U-ReportOn July 16th, UNICEF’s U-Report, a groundbreaking text-message based innovation that amplifies the voices and views of young people in developing countries, reached over one million active users.

This has allowed many young people in developing countries, who would otherwise not have a voice, to share opinions on everything from skills they think would be the most beneficial in the working world to the best way to deal with country policy.

This information is recorded as documentation of the real-time insights of people living with the current problems of the world. Local governments of these developing countries can view U-Report statistics and information to ascertain the perspective of future generations.

Once a person joins U-Report, they can receive weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of U-Reporters, regular radio programs that will broadcast relevant stories, and newspaper articles that will publish news from the local community.

“U-Report is an entirely new model for engaging young people, empowering communities, and holding governments more accountable,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, where the platform is helping UNICEF workers share critical information about Ebola, polio, and newborn care with families living in remote areas that health workers cannot easily reach.

U-Report has become so popular and influential within Africa that Airtel Nigeria, a telecommunications company, has partnered with UNICEF to make U-Report more accessible. Through this improved connectivity, more Nigerians will have free access to the mobile applications and services developed by UNICEF. The partnership increases the information and provides more opportunities for participation by allowing UNICEF to tap into Airtel’s mobile services to make health, education, child protection and community-focused content readily available to all Airtel Nigeria customers.

These strides by UNICEF to make global awareness readily accessible to young people have improved the chances in the future for a better, more connected global society.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, Ureport, Telecom Paper, Airtel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

mobile_educationEneza is the Kiswahili word for “to reach” or “to spread.” The new education platform by the same name acts as a virtual tutor and teacher’s assistant for thousands of students living in rural Kenya.

Eneza’s mission is to reach 50 million children across rural Africa to help them gain access to information, allowing them to reach their full potential through the most common form of technology in Africa: the cell phone.

In its pilot program, students are provided with cell phones in school in order to be exposed to content that is aligned with its local context, ranging from textbook materials to unlimited quizzes and tutorials.

In addition, schools and parents are also given access to data and tips for helping these children, allowing Eneza to serve as a simple platform that still provides the same quality educational materials found in high-tech institutions.

The mobile software has found its way into 5,000 public schools and plans to expand to Ghana and Tanzania in the near future.

This year, Eneza Education was declared a winner of the 2014 ICT Innovation Awards at the Connected Kenya Summit, an event that celebrates Kenyans who have developed ICT solutions that drive economic and social growth.

Economic development and social growth are exactly what Eneza spurs with its SMS-based system that sends practice exams to students who can subscribe for the equivalent of 10 cents per week, narrowing the gap between those who can afford education and those who can’t.

Since its launch two years ago, this tiny Nairobi-based social enterprise has given children living in rural areas who can’t afford extra fees and courses the opportunity to reach high and broaden their knowledge base.

According to its co-founder Kago Kagichiri, the app has already processed more than 34,000 exams in September and holds a record of 2.5 million users. It has also proven to increase results within the country’s educational system.

“We’ve seen—from our impact study in 2012—that students increased five percent in their scores,” Kagichiri said. “We tested it out in 2013, last year, with teachers being the driving ends of the platform and working with students. That improvement went up to 11 percent.”

Eneza Education joins one of the many mobile innovations in Kenya that continue to boost the country’s economy and revolutionize the meaning of mobile education.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Eneza, Take Part, AFK Insider, All Africa
Photo: Flickr

In late August, Senegal’s first case of Ebola was confirmed in a man who had previous direct contact with a patient in Guinea and then traveled to Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. In collaboration with the World Health Organization, the Government of Senegal took immediate measures to stop the virus dead in its tracks.

Nearly 5,000 people have died from the Ebola virus and over 10,000 people have been infected. To prevent the spread of Ebola within Senegal, the Ministry of Health sent out over 4 million SMS messages to the general population warning of the new Ebola case and ways to individually prevent the contraction of the virus. The messages, based off a social campaign previously used for diabetes, were sent to citizens in Dakar and Saint-Louis, another heavily populated region in the country. The SMS campaign entailed multiple partnerships with local mobile phone companies and urged people to contact health authorities with news of anyone showing signs of fever and bleeding by calling the number provided. The messages received were then broadcast in large public events, such as sports games and rallies.

Dr. Mbayange Ndiaye Niang, a project leader at the Ministry of Health, says the “SMS campaign was part of a much larger national project in Senegal focused on awareness, prevention and care for people with Ebola.” Other awareness methods included flyers, radio announcements and messages posted on government websites. Washing hands regularly and avoiding contact with infected persons and animals was heavily reinforced.

The SMS campaign was extremely successful and, to date, there has only been one Ebola case in Senegal. The efficient and quick reaction by the Ministry of Health was possible due to the existing platform designed to help people manage their diabetes, called mDiabetes. The campaign began during the holy month of Ramadan, where fasting elevated risks associated with having diabetes. By registering with the program, persons with diabetes could receive free tips and advice via text messages on how to control problems associated with fasting. Thus, when Ebola reached Senegal, the government already had mechanisms in place to send text messages on a large scale.

The SMS campaign in Senegal proves that the technology platform can present an opportunity to target awareness on any disease, ranging from HIV/AIDS to the flu. In a world where phones and mobile devices have taken over all forms of paper, governments should invest in more technology-based initiatives.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: World Health Organization, UN Multimedia

Photo: Text Magic