In 2016 nearly 70% of the bottom fifth of the population in developing countries owned a mobile phone, meaning that the poorest households are more likely to have access to mobiles than toilets or even clean water. This breathtaking reality offers a clear opportunity to use available technologies to increase the outreach and efficiency of specific development interventions. Both donors and civil society organisations (CSOs) are wary of the opportunities and challenges associated with using ICTs in a development context, and much effort has been placed on developing commercially viable and sustainable mobile services for agriculture, health and nutrition over the last few years. However, ICTs are only one piece in a bigger system and sometimes we need to step back a bit to discover how a programme is having an unexpected negative impact in the very same people it is trying to benefit.
My name is Alvaro Valverde and until recently I was working with Oxfam as Private Sector Adviser (ICTs). My work included leading two programmes that used mobile phones to advance Oxfam’s work on livelihoods and women empowerment. One of the programmes was mNutrition, which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for people living in poverty in 13 countries, especially women and children, through increased scale and sustainability of mobile based nutrition-sensitive information services on health (mHealth) and agriculture (mAgri). The second programme was Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care), my role focused on the use of ICTs for building evidence for influencing change on unpaid care work (e.g. cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children) in Malawi.
The mNutrition programme in Malawi developed SMS and IVR services for agriculture and health in collaboration with Airtel, the government of Malawi and local content partners. The service arm concentrated on creating commercially viable services, while the content arm focused on developing scientific based behavioural change information and messages. In parallel, the WE-Care programme implemented three research methodologies to gather evidence on the current distribution of unpaid care work in Malawi and on the impact that access to mNutrition services and content had in the re-distribution and reduction of unpaid care work for women smallholder farmers in the country.
Through participatory action research the WE-Care programme identified the current challenges and unequal distribution of care related activities at the household level in Malawi. This research was followed by a household survey, where detailed data was gathered using mobile phones from almost 600 households. The findings from both methodologies supported the idea that women in Malawi have an extremely busy daily schedule, as they carry out the vast majority of care related activities within their households, apart from also engaging in income generating activities.
The third methodology was a Randomised Control Trial (RCT), which aimed to understand the impact that access to mNutrition services had on the allocation of time to unpaid care work. Participants in the treatment group received a total of 24 SMS on their mobile phones (health, agriculture and food preparation messages) while those in the control group received a total of 12 messages containing interesting facts and seasonal greetings. The findings from the RCT revealed that the mNutrition programme was having an unexpected impact on the lives of the participants: users of the services prioritized the application of those messages directly related to income-generating activities during the first two months of receiving the information, to the detriment of messages directly linked to health and food practices; this increase in the time allocated to productive work also resulted in a reduction of sleep hours and time dedicated to personal care, as well as a higher perception of the occurrence of domestic violence by participants in the treatment group.
While it is worth taking into account the short period of time in which the RCT took place, these results point to higher calorie consumption by the participants (more time spent in the field and less sleep hours) and no increase in calorie intake, which could result in a potential reduction of the nutrition levels of the beneficiaries in the short term. This would directly challenge the overall goal of the mNutrition programme and even its sustainability in the long term. These findings were used to create a set of recommendations for the redesign of the mNutrition programme and also to inform the development of future ICT4D programmes that target poor women living in developing countries. Read the complete research and recommendations here.
There are three main things I have learned from this experience: women in developing countries have an extremely busy daily schedule and successful behaviour change can only happen if women’s time constraints are taken into account from the onset of a programme; more research is needed to better understand what works and what doesn’t when using ICTs in a developing context, particularly for mobile based information services that aim to promote behavioural change; and ICT4D programmes should not be developed in isolation, but rather linked to ongoing development interventions and existing sources of information.
What is the link between mobile value-added services and unpaid care work?
was published on 07.12.2016 by Alvaro Valverde. It files under sub saharan africa
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A few weeks ago we had a great time at our annual Vision Meeting at Bella’s LebenGut! It was inspiring, fun, strengthening, bounding and joyful as always and it was a pleasure to spend our time together.
The Vision Meeting was also the general assembly of our association and the attending members voted Georg Steinfelder as our new vice-chairman after Fritz stepped back. They also extended my position as chairman and I would like to express my gratitude for their trust in me.
Florian guided us through the first day and gave us a great structure to have a better understanding of who we are, what we want and how we can achieve our goals and future plans.
We took some notes to persist the outcome, here’s a short summary of some key statements:
- has good vibes and we have to keep them
- is a safe space for our feelings and ideas – it’s a supporting network
- is a place where at the same time everyone can be a mentor and get a mentor
- is a dynamic organisation but furthermore with different dynamics and that’s good!
- let friends succeed and it is wonderful to see that
- Is a place where we can listen, observe and support
- is an incubator for ideas and together we share the same realities
- is a place for curious people
- has visions and we can reach some of them
- Discussed ICT4D.at Projects
- mICT4DMZ – we are still waiting for the funding and we are excited to kick off the project. Paul will handle the project from India with Philipp’s support who is our partner at the INSO.
- Ghana – Margarete pauses for the moment to finish her PhD, but there are a lot of possibilities. She wants to go there soon and start with fresh ideas. She wishes to have the support from one of our younger members to create a good working team for the project. She recently also got the offer to talk about bigger funding, she will have a meeting in November. Margarete also wants to focus on new and young members for our association to face our new challenges and get new ideas.
- Team Nimble – There is a lot in the pipeline for our newest project. We will continue our cooperation with the Red Cross. Anders and Georg will have a meeting soon with the Red Cross to support them with their profession. Chloé will support the team from India. It opened many doors and we are still searching for the best way to continue. We also want to create an independent website.
- Dot Learn – Wolfgang wants to engage himself in the Dot Learn project and this might result in new opportunities for us. He will keep us updated on his efforts, great!
- Osramba – we tried to start a new project in Ghana but we fail of acquiring the funding. We reflected on it and discussed the process.
- We want to have more communication and we brought up new and old ideas. A Stammtisch was mentioned and might happen again soon, but we also decided to have repeating Skype calls to stay more in touch and exchange ideas. It was proposed to meet every two weeks online and just talk about opportunities. If someone wants to discuss a topic in detail, then she or he will lead the call. It’s not obligatory and open for everyone since it was also mentioned that we are an association consisting of active and passive members. Anders, Wolfgang and Georg are already interested in hosting one of these calls, so stay tuned.
- ICT4D.at also means to us to collaborate and combine. We already worked with other organisations and we want to improve on that. We are also proud of having a lot of different professions and we love to exchange and combine our expertises. There is also the possibility to collaborate professionally in the future.
- We are already 8 years old and we realized that we only have two years left of planing our 10 year anniversary party and we should start ASAP. Bella and Georg already started to compose the official song and there is more to come.
It was a wonderful weekend, but see by yourself:
A few years ago we opened our association for broader ideas than just ICT4D. We did not loose our focus as our active engagement in Ghana and Mozambique shows but we wanted to create a platform where people with ideas outside of the ICT4D context can also benefit from our networks and organizational structures.
Due to this shift we recently carried out the Nimble Building Days, where we got engaged with the Austrian Red Cross to support their efforts with the current refugee challenge in Austria. Lead by two of our members, Georg and Chloé, a three day workshop was carried out at the Kurierhaus, a refugee shelter in Vienna. It was a huge success (read more here) and resulted in a deeper cooperation and two further workshops in other refugee shelters.
Some thoughts went through my mind while getting in close contact with refugees. Since we – ICT4D development enthusiasts – most of the time talk about developing countries in a broader sense and how we can support them, we then in the end cooperate with local or marginalized citizens within the country and rarely the country itself or their representatives. It’s about the people, or more the citizens of a developing country and how we can empower them. Our goal in the end is then to support them by building up their own successful communities and infrastructures.
Implementing an ICT4D initiative in a rich country like Austria, which is seen as a developed country might seem a bit posh or superficial. But again, it’s not about the country itself, but rather the marginalized people in the country – like refugees, people who seek for shelter in Austria. These new inferior members of our society are mainly excluded from our communities and they (or more the general topic of how we should deal with foreigners in our communities) create political and social tensions. Austria and the European Union is struggling with the topic of immigration and it seems like we are not as developed as we think we are; whatever developed actually means. We use the term Information and Communication Technologies for Development since it was accepted by the international forums and is the most used and accepted term in scientific publications and project implementations . But the term Development is still criticized as Shose Kessi, a social psychologist at the University of Cape Town puts it profoundly :
I dislike the term ’developing world’ because it assumes a hierarchy between countries. It paints a picture of Western societies as ideal but there are many social problems in these societies as well. It also perpetuates stereotypes about people who come from the so-called developing world as backward, lazy, ignorant and irresponsible.
And this is also the case for Austria. It would be ignorant to put Austria with it’s high quality of life on the same step as Ghana or Mozambique but there are still marginalized people in this country where ICT can be used to empower them. Besides many more, we installed WiFi-Hotspots in two refugee shelters so they can access the Internet on their phones and to also connected donated PCs for studding within the Nimble Building Days. This was possible due to a cooperation with Ingenieure ohne Grenzen Austria, a partner organization of ours and we are grateful for their support. This simple ICT4D implementation here in Austria will hopefully empower these new members of our society to find their place, no matter how long they are going to stay.
We are stunned of this new development within our association, we would like to thank all of our partner for their trust in us and can’t wait to continue our cooperation with the Austrian Red Cross,
Ingenieure ohne Grenzen Austria and the refugees themself.
 Tim Unwin. ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development. Auflage: 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Feb. 2009.
Connect and collect…
More than half a year ago we participated at the Helpathon TU Vienna. Can you remember? – An emotional rollercoaster at Helpathon TU Vienna
After winning the 2nd price we decided to continue the work on our concept. So we moved on and started to meet the organising team of the Red Cross Vienna to gather more information. Also we met the teams of two refugee houses in the Vordere Zollamtstraße and in the Lindengasse. Lots of photos and notes were taken, several interviews were made, overall we collected valuable inputs for our concept to become a really helpful system that enables easier communication between refugees and employees of the Red Cross.
A good talk can save hours of work…
Packed with impressions we returned to our desks and tried hard to figure out the next steps. We thought of the best possible way to pull off the implementation of an easy to use visual communication system. It seemed so clear in the beginning: Work out a concept, gather information, refine your idea and a raw diamond turns without a doubt into a perfect one. However we realized that there is in fact so much more to consider. What we did before was important investigative work but also just a scratch on the surface. And so after a really nice and intense meeting our small team decided to push the project to another direction.
An event to help those in need…
What we learned after hours of research was a wide overview of the variety of challenges the Red Cross faces every day in the refugee houses. Some are big, some are smaller but often the staff can’t solve even the smallest problems because they simply don’t have enough time or the problems are too specific. That’s why we came up if a new concept: Organise an event where volunteers and refugees work together to solve as many of those big and small problems as possible. And so six months after the initial event the foundation stone of the Nimble Building Days was laid.
The conclusion of a piece of hard work…
The Nimble Building Days are an event that gives us the opportunity to help people who where forced to leave their homes behind. The ones who received shelter are living in temporary refugee houses like the Kurierhaus Lindengasse. The Red Cross Vienna satisfies basic needs however they lack infrastructure like free internet access and the overall atmosphere of the rooms is rather spare.
Together with the inhabitants of the Kurierhaus and employees of the Red Cross we try to help those people and their families to live normal lifes again.
Now we are looking for support! Participate in the Nimble Building Days or make a donation! Send us a private message on our Facebook page or write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is our event page.
Our dear friend Anders made a short film to promote the event. It reflects the positive energy of our team. Enjoy!
Together, creative and effective for families in need!
Team Nimble is looking forward to hear from you!
The Helpathon is a Hackathon where participants focus on developing IT-solutions for people in need. This kind of event gained a new level of importance since more and more refugees from Africa and the Middle East are seeking shelter in european countries. It took place at TU Vienna throughout the weekend on November 14th and 15th.
Our freshly re-elected chairman Paul (member of the INSO and one of the organisers of the Helpathon) invited us (Chloé Zimmermann, Florian Sturm and me) to team up and try our best. Which was not easy for anyone in the beginning – just a few hours ago Paris was hit by terrorist attacks and the news spread like a shockwave. It was difficult to focus under these circumstances. But we tried hard and figured out a nice concept after talking to Ulrike Karpfen and Elisabeth Palugyay from the Viennese Red Cross and Jochen Petri from Train Of Hope. Because two thirds of us weren’t able to write code for an IT-programm we decided to take the exact opposite direction.
The idea: Provide a flexible information system for buildings and rooms that is easy to understand for both refugees and helpers.
The key: Well designed Pictograms which can be sprayed or sticked easily onto walls and also be rearranged quickly. Furthermore the pictograms can be downloaded from a website. New pictograms can be uploaded and users can recommend well designed pictograms. All pictograms should also have a positive “attitude”, which means there should not be any signs that show prohibitions. In our opinion it is better to show people in need what they can do instead of what they must not do. It may be a way to contribute to the well-being of refugees and prevent frustration.
Our credo: Doing it as low-tech as possible to make it useable for every organisation.
When an architect, an IT-developer and a graphic designer combine their skills there might be some chaos first but in the end something beautiful can happen. As the deadline approached on Sunday we felt the pressure growing but we didn’t give up. We finished in time and presented our idea to a jury next to 5 other teams. After a thrilling hour of waiting the result finally relieved us: 2nd place and 1000€ for the realisation of the project. A wonderful ending of this rollercoaster ride called Helpathon.
We are looking forward to the next steps of this exciting project! Stay tuned!
This Wednesday (10/14/15 – 06:30 PM) the Austrian chapter of Engineers Without Borders start with their series of lectures at the Vienna University of Technology. They call their educational program Technik trifft Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (Technology meets development cooperation) and will include several topics from sanitation to renewable energy, different projects in general and more. The program and the dates can be found here: http://www.iog-austria.at/veranstaltungen/vortragsreihe/
We are proud to participate within their lectures and we will talk about our last ICT4DMZ project in a 20 minute presentation next to other researchers of the Vienna TU. Save the date:
25th of October, 06:30 PM
at TU Wien Hörsaal BD 02 Getreidemarkt 9, 1060 Wien
We are proud to announce that two of our former student who worked with us in our last ICT4DMZ project were part of the OurMoz (Mauro Banze, Alfredo Muchanga and Félix Barros) team which won the World Bank’s #APPS4MAPUTO contest in Mozambique. Mauro and Alfredo gained in our lecture at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) a better understanding for mobile software development and design. Mauro said that in our courses he learned a lot about software design which also partly enabled their success. He describes their work as a
crowdsourcing Android app that would allow citizens to report problems in their communities and share relevant information with others.
They worked together with the Associação Fraunhofer Portugal Research (Fraunhofer Portugal) and they describe their cooperative output as follows:
The Android App developed within the scope of this competition allows the community supervisors to report situations detected on the field more rapidly; to consult geotagged events, according to a specific category or location; to validate the information submitted by citizens, as well as to give feedback about each situation’s resolution status, assuring that all information is integrated with participatory monitoring platform ntxuv.
The Application’s stability and usability, the reliability of the information communication, the App’s positive response to the needs of the Participatory Urban Service Monitoring for Maputo Municipality, as well as its capacity to motivate the supervisory workers, were among the qualities acknowledged to the group of young research students Mauro Banze, Félix Barros e Alfredo Muchanga, from the OurMoz team. Moreover, these were the evaluation criteria applied to all solutions submitted to the contest and assessed by judges a panel, which comprehended representatives from several major organizations, such as the World Bank, the Swedish Embassy in Maputo, the mobile communications company mCel, the startup Ideario, and the company UX.
We are very happy and wish them all the best for their future. Keep up your awesome work!
A few months ago we supported Noah from the Keta Senior High Technical School to finance his drone project. We are happy to announce that the project was a success and the drone arrived at the school. Noah and his colleagues are already experimenting with their new flying technology, check out the pictures below!
But they are not stopping there. A new research project has started a few days ago and they need your support! They will use the drone to create a documentary on salt mining. Once again we support their awesome idea and call for your funding!
Check out their project here:
Due to our Digital media training for teachers in Ghana project in Keta we are in close contact to the Keta Senior High School. Local students want to start a new research project on salt mining the area and they are looking for your support!
“Our mission is to discover how salt mining is done over there and to listen to the various views of the people concerning the challenges they face in their effort to develop their salt mining.
We would learn about how salt is mine locally and develop ways to solve the challenges the miners face in other to enhance their work. Another aim is to discover some of the resource they have and to come up with a way to utilize them.”
To find clever students at the Keta Senior High Technical School is not that hard, but what Noah does is simply amazing. He is one of the most talented kids at his school and continues to work on our project in Ghana (with Margarete’s online support). Voluntarily engaging and working with his colleagues is naturally for him. They founded a “Mobile Learning Society” at the school, are experimenting with robotics (see photo) and most important: approximately half of the group are girls, which is not so common in other schools. Within his new project he and the the “Mobile Learning Society” publish Wikipedia articles and contribute with their work to the free online encyclopedia.
Currently he is collecting money for a drone to give people all over the world an insight to his work, life and great projects. With the drone they can get a better view from above. One of their first filming projects will be a report about salt evaporation in Ghana. Their experiments will be documented in a blog. All together it is a big step forward with the regard to STEM developments launched currently all over the world.
If you are stunned like us, the please consider to donate a small amount of money to his awesome project:
If you can’t, then please share his vision to reach as many people as possible!
We would like to say thank you and wish Noah all the best