Technology for change

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” – Albert Einstein

Technology for social change

One of our primary objectives at Nimbus is to address this imbalance and to utilise the best new technologies to combat social needs in the developing world. Our aim is to apply technology in such a way that it positively impacts people and works to bring communities closer together.

With our combined experience and with expanding relationships Nimbus is seeking to pioneer new ways of enabling behavioural change through the use of mobile technologies.

Technology has an important role in solving the world’s social issues yet it is not the main element of change. We believe that for real and sustainable change to happen in communities, three things are needed in the community;

  1. Access to information and ideas thus providing an understanding of issues.
  2. A desire for change which originates from within the community and is embraced by it.
  3. A level of social influence from pioneers of change who can lead opinion and ensure the change is rooted in that community.

Creating change space

Where these three elements are all active together you get what we term “a change space “and it is in this environment where individuals and communities can drive the change that they want to see. The presentation below details how Rlabs and DAS created their change space. This research will be published in detail later in the year.

A change space has delivered stunning results in South Africa, where we have worked closely with Rlabs in Cape Town. Through their Drug Advice Service (DAS) we have seen some amazing transformations. Firstly, the DAS service uses mobile phones to provide information on drugs and the problems of misuse. Secondly, they provide a mobile counselling service where users can ‘chat’ through their issues using MIM. The advisors hosting the service are themselves transformed drug users from the community and provide the crucial third element needed for the change space. This approach has seen over 10,000 people with addiction engage with a counsellor in the last year. The DAS project has been featured in the media, including national television, and they offer community programmes in schools and are working with parents to building social pressure and momentum for change.

We believe this model has tremendous potential in many development scenarios where communities are in tension and large scale, significant change is required.

Technology and behavioural change

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Imagine being able to send 1000 messages to those who need them the most for the price of just one text message.

Over the last year a new technology has crept onto the African scene allowing a step change in the way that the poor can access and share information. We believe that Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) through services such as Mxit will make a tremendous difference to the provision and impact of information services. People can send 1,000 MIM “texts” for the price of a single SMS message.

This technology offers benefits in terms of lower cost and greater ease of use. The users can enter into a “conversation” with a service provider making it a very personal system. It is this ability to establish a relationship through the multiple exchange of texts that distinguishes the system from SMS based information services. Relationships are what hold the key to translating information into practice.

Mobile mentoring

Research in the West has shown how a simple buddy system can help drug users or smokers to find their way forward. Regular reminders enhance people’s adherence to curative drug regimes, giving them valuable encouragement. This has tremendous potential for tackling HIV and ARVs. It is this potential for cognitive behavioural change that offers a plethora of possibilities in the development context.

The technology enabler in the DAS service is JamiiX, a product with exciting possibilities. It provides organisations with the tools needed for offering any information advice and guidance service over mobile phone networks. It is fully enabled with an information resource which can be drawn down by a client, offering a growing FAQ database. Most importantly it operates a MIM advice service on a large scale by enabling individual advisors to manage 20 to 30 chats at the same time.

Nimbus has provided free consultancy services and advised with the development of business plans for the launch of JamiiX. We are delighted to maintain our links with South Africa and to act as the UK Distributor for JamiiX. In addition Nimbus is developing its own unique technology to provide rural and impoverished communities with free access to information on health care, social and economic issues.

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