Sustainability is the theme for the 2014 American Evaluation Association conference to be held in Denver on October 15-18th. Donors, and evaluators themselves, are demanding more and more from the evaluator profession as accountability and transparency have become hot topics. Adding to the complexity of the profession, this year’s AEA conference has called for a “visionary” evaluation for the 21st century: Using systems thinking, how can evaluators tie the complex, interconnected worlds in which they work into long-term global sustainability?

Evaluation will need to rely ever more on technology at both the micro level (tablets and cell phones for data collection) as well as the macro (ICTs for visualization, mapping) in order to envision an answer. To show you how ICT needs have evolved in the evaluation field, this year’s conference highlights panels such as “How to Use Analytics in a Visionary Evaluation” while the professional development workshops have doubled their “Data Visualization and Reporting” offerings, including classes in “Evaluation Dashboards” and the “Role of Data Visualization in Reporting.”

The step from using technology for data collection to mapping and visualizing has been building over the last several AEA conferences. Mobile data collection panels were the most popular sessions last year in Washington, DC. Crowds, sitting on floors and squeezed against the back wall, packed into sessions to hear the best cellphone and tablet options, software tips, and lessons learned from the field. Evaluators from the health, banking, and agriculture sectors drilled presenters from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), Pact, and Population Services International. Representatives from UNICEF wanted to know the best IT strategy for field support. Mobile Accord, a Denver-based socially responsible mobile platform, inquired about the advantages of buying devices and software in-country versus pre-loading and shipping devices in pre-tested.

Here is a sample of last year’s takeaways to give you a sense of what to expect at this year’s AEA conference:

1. Buy devices, software, and support in-country
For large scale surveys, Daisy Kisyombe of Pact recommended buying devices, software, and support in-country, as import taxes were normally cost-prohibitive. Android phones can easily be purchased for under forty U.S. dollars in her native Tanzania, and survey software and support were available all over Africa from Mobenzi, based out of South Africa. In Tanzania, the cost of doing survey evaluations among farmers had dropped to one cent per survey, allowing for a typical 100 person sample to be done for as little as six hundred U.S. dollars.

Laptop data collection in India

2. Select a field surveyor as a point person for IT support
For IT support, several NGOs recommended selecting a field surveyor as point person on cell phone and software support. In exchange, the surveyor will receive the phone at the end of the year. “Theft is never an issue for the phones,” Daisy said. “It is the wear and tear in the field that is the issue. This is an incentive to take care of the phones. And the more surveyors who volunteer, the more we make them teach us IT support back at headquarters.”
3. Use mobile phones to reduce data collection costs
Aleck Dhliwayo of Population Services International (PSI) in Zimbabwe shared that their evaluation survey costs had also dropped dramatically since moving to mobile phone collection. It also allows headquarters to review data in real-time. If there are any questions, headquarters can call surveyors to clarify while they are still in the field. Results used to take up to three weeks on the old paper-based system. Now they have them instantly. Yet, Aleck, too, said the management of new technology required a different mindset: It is tempting to collect more information than you need. But that information needs to be analyzed, stored, and linked to other systems – Data collection used to be the driver of cost. “Now it is the analysis that is more expensive,” Aleck said.

Tablet

4. Capture more quality data in different forms with tablets
The non-profit NORC, based out of the University of Chicago, has a long track record of working with tablets overseas, a mode of survey evaluation everyone agrees will greatly open up the response possibilities. Cell phone surveys usually limit qualitative responses to one word. Tablets can show a farmer an image of his crops, record his thoughts for transcription, and still capture the traditional quantitative data associated with cell phone surveys. Yet, echoing Aleck from PSI, Samuel Haddaway from NORC says analysis and transcription can be expensive, especially in languages other than English. Yet the metadata produced, such as time stamps from when the evaluation was conducted, is invaluable for data quality. NORC normally buys tablets in-country, but doesn’t give them to surveyors as they are too expensive right now. They leave them for the home office because, again, taxes make it prohibitive to ship them out of the country.

5. Pre-test, pre-test, pre-test
The lesson all panelist stressed to international development evaluators: Pre-test, pre-test, pre-test. “The first time we did not sync the phones until we arrived in the field, where connectivity was low.” Shared Daisy Kisyombe of Pact, “It took us half a day. The next time we did it in our office, it took fifteen minutes.”

Expect this year’s AEA conference to provide more takeaways on data analysis, visualization, and mapping as the needs of the field evolve beyond the needs of data collection to ensure project success.

Christian Douglass

Christian is a recent graduate of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs mid-career program focusing on Monitoring and Evaluation in International Development. Christian has eight years of experience of program design, implementation, training, and evaluation including a USAID Rule of Law initiative in Russia; USAID private sector develop project in Ghana; and conflict analysis and evaluation with the U.S. State Department. A former international private sector consultant who conducted on-the-ground economic research in 75 countries, he has also been a business journalist and researcher for the Harvard Business School. He is currently an independent contractor working with private sector international development firms in the D.C. area.

If you interested in these topics, please enroll now in the Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation online course that runs Sep 22 – Oct 17, 2014.

Photo credit: TextIt

I am not tech savvy. I do not keep up with the newest phones or gadgets and I have no idea how to build a website. However, I have been texting for many years and I know that if I can master the SMS system and stay connected through messaging, anyone can. Which is why I was so impressed by TextIt, a messaging platform that is simple yet can achieve so much- from surveying dispersed populations to disseminating life-saving information that may not have otherwise reached its target destinations.

When learning about the tool and using it in the Mobiles for International Development class, I was thinking about access, a main concern of mine within international development. Not only did I find TextIt accessible to me as the creator of a campaign in terms of the ease of building an SMS flow (again, if I can do it, most people can), but also in the array of possibilities of its relevance. Whether it is access to clean water, healthcare, education, or safe roads, TextIt provides a platform for people on the ground, even those in the most remote areas, to communicate their experiences and needs through the tips of their fingers.

In my own field of interest, namely providing access to education to marginalized populations in developing countries and humanitarian settings, I believe TextIt could be an asset. I can see it being used for purposes of teacher training, of understanding if a regional school system is being inclusive of the community’s children with disabilities, or even in a post-disaster situation, letting communities know about impromptu schools being set up by organizations and finding how many children are not in school. The possibilities are countless.

TextIt has the potential to expand more widely in several areas. Currently, it only operates on Android phones and I would hope that the developers are working to make it accessible to other mobile companies so as to increase access. In addition, survey taking may not be familiar to some cultures and seeing the large-scale success of TextIt could take a lot of time. Though the SMS system may be quick, cost efficient and reach many people, it does eliminate the human aspect of international development and the nuances of person to person conversations are lost through the mobile devices (for example, you can survey a group of villagers about the infrastructure in the area, but unless the person developing a campaign physically goes to see the area, much of the reality is lost). Moreover, a survey that is not well-planned or well-worded or inaccurate information is being sent out could cause mistrust of the system and the senders and people will stop using it.

Overall, I think using TextIt as an international development tool encourages more creativity, pushing professionals to think beyond traditional methods of interaction with their beneficiaries. Personally, I see myself finding a way to incorporate TextIt in my future projects and hopefully with that, I will become just a bit more tech savvy.

About Yael Shapira

Yael Shapira TechChange alumni

Yael Shapira works as Assistant Director of International Relations, Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University and recently completed TC105: Mobiles for International Development. Yael received an M.A. in International Education from GW in 2012, with an academic focus on providing access to education to marginalized populations in conflict and post-conflict settings, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has lived and worked in Ethiopia, India, Israel, Niger and Switzerland, where she planned and implemented educational projects for refugees, street children, children with disabilities and other populations. Yael received her Bachelor’s in International Relations from Boston University in 2009. She was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel.

Interested in learning more about TextIt and other mobile platforms in the context of global development? Join us for an online course on Mobiles for International Development.

In a recent LinkedIn post, World Bank President Jim Kim discussed the global impact of smartphones in even the most remote areas of the world today. President Kim called cheap smartphones the “poor’s new window to the world of the rich.” Not only are smartphones increasingly providing people in the developing world a medium to view possibilities in other countries, they also provide the means for online access to media, services, and goods offered abroad.

Industry-wide, the prices of smartphones are lowering. Current mobile leaders looking to expand into new markets including emerging markets are offering products at a lower price points to be affordable to new customers. Expanding internet access initiatives by a variety of players will drive down the costs of data plans for smartphones. The entrance of more players in the mobile phone provider space is pressuring mobile phone companies to compete by offering smartphones at low prices, allowing smartphones to be more accessible in the developing world.

Here are the top 5 cheap smartphones for under $50 USD as of July 2014:

1. Mozilla  (as low as $25)
OS: Firefox
Now available in India for $33 (buy it on SnapDeal)
Will be available in: Latin America and Africa (buy it on Firefox) Mozilla $25 smartphone

Photo credit: Cellular News

Popularly known for their desktop browser, the Mozilla Foundation announced at the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona its collaboration with the Chinese chipmaker, Spreadtrum Communications to release the cheapest smartphone to date. Mozilla hopes to attract customers in Latin America, Africa, and India by using their own operating system, Firefox — rather than iOS or Android. This affordable Mozilla phone recently launched in India on August 25th for $33. It supports Hindi and Tamil, the two most widely spoken languages in India.

2. Used Apple iPhone 3GS as low as $40
OS: iOS
Available in: any country with a GSM carrier with a sim card (buy it on Amazon) Apple iPhone 3G

Photo credit: The Unlockr

While known for making the most coveted and expensive smartphones, Apple’s older iPhone models do come at an affordable price. You can buy Apple’s used unlocked iPhone 3GS on Amazon for as low as $40. Once unlocked, the iPhone may be used with any carrier with a new SIM card, allowing it to be used in other countries. Another alternative is going through mobile donation programs such as Hope Phones. Hope Phones is a program that accepts phone donations to supply to mHealth workers across the world. TechChange donated several used iPhones to Medic Mobile last year.

3. Karbonn Smart A50S $46 (Rs. 2,790)
OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Available in: India (buy it on Flipkart) Karbonn A50 smartphone

Photo credit: BGR

Already making affordable handsets in India, Karbonn Mobiles is entering the affordable smartphone race by introducing the cheapest Android smartphone in India. While Android enjoys 80% of the smartphone market in India, according to Android’s Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai, less than 10% of the Indian population has access to smartphones. With its relatively low cost, Karbonn will attract first time smartphone buyers in remote places.

4. Spice Smart Flo Edge Mi-349 $47 (Rs. 2,845)
OS: Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
Available in: India (buy it on Flipkart) Spice Smart Flo Edge Mi 349

Photo credit: GSMArena

Joining Karbonn in providing the Indian consumers with another affordable smartphone is Spice Smart with its Flo Edge Mi-349. Spice Smart provides yet another option to the Indian population on the already popular Android platform.

5. MTN Steppa $48 (499 Rand)
OS: Customized Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Available in: South Africa (at the following stores: MTN stores, PEP, Foschini, Edcon, Truworths, Ackermans, John Craig, Woolworths, Rhino, Dunns)

 MTN Steppa smartphone

Photo credit: TechCentral

Known as the most affordable smartphone in South Africa, MTN Steppa can be purchased in select stores for 499 Rand ($48). MTN Steppa is based on Qualcomm Reference Design Programme that allows any brand to produce their own brand device at a lower cost. MTN Steppa is yet another player in mobile companies’ race to make the most affordable smartphone.

Runner Ups
Beyond the Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxies that dominate the smartphone market in the U.S., there are other smartphone providers that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable mentions include:

Are there other budget smartphones we missed here? How much quality can consumers expect from these low-cost phones? Are you interested in this topic of cheap smartphones and their applications in the developing world? Enroll now in our Mobiles for International Development online course.

Photo credit: First Access

 

In the fight against poverty, microcredit has been hailed as one of the most successful tools invented to help enterprising men and women build wealth in the developing world. Access to small loans has certainly been a game changer for many low-income individuals. I have seen microcredit make a positive impact on real people through my work at TechnoServe, a non-profit committed to applying business solutions to alleviate poverty. In fact, many development organizations are dedicated to similar business-centric initiatives, helping entrepreneurs build successful businesses by connecting them with capital, networks, and skills training. This work is vital to reducing poverty, but these organizations do not have the capacity to help everyone in need. There are still 2.5 billion men and women around the world without basic financial services.

During a recent course I took with TechChange on Mobiles for International Development, I was very impressed by First Access, an SMS-based loan assessment tool. This technology has the potential to give the 2.5 billion adults without a formal bank account an instant credit history. With a credit history, these individuals would have the ability to take out a loan. First Access uses pre-paid mobile phone data to assess credit risk and deliver a loan recommendation via SMS to potential borrowers in just a few seconds. Instead of sending a financial representative to a potential borrower’s house to assess risk, the loan representative could simply send an SMS.

This technology is impressive because it uses already existing financial and demographic data registered with telecommunications companies to determine loan eligibility. It is a more objective, standardized system, unlike the current loan assessment technique in many developing nations, which can be based on the materials used to construct your house or the opinions of your neighbors. First Access benefits all parties, particularly financial institutions by saving them time and money cutting down on the cumbersome loan assessment process, as well as phone companies through increased data usage and customer loyalty.

By using the already aggregated data for the 6.3 billion active mobile subscriptions around the world, First Access is, in many ways, simply acting as a liaison between different parties. To make the technology successful, strong partnerships with financial institutions and telecommunications companies need to be established. The alignment of interests will be a huge obstacle in many markets. First Access has the most potential for success in Africa, as many African countries are already using mobile money programs, which should make borrowers less reluctant to adopt the technology. However, First Access could be dangerous in countries where political, religious, or ethnic tensions are prevalent, as the assessment process might be forced to deny some applicants and grant loans to others.

Financial institutions bear the biggest risk in using this new technology to assess credit eligibility. First Access is unclear about how the assessment process determines the loan award, simply stating it is based on demographic, geographic, financial, and social information. It seems borrowers could manipulate the process by artificially inflating their social networks or using someone else’s address. The potential for a mobile phone black-market is even more of risk. A strong mobile device fraud-assessment would need to be built into the financial assessment process. This could easily be negotiated with the telecommunications companies to help increase legitimate phone sales, as well as lowering the risk for financial institutions.

First Access could potentially connect over half of the world’s population to microcredit services through its convenient loan assessment process. It’s quick, easy to use, and it doesn’t require excessive outside intervention, or hands on training. For the first time, these billions of unbanked men and women would be given the opportunity to start a business with the click of a button. This technology is empowering people by giving financial institutions objective, standardized data. No longer will people be judged by the material of their roof, but the data stored by their phones.

 

Tessa Ruddy is a first-year graduate student at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. She is studying international development and conflict resolution and recently took TechChange’s Mobiles for International Development course. She is passionate about the impact of development work in pre and post conflict communities, particularly the use of SMS-based technology to connect people with financial services.

Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of UN Foundation. (Photo credit: Johns Hopkins SAIS. Photo by Kaveh Sardari Photography)

Last Friday, the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) launched its second annual Global Women in Leadership Conference with this year’s theme on “Technology in Action: Changing the Way Women Live and Work”. Throughout the day, female leaders spanning various aspects of the tech industry from across the world joined over 300 conference attendees to discuss the growing role of women in technology.

Supporting women in tech has always been important to TechChange and we’ve been excited to work with several organizations in this space. For example, we’ve worked with TechGirls at the State Department, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), and partnered with USAID to create a course on Gender in Political Transition Environments. At the conference, it was great to hear from TechChange partners including MAMA’s Executive Director, Kirsten Gagniare, and Christopher Burns, Senior Advisor and Team Lead for Mobile Access at USAID, as they discussed mHealth and mobiles for international development. I found it personally inspiring to meet and hear from all of these female trailblazers in tech from across the world including Roya Mahboob, one of the first female IT CEOs in Afghanistan, and many more women leaders in technology driven industries.

In case you missed the event, here are a few highlights from this conference on women and technology:

  1. Mobile is the future to empowering women worldwide. ICT4D and women’s global access to technology, especially mobile phones, was a strong theme throughout the event. According to keynote speaker, Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation, there are currently more mobile phones than people in Africa. Also, the gender gap in mobile phone usage is wide: women have 300 million less mobile subscriptions than men.

Mayra Buvinic, Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation discussed how mobile phones empower women with mobility and privacy for financial transactions. A specific example of this empowerment is via M-PESA, which has been championed by women and has become a global model for mobile money, according to Jalak Jobanputra, venture capitalist and Managing Partner of FuturePerfect Ventures. With the excitement of emerging mobile technology, ThoughtWorks CTO, Rebecca Parson, highlighted an important point on how cultural and local context matters in ICT4D. She shared a poignant anecdote on a water project in Africa that was sabotaged by the women of a particular village. The motivation behind this damage was to preserve the already limited external interaction among the females of this community; the water pump technology took away the opportunity for women to interact with each other when they would collectively fetch water for their families.

2. Education is key for women to succeed in tech. In the conference’s final panel on “Leveling the Field: Expanding Economic Opportunities”, panelists shared several resources for women to build up their technical acumen and to get involved in tech communities. Be sure to check out groups and organizations like Tech LadyMafia, Rails Girls, CodeChix, Girls Who Code, and taking online courses with TechChange! Proficiency in tech tools opens up options for women in terms of job opportunities and work arrangements such as telecommuting and flexible work schedules when using collaborative software.

3. Women as consumers and producers of tech will result in products more catered to women. Jennifer Sherman, Senior Vice President of Product Mangement at Aptean, made a strong business case for design teams to consider women when creating new tech products. As tech companies are looking to grow their customer base, they will need to understand what women want as more women want to buy tech products that are specifically designed and built to meet their needs.

What was your favorite takeaway from the conference? How will the world be shaped by women consuming and producing more technology? Let us know your thoughts!

In the Fall 2013 session of TechChange’s online course on mHealth – Mobiles for Public Health, several participants attended the fifth annual mHealth Summit, a dynamic conference welcoming clinical, policy, tech, business, and academic experts to reflect on the evolution and future of mHealth.

Setting up an exhibition booth, the TechChange team attended the 2013 mHealth Summit to document the perspectives of mHealth newcomers and experts alike. We were fortunate to see some of the guest experts in our upcoming mHealth class such as Kelly Keisling from NetHope and the mHealth Working Group, Alain Labrique from Johns Hopkins, and alumnus Apera Iorwakwagh of the mHealth Alliance.

Among those we interviewed at the 2013 mHealth Summit, Dr. Layla McCay, physician, policy influencer, Huffington Post blogger, and TC309 alumna, shared her online learning experience in TC309:

See a segment of her blog post, Why mHealth Is Caught Between Vision and Reality, submitted as a TC309 final project, and published on HuffPost Tech:

At the mHealth Summit, Steve Case defined the three stages of entrepreneurship as hype, hope, and happiness. The collective imaginations of Summit delegates have been inspired by “hype” — we believe in the potential of mHealth as a health service improvement tool. That’s why we showed up. This conference seems to be planting us firmly in the “hope” phase — we recognize the significant barriers, the practical challenges to implementation. These are still early days in mHealth. What’s clear is that while mHealth may be caught between vision and reality, it’s not stuck there. It’s going to be amazing. Eventually. When it is, we’ll move into the “happiness” phase, where the potential is realized: the infrastructure’s in place, and mHealth is just a conventional, effective tool that everyone’s using in health care. The specifics of what this success will look like is impossible to predict as the field is moving so fast. What can be easier predicted, is at this point, the entrepreneurs will circle to the next hype.

We look forward to hearing and reading more from Layla and other TC309 alumni!

Want to learn more about mHealth and the latest developments in mobile technology in public health? Register now for this 4-week online course on mHealth. Join Kendra Keith, a global health professional specializing in mHealth, as she facilitates of the Fall course starting November 17, 2014.

Kendra Keith

Kendra is a global health professional passionate about integrating mobile technologies in public health programs, particularly those targeting quality improvement of maternal and newborn health services, elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and meeting the information and training needs of community health workers. She has diverse mHealth experience including program pilot, evaluation and scale-up in Southern Province, Zambia and donor policy and implementation with the USAID Office of Health Systems. She is a “healthie”, holding a MPH from Boston University School of Public Health, but envious of all “techies”. As a TC309 alumna, she is excited to join the TechChange team to assist facilitation of the upcoming session.

By Lauren Bailey, TC309: mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health alumna

Lauren Bailey

My final project for TechChange’s mHealth online course overlapped a final project for a master level global environmental health course. I’m currently working towards a Master of Public Health degree, concentrating in global environmental health, and specifically focusing in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). I recently became interested in mHealth and decided to do my global environmental health course project on mHealth in the WASH sector. Since I was new to mHealth, I kept the project simple, touching on some basics. This background document includes: (1) applications of mHealth in WASH; (2) case studies; and (3) recommendations.

Throughout TC309, I became increasingly interested in how mHealth can be applied to behavior change, a major component of reducing WASH-related illness. The mHealth online course has been a wonderful way to learn about the different applications of mHealth, the challenges and successes of programs, and the future possibilities of mHealth. I’ve been inspired by many of the articles, discussions, and live presentations and am now incorporating mHealth into my master’s thesis.

Here is the infographic I created, using Piktochart as part of my course project:

mHealth-in-WASH-infographic_Lauren Bailey

Highlights:

  1. Mobile phones offer a means to reach most at-risk populations, particularly those in rural areas, to change health outcomes.
  2. More individuals in most African countries will have access to a mobile phone than they will to an improved water source by 2013.
  3. Mobile phones have been deployed over the past decade as tools to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene.
  4. Client education and behavior change communication, data collection and reporting, financial transactions and incentives, and supply chain management are potential mHealth applications categories.

To read Lauren’s entire final project from the online course, mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health, please click here.

Interested in learning more about how mobile phones are impacting WASH, healthcare, and promoting health worldwide? Register now for our 4-week online on mHealth here.

 

Mercy (pictured with Maeghan Ray Orton from Medic Mobile) at UMCom workshop in Malawi

Posted by TechChange alumnus, Neelley Hicks, ICT4D Director of United Methodist Communications.

Mobile phones seem to be everywhere in Africa, and they’re keeping people in touch with health, education, banking, and community empowerment.

“Email and Facebook are problems…but this text messaging – it’s no problem,” says Betty Kazadi Musau who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In early August 2013, I spent the week with Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo, who provides healthcare in communities in Malawi. Recently, she took an online course through TechChange called “Mobile Phones for Public Health.” She wondered what impact mobile phones could have on her health program in Madisi, so she conducted a test.

The problem: HIV+ men were not coming to the support group and health management classes.

The test: Separate into two control groups – one would receive text reminders about the next meeting and the other would not.

The results: Out of the 20 who did not receive text messages, five attended. Out of the 30 who did receive text messages, 25 attended and were standing in queue when she arrived.

One client said, “You reached me where I was.” This isn’t a small thing. Often community health workers walk miles to find someone only to learn they are away. But the mobile phones stay with the person – making them much easier to reach.

Mercy conducted this test directly through her mobile phone and it took her nearly all day. But with FrontlineSMS, she can enter mobile numbers easily for group messaging. She said, “After the online course, the UMCom workshop (in Blantyre), and these conversations, my eyes have become wide open.”

Join us in our next round of Mobiles for International Development and mHealth: Mobiles for Public Health online courses! 

To read the original post on Neelley’s blog, “Stories in ICT4D”, please click here.

The Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame is launching a  pilot initiative with TechChange to experiment with blended learning online and offline on the topic of mHealth: Mobiles for Public Health. As part of Notre Dame’s continuing experiments of best practices in online and hybrid learning,  this initiative of the Master of Science in Global Health program will be combining an on-campus class on mHealth taught by Professor Joseph Bock with TechChange’s mHealth online course. According to Dr. Bock, “This pilot course is an exciting initiative and we are eager to promote it.”

Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Global Health program is sponsoring 11 students and program directors to join TechChange’s mHealth online course in conjunction with Professor Joseph Bock’s face-to-face offline mHealth class, which aims to equip students with technical knowledge to apply mobile and Information Communications Technology (ICT) for global health challenges. The school will be receiving data on the students’ participation on the course platform from TechChange, which along with their written assignments for the Master of Science in Global Health class, will factor into determining the students’ grades. As the students will be logged in and participating in TechChange’s online learning platform, Professor Joseph Bock will be meeting in person with the students weekly to discuss the content on the TechChange mHealth course and the professor’s assignments.

In partnership with the mHealth Alliance, TechChange has offered this mHealth: Mobiles for International Development online course four times since 2012.  The course, which has been mentioned in the New York Times, has welcomed over 450 doctors, nurses, community health workers, and global public health experts who regularly participate in this online course from over 75 countries. Participants have included representatives of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Cleveland Clinic, Global Health Corps, officials from ministries of health of several countries, and many more.

Notre Dame’s MS in Global Health students have been enthusiastic about beginning the mHealth course, which will run March 31 to April 25, 2014 – just before final exams and before the students travel abroad to pursue summer global health field and research projects. Several students plan on tying in their mHealth online learnings into their planned field work after this semester, including Michael Clark, who believes this mHealth course will help focus his current project to track mosquito-borne disease in Belize using a mobile database platform by meeting other global mHealth practitioners in the online class.

“The mHealth course will help focus my efforts in Belize as it teaches best practices learned through collaboration with local partners across the world,” says Michael Clark. “Further, I look forward to the invaluable tips for implementing ICT4D in previously technology-deprived areas, like rural Belize, that the expert lecturers and current global health practitioners will be able to provide.”

Jingmeng Xie plans to build upon her past experience at a Nairobi maternal health clinic (a Ford Family Program) by applying the content she learned in the mHealth classes to explore the roles mobile technology can play in public health. The MS in Global Health students, through the mHealth initiative, are diving deeply into the role that mobile data collection, electronic health records, and Information and Communications Technologies can promote better health for populations even in the most remote areas in the world. Another student, Thomas Ulsby, is preparing for his summer research trip to India where he hopes to learn how electronic reporting of blood glucose levels via mobile phones has impacted treatment plans for type I and type II diabetes.

We’re very excited to welcome these students from the University of Notre Dame and can’t wait to see how they’ll be applying their experience in mHealth to their summer field projects in India, Belize, Kenya, and beyond!

Interested in learning about mHealth this spring as well? Register now for our mHealth: Mobiles for Public Health online course.

 

Posted by Arjen Swank from Text to Change, guest speaker for TC105: Mobiles for International Development

Since 2008, Text to Change (TTC) has been working to provide and collect real-time and accurate information using mobile devices in relevant and meaningful ways to people in developing countries all over the world. As the mobile phone has reached even the most remote places across the world, we have seen how mobiles can empower citizens of developing nations.

Through our experience in partnering with development bodies, NGOs, private companies, governments and other global organizations, there are several key lessons we’ve learned in using mobile phone technology to achieve social change and work to limit continuous dependence on foreign aid.

Here are some of the key insights TTC has learned for best practices for Mobiles for International Development:

1. Keep it simple

One of our Text to Change’s guiding principles is to maintain simplicity in the services we develop and the technologies we use. Our campaigns can reach everyone who has access to a mobile phone, approximately 80% of the developing world. We provide profiled databases, call centers with research capability, and text message platforms that are interactive, easy to use, scalable, and cost-effective – all supported with measurable results.

2. SMS campaigns can reach more people

When TTC worked with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, they wanted to provide pregnant women, even in the most isolated areas, with important information regarding their health. The goal was to empower them to take the necessary steps for a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. However, they weren’t able to reach them. TTC launched a large-scale nationwide mHealth SMS campaign targeting these women. Within three months we had 100,000 unique participants. Now the total amount of participants is almost half a million and as we speak there are 260.000 unique participants.

TTC programs create opportunities for people to improve their lives and have reached millions of people across 17 countries in Africa and South America. We help organizations to connect with their, often hard to reach, target groups and create meaningful dialogues.

3. Personalized interaction matters

Because this maternal health campaign was interactive, we were able to determine in what phase of their pregnancy these women were. This way, we could provide them with the right personalized message at the right time. For instance mothers are reminded that they need to visit the clinic for their third ANC visit, when and what medicine to take, or receive information on hygiene and nutrition in a specific week after the delivery. The information can be updated based on inputs from the users or clinic staff, but users can also opt-out or re-opt-in when they (no longer) want to receive the messages.

Want to learn more about Text to Change and how they’ve implemented SMS programs successfully throughout developing countries? Enroll now in mHealth: Mobiles for Public Health and the next round of Mobiles for International Development an online course that will discuss how mobile phones are being used to improve the health of new mothers, share farming best practices, and teach within and outside the classroom across the world.