Nimbus Blog, Projects, Trips

Hope starts in Malawi and Zambia

Using mobile technologies to improve programme communication and save lives

MiHope ( Mobile Interactions bringing Hope) has been launched in Malawi and Zambia where it aims to help achieve the UNAIDS target of ‘Elimination of parent to child transmission of HIV by 2015′ so that the next generation is born ‘HIV free’. This will be achieved by ensuring pregnant women and their male partners have greater access to testing, treatment and care, particularly in rural areas. MiHope will improve vital communications between caregivers, their clients and Ministry of Health clinics and we believe the programme will literally ‘save lives’. Working with NGO partner, Tearfund, Nimbus has developed a system that enables mobile chat, an offline information portal, and data collection tools on a feature phone. The solution also includes a sustainable solar charging pack to ensure that even in the most remote areas users can keep mobile phones fully charged.

During the last two weeks Nimbus has been training new users in the use of the mobile technology and in general communication skills so they can better support clients. Tearfund’s rural caregivers support HIV+ mothers and encourage fathers to engage in family health issues with the aim of reducing parent to child transmission. New users can quickly pick up the mobile chat features and are soon able to take photos, record voice files and then send them to supervisors or health workers for advice. This feature alone could save many hours of wasted trips and enable simple illnesses to be treated at home. “This is really going to help us do our jobs better and save lives” said one attendee at the training last week in Malawi.

Picture : Siyunda Nevers in Zambia Oct 2011 testing his new phone and applications

The chat feature uses the Mxit application, which uses data connectivity to send MIM (Mobile Instant Messages) rather than SMS. This has two major benefits to users, firstly, it enables the user to attach photos and voice files to messages – these files are typically only 30-35kb data in size; secondly, 1000 MIM can be sent for the price of a single SMS so the cost enables multiple conversations. It is the unique ability to engage in conversations that builds local capacity and extends under-staffed healthcare services. Even in the very rural communities in central Africa where the pilot is running MIM works using existing 2G connectivity.

On our last day in Zambia we were visited by the Director of the Regional Health Authority who wanted to explore ways that the project could be extended to reach more people in his area. We also had a visitor from Kenya who, after spending a couple of days with us, wanted to roll out the programme there. This is a great endorsement to the work being delivered in Zambia and Malawi.

“It didn’t take long to see the potential of this project” said Lucy Njue-Kimosop, CPAK National Coordinator & Program Manager, ”we are very keen to take the learnings from Zambia and implement them in our own Kenya programmes. MiHope is an excellent initiative”

Nimbus has also implemented an information application for rural caregivers which enables them to access key facts and resources to equip them to better answer clients’ questions. This gives them information at their fingertips via their mobile phones and helps ensure that the correct information is given first time.
To support the wider efforts of reducing HIV amongst the population the MiHope pilot we will also collect information on caregivers’ activities and on outcome data from local health clinics. This supports the work of the local MoH (Ministry of Health) and ensures that there is strong accountability within the project.

Nimbus is an independent ICT4D consultancy working with Governments, Development Agencies and NGOs across Africa and Asia. We co-design and develop technology solutions with local communities ensuring appropriateness and sustainability. Solutions include mobile mentoring for rural health workers, mobile information tools for field workers and digital surveys for M&E reporting.

If you are thinking of deploying a technology solution in your international development programmes, talk to us first to ensure the most appropriate solution for both you and the local context. PLEASE CALL US NOW ON 0330 330 9813 OR MAIL US AT peter@nimbus.mobi

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