of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. I had no idea that a career in animation and design was even an option, but I told myself that if I get in, I’ll go for it. I applied and some how got through the tests. The first two years were very hard, but even after a lot of failures I couldn’t give up, because my drive to animate and draw kept growing as school was getting harder and harder. 4 years after graduating, I look back and I know that taking that chance was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Alon Alaskov creating interactive infographic

Alon Alaskov creating interactive infographic

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in creating animations for international development and social change?

The most important lesson in international development that I’ve learned is that there is a lot of room for creative thinking. Coming from a design background, I try to approach animation projects with a clean slate and do a lot of exploration. I’ve learned that this approach can applies to international development-related work as well, especially when explaining data-intensive concepts in visually compelling ways that make it easier to understand.

How do you keep up with the latest developments in animation/multimedia technology and trends?

A lot of web browsing. I have a Google News feed that keeps me updated on these issues, as well as colleagues who post interesting articles on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?

The people. This is by far the best team I’ve ever had the chance to work with. There’s a wonderful environment here, amazing energy, and hard working individuals.

Alon with his birthday gifts from the office: cupcakes and a sketch of himself made by his co-worker Pablo

Alon with his birthday gifts from TechChange: cupcakes and a sketch of himself made by his co-worker Pablo

 What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?

After almost two years of living in the US, I finally got to have a proper Halloween office party. In the party I had the privilege to participate in a short intellectual experiment called: “Between Two Nerds”. Thanks to Nick Martin, Pablo Leon and Charlie Weems, it turned out to be one of the best productions I ever took part in.

What do you do when you’re not at TechChange?

I enjoy spending time with my wife, watch movies, read comics/books, work on personal animation/design projects, hike, play PC games, and hangout with friends.

If you had to direct someone to the best place to eat in D.C. where would it be?

Busboys and Poets. Great food, awesome atmosphere.

Does Alon’s job sound like your dream job? Apply to our Animator/Videographer position here.


By Timo Luege, TC103: Tech Tools and Skills for Emergency Management facilitator

As technology for disaster response evolves, digital mapping is playing an increasingly important role in helping emergency managers in humanitarian emergency response operations. When considering the best tools and skills to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, earlier this year, Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sent a dedicated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) officer to Guinea, to support the local and international medical teams who are fighting the Ebola-outbreak. To find out whether that was a good investment, the MSF GIS Unit asked TC103 facilitator Timo Luege to write a case study showing the impact of this field-based GIS officer.

Some of the key observations are:

  • Most of the the areas close to the border of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had not been mapped previously. This meant that it was very easy to see the changes.

  • Despite being in a very remote area, the GIS officer had decent internet connection which allowed him to reach out for remote support. Among other things this made it possible for the volunteers of the OpenStreetMap community to contribute directly to supporting the response. So this is also a case that shows what crowdsourcing can contribute to humanitarian emergency response.

  • Since the GIS Officer was in the field, he and his local staff were able to provide context to the basemaps that were produced remotely. Both components were important: without the remote support, the GIS wouldn’t have been able to create all basemaps at the granularity that is available now. But without the GIS in the field, a lot of the traced outlines would not have been meaningful, because you need local knowledge to know whether a building is a school, a hospital, a police station etc. Also: assigning the correct names to villages is at least as important as mapping roads. Again, you need people in the field to do this.

  • Because MSF chose to use formats and tools that encourage or even require sharing, many maps created for MSF will add value to local communities, local government and help other humanitarian and development organizations working in the area. This means that the outputs will continue to be beneficial and can be built upon.

You can download the complete case study here:

GIS Support for the MSF Ebola response in Guinea in 2014

GIS Support for the MSF Ebola response in Guinea in 2014

This post originally appeared in Social Media for Good

Interested in learning more on how to use digital crisis mapping tools for humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters? Enroll now in this online course on Mapping for International Development and Tech Tools & Skills for Emergency Management.

About the TC 103 facilitator: Timo Luege

Timo Luege

After nearly ten years of working as a journalist (online, print and radio), Timo worked four years as a Senior Communications Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Geneva and Haiti. During this time he also launched the IFRC’s social media activities and wrote the IFRC social media staff guidelines. He then worked as Protection Delegate for International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Liberia before starting to work as a consultant. His clients include UN agencies and NGOs. Among other things, he wrote the UNICEF “Social Media in Emergency Guidelines” and contributed to UNOCHA’s “Humanitarianism in the Network Age”. Over the last year, Timo advised UNHCR- and IFRC-led Shelter Clusters in Myanmar, Mali and most recently the Philippines on Communication and Advocacy. He blogs at Social Media for Good and is the facilitator for the TechChange online course, “Tech Tools & Skills for Emergency Management“.

Sara recently joined us as an online instructional designer and works with clients to develop and design online courses, in addition to coordinating and broadcasting live events. Prior to TechChange, Sara taught middle and high school STEM courses at the Barrie School, where she also led an Engineering Product Design program for high school students. Sara graduated from Yale University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, which sparked her passion for design thinking and human centered design.

In her spare time, Sara enjoys reading, traveling, and perfecting her guacamole recipe.

Welcome Sara!

Image source: ReadyMarin

During an emergency, it is important to have ample information. Specifically, emergency management teams and affected populations need details surrounding the what, where, when, and how – as well as instructions for how – to respond, and communicate with coworkers and/or loved ones. While it is best to have a plan in place that includes how to receive this information with emergency kits and communication plans, it can be easy to forget to keep these plans up to date, practice them, or finalize them once started. On top of this challenge, the rapid lifestyle of professionals and the over-sharing of information through technology can lead to a very reactive and possibly dangerous outcome during a crisis.

The United States, like many societies, has become increasingly attached and sometimes dependent upon mobile technology and smartphones. Knowing this, how can we use this technology to stay better informed, to communicate better, establish better emergency planning, and stay calmer during times of crisis? Along with information on the importance of having and practicing emergency plans and building emergency kits, the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have used mobile technology by creating a number of mobile apps to help civilians administer First Aid, find shelter, and donate blood.

American Red Cross mobile app

American Red Cross natural disaster apps

The Red Cross labels most of their apps under “Natural Disaster,” to provide emergency information and alerts through reliable sources including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Geological Survey, which provide instructions before/during/after the event, locate warnings based upon your area, and a number of other life saving and calming features. The Red Cross has separate apps for each disaster:

  • Tornado
  • Wildfire
  • Earthquake
  • Hurricane
  • Flood
  • Shelter Finder

The purpose of these separate apps is most likely to ensure users are getting the most up-to-date information as well as maintain accurate warnings and communication. However, managing these distinct apps might be irritating for users that live in an area that usually experiences more than one of the listed disasters. After installation, users are able to set up alerts to have their phone directly notify them of any warnings in their area. Two of the most helpful apps allow users to find shelters in their area and an “I’m Safe” alert. Shelter Finder allows users to locate open shelters, and view capacity, all using data from the American Red Cross National Shelter System, which often assists FEMA. Shelter Finder also contains information on 60,000 potential disaster facilities, and is updated every 30 minutes. “I’m Safe” is a customizable alert that connects to social media, and notifies friends and family on location and status. The Red Cross also suggests using their Safe and Well website or call 1.800.RED.CROSS, where individuals can register their status and location, and search for loved ones.

One of the key components to the Red Cross Emergency Apps is the dependence on phones lines and connectivity, which are often down or slow during times of crisis. Therefore it is suggested that family members have other plans in place including designated shelter locations.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 1.38.54 PM

American Red Cross everyday app

Alongside the emergency apps, the Red Cross has also developed a number of everyday apps:

  • Blood: The first of its kind, makes giving blood convenient and allows users to find local blood drives and book appointments through the app, in addition to sending out blood
  • shortage alert messages during emergencies.
  • First Aid: Provides pre-loading offline instructions to guide you through first aid scenes
  • anywhere, integration and ability to call 911 from the app, safety tips, and educational
  • games.
  • Pet First Aid
  • Team Red Cross Volunteer
  • Swim
FEMA mobile app

FEMA mobile app

If users are looking for a more centralized emergency app, then definitely download FEMA’s mobile app; providing disaster safety tips, emergency meeting locations, information on open shelters and FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers, and the ability to use GPS to report and photograph disasters that are displayed on a public map. For non-smartphone users, FEMA also has a text message feature where users can receive safety tips for disasters and search for open shelters by texting 4FEMA.

Both organizations make it easy to streamline warnings, access vital information, and other
important alerts during an emergency. Mobile tools and apps allow even the busiest and
underprepared to have information readily available to them, and is definitely something that is recommended for everyone to have on his or her phone.

All Red Cross apps are available for download through the Apple Store and Google Play, in both English and Spanish. For more information on the Red Cross Plan & Prepare apps and more emergency planning materials visit: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps

For more information on FEMA’s Mobile App, Text Message Alerts, and more visit:

Interested in learning more about technology tools for emergency management and disaster response? Register now for our Technology for Disaster Response online course which begins next week on June 22, 2015.

Alumni bio:

Megan Penn

Megan Penn is completing her second year in the MA Security Policy Studies program at the George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC. There, she is concentrating on Transnational Security Issues and Cyber Security Policy, with focus on human security, organized criminal activity, human trafficking, international institutions, and cyber security and information operations. While in classes, Megan has interned at a private aviation company, and currently works for a business development firm and writes for Freedom Observatory. Before DC, Megan completed a Bilingual Honours BA in International Studies at York University – Glendon College, in Toronto, Ontario. You can connect with Megan on LinkedIn.

This feedback on mhealth concerns a field mission I undertook in July 2014. I visited one of Handicap International Federation’s HIV and disability projects being implemented in the region of Ziguinchor in the South of Senegal. Like many other organisations represented by colleagues in TechChange’s mHealth course, Handicap International is strongly exploring how mHealth can best fit in and with what we can offer not only to our primary focus on people with different impairments (our main targets), but also to various communities confronted with different issues, be they related to development, relief or emergency settings..

I realised that our project was provided with two android phones from CommCare to collect data as a “pilot activity” (not initially designed in our project, but rather as an add-on to our M&E system and tools). The project M&E officer in charge was supposed to learn about how it works and two project community mobilizers were supposed to collect specific information to feed into the beneficiary and activities database.

What happened with this pilot was quite interesting. Given that there was no specific planning or budget assigned to this seemingly exciting additional activity, and after discussions with CommCare, they graciously provided the project with two phones and basic training to the staff. Project staffs started the process of collecting data, but it didn’t work because there was the phones had no credit. So, they added credit and restarted the process of collecting data. Data were entered and things seemed to be on the right track. Knowing this, the M&E specialist in charge wanted to synchronise the system to see how data looked like. It didn’t work. After another brainstorming, the team learned that they had to set other aspects on the phones so that data can reach to the other end. Furthermore, given that this was an “extra activity”, problem-solving was not that fluid with CommCare as it was not the priority of neither party. And barriers continued, to the point that no one really bothered with whether the phones were useful to the project, to the beneficiaries, to the staff, nor to the system.

A few lessons learned from this minuscule pilot trying to use mobile technologies for data collection (and arguably for other aspects of project management and global development):

  1. If rationales are well thought through at project inception, it would be important to include planning, budget and dedicated human resources for the utilisation of mHealth within a project.

  2. Having “free phones” may not be the best incentive to projects when it is not tied to any specific performance indicators associated to bigger project goals.

  3. Excitement about mHealth is insufficient; there needs to also be interest combined with strong planning and field testing, coupled with systematic follow-up from the mHealth provider. This aligns with what mHealth guest speaker Ray Brunsting told us in the course about the importance of a project preparation phase that regularly iterates and progressively constructs what is needed so that the mobile mechanism works smoothly thereafter.

  4. Careful, regular, and frequent feedback is needed especially when getting an mHealth program is in its initial phases.

But this experiment didn’t deter us to pursue our desire to use mHealth and mainstream disability. We decided to partner with AMREF (France) which has tremendous experience in using mHealth. This project will start shortly and is going to use mHealth in the context of maternal and child health in Senegal. It will bring the expertise of two different organisations for the benefit of mothers and children, through a specific project, planning and budget, and through disability lens.

All this to say that using mobile phones to promote public health is not that straightforward. However, when we attempt to consider lessons learned and good practices from others, it tends to work better. So thanks so much to TechChange, all participants in the mHealth online course, as well as from our great speakers and facilitators for sharing all the mHealth wisdom

Interested in learning more about mHealth pilot programs and successfully scaled projects across the world? Register now for our mHealth online course which runs from November 17 – December 12, 2014.

About Muriel Mac-Seing

Muriel Mac-Seing

Muriel Mac-Seing is an alumna of TechChange’s Spring 2014 mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health online course. For the past 12 years, Muriel Mac-Seing has dedicated her work to community health development in Sub-Sahara Africa and South and South-East Asia, in the areas of HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and disability. Currently, she is the HIV and AIDS/Protection Technical Advisor to Handicap International Federation supporting country missions and national programmes to include disability for universal access to HIV and AIDS and protection services for all. She co-chaired the HIV and Disability Task Group of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) from 2010 to 2012. Since May 2014, she is also a member of the Human Rights Reference Group at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Trained as a nurse, she served an underprivileged and multiethnic clientele in the regions of Montréal, Canada.


by Timo Luege, TC103: Technology for Disaster Response facilitator

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all public social media messages in a disaster would come with a flag that identifies them as relevant? The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is trying to pave the way for that with the brand new Hashtags Standards for Emergencies.

UNOCHA Hashtag Standards for Emergencies

The document builds on experiences gained in the Philippines where a set of standard hashtags such as #RescuePH or #ReliefPH have become so commonly used, that the government recently endorsed these as “official” disaster response classifiers to help identify needs. OCHA is now trying to elevate this system to the global level in the hope that we will start to see more consistency across countries and disasters. If successful, this hashtag standards could help disaster responders and their supporting software systems identify needs more quickly and reduce the amount of time needed to find relevant messages in flood of updates.

OCHA proposes three different types of social media hashtags:

  1. Disaster title hashtags. This type of hashtag (e.g. #Sandy) would be used by anyone to generally comment on an emergency (e.g. Hurricane Sandy) and would not be actively monitored by response agencies.
  2. Public reporting hashtags. By suggesting a specific hashtag that citizens can report non-life-threatening emergency items they see (e.g. #311US for broken power lines or a damaged bridge in the USA), we would be making sensors of the entire population. The resulting data could be scanned, mined and filtered to the relevant responding agencies.
  3. Emergency response hashtags. By providing a standard hashtag to trigger emergency response, based on local standards (e.g. #911US for the USA), we would enable citizens to tag content that is absolutely critical.  It would also enable responders to set up dedicated social media monitoring tools and channel the resulting information into their already existing mechanism(s). Social media would become an official information source.

(source: verity think)

I think this is great initiative and governments should pick up the ball and use this document as guidance for their own national strategies. That national authorities make this their own is essential because it can only work if the affected population knows about these hashtags in advance of the disaster and if the hashtags have been localized.

The graphic the report uses to illustrate the idea for the Ebola response is a good case in point:

Standard Hashtag

The suggested hashtags seem pretty straightforward until you take into consideration that Guinea is French speaking, meaning that people there probably will use something like #EbolaBesoin instead of the English #EbolaNeed.

Of course that would still be a huge step forward, since it would increase consistency even in cases where an emergency spans multiple countries and languages. After all, a limited number of hashtags that are used in multiple languages is still much better than no system. But it also shows that this document is not so much a blueprint as a concept study. It is now up to governments and other national disaster response organizations to make it work.

Interested in learning how social media and other technologies can help with disaster response? Enroll now to lock in your early bird rate for our Technology for Disaster Response online course that begins June 22.

This post originally appeared in Social Media for Good

About the TC 103 facilitator: Timo Luege

Timo Luege

After nearly ten years of working as a journalist (online, print and radio), Timo worked four years as a Senior Communications Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Geneva and Haiti. During this time he also launched the IFRC’s social media activities and wrote the IFRC social media staff guidelines. He then worked as Protection Delegate for International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Liberia before starting to work as a consultant. His clients include UN agencies and NGOs. Among other things, he wrote the UNICEF “Social Media in Emergency Guidelines” and contributed to UNOCHA’s “Humanitarianism in the Network Age”. Over the last year, Timo advised UNHCR- and IFRC-led Shelter Clusters in Myanmar, Mali and most recently the Philippines on Communication and Advocacy. He blogs at Social Media for Good and is the facilitator for the TechChange online course, “Technology for Disaster Response.

Treating HIV with antriretroviral treatment (ARV) medication can be very challenging, given how complicated it can be to dispense these pills correctly. Especially in remote clinics throughout the world, it can be difficult for clinicians to distribute ARVs because they require customized mixes of medication based on the specific symptoms of individual patients in order to be effective.

To help clinicians to correctly prescribe antiretrovirals, Dr. Musaed Abrahams, an alumnus of our mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health online course, has launched a mobile app for managing antriretroviral treatment (ARV) medication in South Africa.

The Aviro HIV mobile app acts as a virtual mentor for clinicians to easily consult for proper ARV (Anti-retroviral) initiation and treatment during the patient consult. Designed for Android and based on the current South African guidelines, it provides real-time, immediate feedback and guidance for the clinician, so that excellent and reliable care can be delivered to every patient. Following a care checklist, it gives clinical prompts aiming to educate and raise the standard of patient care.

Aviro featured on a national news broadcaster in South Africa

We asked Musaed to tell us more about his new mHealth Android app below.

 1. What personal experiences of yours inspired this app?

I have worked for Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) for over 6 years, training clinicians throughout Southern Africa on the best practices on HIV Care. Through my experience I quickly recognized some of the challenges nurses and clinicians face day to day with changing guidelines and lack of training resources. I also recognized that many nurses were using technology informally, and were conversant with their mobile technology.

My aim was to create an app that can bridge the training and information gap with the already existing technology – particularly with mobile phones.The Aviro HIV app was created with this goal at the forefront. Providing a mobile tool for doctors and nurses, using technology to simplify the initiation and management of patients on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), with connectivity providing further referral support for complex patients.

2. What impact did the TechChange mHealth online course you took have on designing and launching this app?

This mHealth online course gave me an overview of different components of mhealth and how they interlink – specifically monitoring and evaluation, communication and decision tree support tools which were my interest. I valued most the practical examples/case studies and insights from the developing world and their implementations of mHealth projects, and challenges that they needed to overcome. Although I was already conversant in human-centered design, the HCD-focused workshop in the course rounded out my knowledge in this area while being engaging and informative.



3. What exactly went into creating this Aviro mHealth app?

It was a team effort involving those with both HIV technical expertise as well as mobile development. We collaborated with the best medical expertise on HIV including James Nutall, Graeme Meintjes, and Ashraf Coovadia to design treatment algorithms. We incorporated human design thinking principles when working with African digital artist, Jepchumba to do the user experience (UX) design in collaboration with nurses on the ground in South Africa. Funding was provided with a partnership with MTN Foundation, Aviro’s technology partner. In addition, we partnered with nurse and clinician organizations, the Anova Health Institute and Southern African Clinician Society, for testing implementation of the app.

4. How successful has it been so far? (Any metrics you can share?)

We just launched the app at Social Media Week and Southern African Clinicians Society last week and have had over 300 downloads by South African nurses and doctors. we have interest from the SA National Dept of Health in adopting the app nationwide. Currently, we are working on an iPhone/iOS version of the app and will keep updating the app with new versions as we get more downloads and feedback.

Clinicians testing Aviro

Clinicians test Aviro

Download the app here on the Google Play store

About Musaed Abrahams

Musaed Abrahams

Musaed has worked and trained in Southern Africa as a HIV Training coordinator of MSF (doctors without borders). With over 5 years experience of coordinating HIV courses for nurses and doctors, with trainings in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe he has developed innovative educational approaches to medical training.

Interested in mHealth to use mobile phones to improve healthcare delivery? Enroll now in the same course that Musaed took, mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health which runs from November 17 – December 12, 2014.


TechChange recently broadcasted the Training Health Workers for Ebola webinar series, with the sponsorship and webinar content of mPowering Frontline Health Workers and IntraHealth International. Over 550 participants from more than 70 countries have joined this webinar series so far, and more health workers around the world continue to sign up to view these recorded sessions for free.

The 4-part webinar series brought together voices from all over the world, both in terms of expert contributors and online viewers. We are inspired not only by the amount of people who participated online, but also by their contributions to the discussion on the information and tools necessary to support frontline health workers. Many commenters interacted with guest experts by asking important, timely questions, as well as by sharing information and resources on the work that they or their organizations are doing on the ground in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to respond to the outbreak.

In case you missed the series, here’s a brief recap of each webinar:

In the first webinar, “Learning and Information Needs for Frontline Health Workers”, Dykki Settle (IntraHealth) and Sean Blaschke (UNICEF) discussed their work with the free SMS mobile communication system, mHero. Informed by the challenges faced by communities in Liberia, mHero was developed with the aim of investing in and strengthening tools that have already been implemented in Liberia to support the development and accessibility of health workforce information.

In the second webinar, “Health System Support for Frontline Health Workers”, Dr. Chandrakant Ruparelia (Jhpiego) shared key considerations for designing training programs for healthcare workers in areas affected by the Ebola outbreak. Additionally, Marion McNabb (Pathfinder International) pointed to the importance of leveraging existing training programs and mechanisms effectively in the Ebola response. Panelists from Digital Campus and Medical Aid Films also shared their experiences with using video for behavior change communications and health messaging.

In the third webinar, “Community Mobilization and Interactions with Clients”, Gillian McKay (GOAL) presented information about the social mobilization campaign that GOAL is implementing in Sierra Leone through two key innovations: uniformed services training emphasizing protection for officers involved in the Ebola response, and an Ebola survivor and champions media campaign to build trust and support within communities affected by Ebola. Additionally, Reverend Moses Khanu shared information on frontline efforts and the resources and support necessary in Sierra Leone.

In the fourth webinar, “Data to Support Effective Response and Case Management”, Jonathan Jackson (Dimagi) provided information on his organization’s effort to build a mobile tool for frontline health workers that can aid in contact tracing while collecting information for real-time data visualization and analysis. Additionally, Garrett Mehl (WHO) and Matt Berg (Ona) discussed their collaboration on the WHO data coordination platform to promote a harmonized Ebola response.

If your interest is piqued by any of these four webinars, you can watch each all recorded sessions in their entirety for free when you register using this link.

With each webinar, you will also find the discussion among online participants in the comments section. You will see that many participants shared details about their work and experiences, as well as initiatives that are emerging or already in place in the Ebola response. Where possible, we have also included the presentation slides and resources shared by presenters during each webinar.

As mentioned during each webinar, you can find additional resources and interact with experts on the Ebola Resources for Health Workers site.

If you’re interested in learning more on the role of technology in the Ebola response, join our online courses in mHealth and Tech Tools & Skills for Emergency Management.


According to GSMA’s Digital Entrepreneurship in Kenya 2014 report, 99% of internet subscribers in Kenya access the internet through mobile devices. Kenya has been the leader in mobile banking, with apps like M-PESA, Zoona, and others. When taking TechChange’s Mobile Phones for Public Health online course with a group of 10 colleagues at PATH, I was curious to learn what mHealth looked like in Kenya and learn what lessons I can apply to my mHealth programs in Bihar, India. As part of my final project for the course, I asked Debjeet Sen, one of my colleagues at PATH based in Kisumu, Kenya, to share his views on the state of mHealth interventions in Kenya.

Like other developing countries, mHealth in Kenya primarily focuses on two core areas:

1. Data collection, where mobile devices replace and/or complement traditional paper-based tools;

2. Behaviour change, where mobile devices are used to disseminate key messages and good practices among communities.

And like any low-resource setting, there are inherent challenges in rolling out mHealth interventions, so it is important to be cognizant of them and develop appropriate counter-strategies.

mHealth training for CHWs in Kenya photo 1Community health workers (CHWs) during a mHealth training in Kenya

Here are a few challenges that Debjeet sees mHealth interventions face in Kenya:

  1. Multiple mHealth interventions have remained at the pilot stage

Many mHealth interventions in Kenya have not yet been integrated into larger health and information technology systems due to the absence of a clear scale-up strategy in the pilot project design and a lack of consensus on common software and hardware requirements. Different projects use different handsets with different operating systems for different mobile platforms. Aligning individual mHealth projects with regional and national management information systems (MIS) is necessary, but may not necessarily happen, as mHealth projects often function autonomously. Wherever possible, it is important to integrate mHealth data streams with existing MIS platforms in order to prevent duplication and mixing of data.

  1. Many mHealth projects rely on the use of smartphones

Smartphones can be expensive and beyond the purchasing power of Kenyan government institutions and individuals. Most people continue to rely on low-end phones, which are cheap and widely available.

  1. Scarcity of a reliable power source

Electricity supply in Kenya is unreliable and regular electricity is mostly available only in semi-urban and urban areas. Since graphics-enabled smartphones are highly power-intensive, any mHealth project that relies on smartphones may face challenges if users struggle to keep their phones regularly charged.

However, there are opportunities that can help tackle these mHealth challenges:

  1. Almost universal penetration of cell phones

Kenya has a very strong base for implementing mHealth projects, partly because Kenyans are familiar with the use of mobile phones for functions other than just making and receiving calls. Mobile banking app like M-PESA is used by tens of millions of Kenyans. In fact, many financial transactions in the social sector, such as paying for trainings and workshops, issuing stipends to community health workers (CHWs), and transferring conditional cash transfers are all done through M-PESA. In a way, this extensive use of M-PESA for the social sector is already (indirectly) helping improve mHealth outcomes.

  1. Incentivizing end-users such as CHWs to buy the phones

A common mistake of many mHealth projects is to provide the cell phones for the project as “giveaways.” In turn, this results in less accountability and a lack of ownership among the phone users. Asking CHWs to partially cover the cost of the phones or buy them is a good strategy to create ownership and accountability. This also has ramifications for scale-up and sustainability, as governments in low-resource countries may be unable to cover the entire cost of purchasing cell phones.

  1. Work is underway to develop a plan to coordinate mHealth activities in Kenya

There are plans to align multiple platforms, hardware, and software with a common national strategy and to ensure that data collected from these activities are facilitated to feed into national and regional MIS.

4. Simple smartphone apps.

The simpler smartphone apps have been demonstrated to assist frontline workers such as CHWs in data collection and as job aids to assist them in household visits and group and/or individual counselling.  In an environment that faces challenges in literacy rates as well as  financial and network connectivity, we cannot simply develop and run any iPhone or Android app. Sometimes, it is important to develop ways to access mHealth tools offline.

CHWs learning about mHealth in KenyaCommunity health workers explore Information for Action app during the field test

In particular, Debjeet discussed his work on the Information for Action app, an innovative app running on the Android platform designed by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. The app collects information from CHW home visits and immediately turns the collected information into actionable information in the form of a key message or suggested actions that can be shared by CHWs with caregivers. It is a dynamic app because it collects information and provides contextualized key messages and suggested actions on areas of children’s development, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation. The Information for Action app also stores records of individual home visits, which can be used by CHWs to plan for future home visits, as well as uploaded into a central data server/cloud, where supervisors can monitor for quality of home visits.

Currently, a field test of the app is being carried out in Kenya and South Africa to determine its operational feasibility and acceptability among CHWs, their supervisors, and community members receiving home visits from CHWs. Debjeet would be happy to share the app after the field tests are completed.

Debjeet asserted that the TechChange mHealth course has provided him with a structured overview of mHealth, which is a contrast to the way he has generally learned about mHealth through on-the-job experiences. The TechChange course has exposed him to interesting resources, people, and mHealth projects and he wishes to use the learnings from the course in his current projects at PATH

Why learning about mHealth in Kenya is useful for India

Since working in Bihar is quite similar to working in other countries of low resource settings like Kenya, it is helpful to learn about the challenges and strategies of different countries as we develop mHealth programs in Bihar. The PATH team in Bihar provides knowledge management support to a behavior change community mobilization project called Parivartan, which means “transformation”. The knowledge management team is in the process of conceptualizing a mobile based data collection and analysis system for village health sanitation nutrition committee (VHSNC). The committee members would develop effective social mobilization strategies to influence people to attend village health sanitation nutrition day (VHSND) at local primary health centers for health and nutrition related services. We have already started collecting a lot quality assurance sampling (LQAS) data through tablets and Kenya’s mHealth lessons definitely help as the fuel to work at per PATH’s technology and healthcare innovation in low and middle income group setting.

The knowledge on mHealth in Kenya which Debjeet has shared will help my team develop its own mHealth strategy in a low-resource setting such as Bihar, India.

If you are interested in learning more about the current state of mHealth, enroll in our upcoming mHealth course, TC309: Mobile Phones for Public Health today.

Alumni bios 

Debjeet Sen

Debjeet Sen is a Senior Associate with PATH. He has managed and supported a range of early childhood development (ECD), infant and young child nutrition, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and maternal and child health projects — primarily in Kenya and Mozambique, but also in DRC, Ethiopia, India, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, and South Africa. His core skills include technical design and management of complex projects, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), behavior change communication (BCC), curriculum development, capacity building and training, organizational development, documentation, and technical research and writing. He is currently based in Kisumu, Kenya. You can connect with Debjeet on LinkedIn.

Pratyaya Mitra

Pratyaya Mitra is a communication professional with more than 12 years of experience in corporate and social sector. Currently working as communication and documentation officer in PATH Knowledge Management team in Bihar, India. Previously, worked with UNICEF as communication consultant for C4D, advocacy-partnership. Pratyaya worked in corporate communication and as copywriter with Ogilvy and Mather. He works with wide range of communication channels such as, written, audio visual, online, social media and mobile. He plays pivotal role in advocacy, PR and social and mHealth communication strategy to meet the project goal and business development. He did his masters in communication. You can connect with Pratyaya on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook.