4 Mobile Services Reducing Maternal and Child MortalityA woman in Africa is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in Western Europe. The lack of nurses and midwives in comparison to Europe can make a significant impact on pregnancy and postpartum healthcare as well as maternal mortality in Africa. However, organizations and businesses are helping improve African women’s living conditions. Here are four mobile services reducing maternal and child mortality in Africa.


This mobile platform “connects marginalized and vulnerable girls to online content designed to equip them with knowledge, confidence and connections they need to navigate the complex choices of adolescence.”

Springster’s content can be accessed through social media channels like Facebook to provide a space for girls to engage in topics like puberty, education, money management and relationships. The app is based on sharing real-life experiences, helping girls make positive choices and change their lives for the better.

A major innovation with the app is Big Sis. Big Sis is a chatbot designed to provide personalized information about questions related to sexual health. This enables girls to find advice and answers 24/7. The app has impacted many girls’ lives with the reassurance and advice from shared stories and experiences from other girls like them. As a result, they are able to provide guidance and support from each other.

Mum & Baby

This service sends free health information via SMS three times a week to mothers, caregivers and partners. When people sign up for the service, they provide their age, location and stage of parenting they need help with from early pregnancy to taking care of a five-year-old.

After giving out personal information, Mum & Baby sends out personalized messages depending on the information given. Along with the messages, there is a free mobile site that does not use data. Instead, it offers articles, videos, tutorials and tools like the immunization calendar, due date calculator and pregnancy medicine checker.

A study was conducted to see the impact Mum & Baby has on people using the service. The study found 96% of users found the information via texts helpful and 98% of users say they would take action to care for themselves or their children.

Of the mothers and pregnant women surveyed, 95% of them say the information they received influenced their decision to breastfeed. Moreover, 96% of the people surveyed were influenced to get their kids vaccinated. More than 650,000 children were immunized as a result of free text messages.

RapidSMS in Rwanda

This mobile service has a similar style to Mum & Baby in the sense that it shares information via SMS. However, with this mobile platform, community health workers are equipped with mobile devices to collect and use real-time data on key maternal, neonatal and child health indicators.

The data is collected within the first 1000 days of life from pregnancy to childbirth to up to two years. This also includes a broad range of areas of childcare such as antenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, growth monitoring and even death indicators such as maternal and child mortality.

The indicators are recorded using the mobile platform and generate reminders for appointments, delivery and postnatal care visits. There is also an emergency care platform called Red Alerts. There is also a creation of a database of clinical records on maternal care delivery.

UNICEF did a study on RapidSMS to measure its effects on maternal and child mortality. It has contributed to some changes in the use of healthcare services and maternal and child mortality but has overall made improvements on health outcomes for mothers and children in Rwanda.

M-Mama’s Ambulance Taxi

This application “uses mobile technology to connect women in rural areas of Africa to emergency transport.” The project started in 2013 to help women in rural Tanzania gain access to healthcare where almost half of the women there give birth at home without the assistance of a healthcare worker. Many mothers and children die from preventable birth complications due to the lack of health systems and delayed access to care.

The people of M-Mama intend to change that and reduce maternal mortality rates which is a challenge faced by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The process of M-Mama’s ambulance taxi project starts when a patient makes a call to a 24-hour dispatch center. A call handler will then access the condition of the patient using the app, which would indicate whether the patient needs a transfer to a health facility. If healthcare is required, the nearest taxi will be notified and identified through the app, requesting the taxi driver to take the patient to the hospital. This way, taxis act as a cost-effective ambulance for the patient. The driver will then be paid after safely escorting the patient to the hospital.

Since M-Mama’s start, there has been a reduction in maternal mortality of 27% in the Lake Zone regions of Tanzania.


These mobile apps are reducing maternal and child mortality rates in Africa. Through the mobile services’ resources and aid, young girls can make better decisions and expecting mothers can get the help they need, despite their remote locations. Reducing maternal and child mortality by 1% can increase GDP by about 4.6% in African countries.

However, one issue that stands in the way is the lack of access to mobile phones and the internet. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa are 13% less likely to own a phone and 37% less likely to access the internet on mobile.

The more investment there is to reduce maternal and child mortality in Africa, the more it will generate social and economic benefits for Sub-Saharan Africa. To do that, governments and non-profit organizations need to work to close the gender gap and develop mobile health services. These efforts will help women be informed and make healthier decisions.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Apps That Help Fight HungerHunger is a crisis facing many countries and communities around the world, with about 821 million people experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, the biggest risk to worldwide health is hunger and malnutrition. Several programs already exist to help fight this issue such as food banks, food stamps, shelters and agencies like World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. However, there is an up and coming way for anyone to be able to provide assistance—smartphone apps. These five apps that help fight hunger offer various ways to give help with little more than the tap of a finger.

Five Apps That Help Fight Hunger

  1. Share the Meal – The U.N. World Food Programme created Share the Meal. The WFP helps 80 million people with food assistance and is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting against hunger. Download the app, donate $0.50 or more and feed a child for the day. The WFP then receives the funds, provides the meal and will even show in the app where the meal will go.
  2. Feedie – Feedie is an app that partners with the Lunchbox Fund to provide a meal to underserved children around the world. Over 12 million meals have been given through the app as well as through donations. Download the app, find a participating restaurant, take and share a picture of the meal and the restaurant will make a donation that equals the cost of one meal.
  3. OLIO – OLIO is a food-sharing app based in the UK that allows people and local businesses to post food items nearing their best-by or sell-by date for other people to pick up. To date, over 1 million people have joined the app and 1.8 million portions of food have been shared. To post items, download the app, add a picture and description of the item, list when and where it can be picked up and wait for someone to claim it. To request items, scroll through the local listings, request what is needed and arrange to pick up through a private message.
  4. Chowberry Chowberry is an online app, similar to OLIO, based in Nigeria that allows consumers and organizations to find food products listed by retailers that are nearing their sell-by date. Chowberry works with orphanages and faith-based organizations, as well as everyday customers. Sign up for the website and scroll through several participating stores and listed items to find needed items.
  5. WeFarm WeFarm is a farmer-to-farmer digital network that allows farmers to connect to other farmers in various parts of the world, without the use of the internet. More than 1 million farmers have been helped using WeFarm and over 40 thousand questions and answers are sent in each day. Farmers can text their local WeFarm number a question they have, and other connected farmers can respond with their answers and suggestions.

Hunger is an ongoing issue that millions of people face every day. These five apps that help fight hunger offer several different solutions to both those in need and those that are able to help. From donating a few cents, to listing discounted products, to connecting farmers around the world and more, helping those dealing with hunger can be a quick and easy process requiring nothing more than a cellphone.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

mobile apps in developing countries
In the last 10 years alone, the number of mobile phone users has grown to four billion, with 37 percent of that growth occurring in developing economies. With internet availability expected to reach even the least developed nations in the next couple of years, a rapidly growing market for mobile apps in developing countries will likely expand even more.

Why is This the Trend?

In areas of Asia and Africa, one can buy a smartphone for the equivalent of $30. Simply put, mobile technology is the most convenient and cheapest technology option available for developing countries.

This convenience is one reason why the biggest market growth is seen in three main regions:

  1. Latin America, where smartphone adoption has seen double-digit growth and mobile banking gives financial access to those who might not ordinarily have it.
  2. South Asia, where in places like Vietnam, the number of Internet users has grown from four million to 45 million in just the last 10 years.
  3. The Middle East and North Africa, where, in Egypt alone, downloads of tool and messaging apps rose 60 percent in a year.

What Are the Uses for Mobile Apps in Developing Countries?

Whether it is to increase food production, access health information, launch a startup or improve education, a new reliance on mobile apps in developing countries transforms the way nations grow. While access to education is not a given in developing countries, the concept and means of education are shifting.

Four of the five top countries for educational app downloads are India, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. A large reason for this is that 50 percent of South Asians and 33 percent of Africans who finish school still cannot read, and 60 percent of six- to 14-year-olds in India cannot read at a second-grade level.

Mobile Apps are Facilitating Needed Change

For farmers who seek to increase food production, change is especially welcome. For practical purposes, apps like iCow allow livestock farmers in Kenya to track gestational periods for their animals, find veterinarians and monitor best practices. An app called Esoko disseminates information to farmers about market prices, weather forecasts and advisory services. Yet another popular app, WeFarm, offers a peer-to-peer platform for farmers to share information among themselves, with or without Internet access.

Beyond the fields and the classroom, popular mobile apps in developing countries range from banking apps like M-PESA, which allows for the transfer of funds over text message, to Voto Mobile, voice-based services in local languages. These programs have been rolled out in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and India.

In India, as with much of the developing world, access to good healthcare is also a concern. With over 60 million people in the country with type two diabetes and 36 million living with Hepatitis B, its people look to take advantage of the over 100,000 healthcare apps that already exist.

Never has technology been so accessible, yet never has the need for technology been so dire. With the myriad issues that arise because of extreme poverty, mobile technology gives rise to a new hope for developing nations.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

Crime in South Africa
Namola, the innovative app dubbed “Uber for Police,” has just rolled out across South Africa. The free app, created with the City of Tshwane municipality, turns users’ phones into panic buttons; registered South Africans can instantly report crimes to Namola’s 24/7 response line. Namola alleviates some pressure on South Africa’s overextended emergency response number and decreases police response times.

South Africa has some of the highest crime rates in the world. In 2016-17, 1.2 million South African households were the victim of 1.5 million crimes. On average, 52 people were murdered every day. Heavy crime in South Africa strains the country’s emergency response services and leaves some victims with delayed support.

South Africa also has low rates of reporting for some crimes. While 95 percent of murders in South Africa were reported to the police in 2016-17, only 57 percent of house robberies were reported. There was a severe underreporting of non-violent crimes – only about half of thefts from cars and house break-ins were reported.

Namola acts as an intermediary to victims of crime in South Africa and 10111 centers. The free 24/7 crime response app answers and pre-screens calls to alleviate some work from emergency response teams. For genuine calls, Namola shares pertinent information and the GPS location of the caller with the nearest police department or citizen responder. This partnership improves the efficiency of South Africa’s crime response services.

Namola works even if the user’s phone is stolen or destroyed. The app has a call-in number that can also be utilized to access emergency services.

Developers hope Namola will speed up the process of reporting a crime in South Africa by streamlining communication. This new reporting system also has the potential to encourage more South Africans to disclose non-violent crimes by making it easier to contact the authorities. The service eliminates the need to repeatedly call 10111; Namola calls are answered 24/7.

The app now has over 80,000 registered users across South Africa and developers aim to outfit all of the country’s police patrol cars with the system.

South Africa’s Police Minister Fikile Mbalula applauds the public-private partnership, saying: “We continue to emphasize that crime-fighting requires civil society to work together with police. Modern technology empowers our people to protect themselves and access information and help.”

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

More people in Africa now have access to mobile phones than to toilets. While that may be a concerning statistic when talking about bio-security, the saturation of cell phones and the ease of data transfer and communication has opened the door to many creative solutions to some of Africa’s most pressing issues.

Humanitarian efforts, from tracking disease to analyzing hate speech, to helping farmers track market prices have all found an unexpected ally in mobile technology. Below are four mobile technologies in Africa that are making a difference.

Pulse Lab, use of telecommunications data to track measles outbreaks

Pulse Lab based out of Kampala, Uganda has found a unique way to predict disease outbreaks in the country, by using mobile phone locations to understand how Ugandans move around. Tracking population movements and aggregation trends can help disease experts predict when and where outbreaks are most likely to occur, as well as how the outbreak may spread around the country. This dramatically increases response time and allows for better overall preparedness.

Umati, monitoring online platforms to track the presence of hate speech

Following the 2007/08 post-election violence in Kenya, some wondered about the role of social media and online communications in catalyzing the violent outburst. The Umati project, started by iHub, an organization dedicated to advancing technological innovation in Africa, seeks to better understand the use of hate speech online. The goal of the project is to understand how hate speech is used online and to develop ways to detect when such vernacular indicates potential violence.

Kudu, using mobile phones to make agricultural markets more effective

The idea behind Kudu was to make agricultural markets more effective by helping farmers find the best buyers and thus the best prices for their goods. Kudu establishes a double auction, where sellers and buyers are connected by a third party, which both can communicate with as simple as sending a text. Buyers and sellers are then matched and the markets are kept stable.

Punya, “Transform a sea of goodwill into actions by linking knowledge, data, and mobility”

Punya cloud architecture aggregates data and mobile applications from numerous humanitarian organizations. The Punya project works to integrate individual applications with as much of the available relevant information as possible. This integration streamlines humanitarian efforts, connecting aid organizers, volunteers and researchers, all in one data cloud. During disaster relief efforts, or when combating disease outbreaks like the ebola epidemic, this streamlining can be a critical edge.

– Gina Lehner

Sources: Punya, Umati, Kudu, Pulse Lab Kampala
Photo: Wikimedia

Botswana Unveils Electricity Payment App
Access to reliable electricity is necessary for life in the modern world, and countless studies have shown that increased availability of electricity leads to economic increases, longer life expectancies, and in general, a higher quality of life. While many developing countries are increasing their electrical infrastructures, millions across the world are still energy deficient.

Even with access to electrical grids, many do not have the funds to pay for power or are in such remote locations that payment becomes a burden. The African nation of Botswana faces these issues but has recently rolled out a solution.

A payment company called Botswana Post has just launched an electricity app for Android users that allows them to buy prepaid amounts of electricity for low costs and to pay existing balances. Eighty percent of mobile customers in Botswana use the Android mobile operating system.

The electricity app also allows for direct user contact with the Botswana Power Corporation for the purpose of repairs and electrical installment. Botswana Post also provides similar services for many of the major banks across the country, Western Union, Botswana Telecommunications, and hopes to add gas and broadband payment services soon.

The app is yet another marker of Africa’s rapid modernization and potential for progress. It comes at a time when energy is not only becoming more and more available, but is now easier to maintain, and cheaper to acquire.

The simplicity of obtaining and keeping electricity that the app presents will surely have a positive impact across the country and should correlate to greater economic output and incomes for citizens who had, in the past, been quite literally in the dark.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Botswana Post, Footprint to Africa
Photo: Google Images

Mobile_AppsMobile apps have been taking the smartphone industry by storm. While many individuals use mobile apps in their free time to play games, check the weather or follow a sports team, Africans have learned to take full advantage of the knowledge available at their fingertips.

Not only do Africans use their smartphones to make calls, send text messages and browse the Internet, but they also use their devices to access mobile money services and locate healthcare facilities.

This list compiles the most popular mobile apps in Africa that are available on either Android or iOS devices.

1. Find-A-Med
This location-based mobile application allows its users to find the closest healthcare facility. The app also provides a place where its users can store their basic healthcare information in case of an emergency. Find-A-Med is available on both Android and Apple devices.

2. PesaCalc
PesaCalc is a free Android app that allows users to streamline access to mobile money services in Kenya. This app is compatible with all three of Kenya’s mobile money services. In addition, the app allows users to prepare the correct amount of cash to send, including fees, to both registered and unregistered users.

3. SnapnSave
SnapnSave is a shopping app that gives its users cash back on their everyday grocery purchases. The app was recently launched in Cape Town, South Africa, and its developers are hoping that it will influence their consumers to make smarter purchases.

4. Wumdrop
Wumdrop is a South African-made app that allows for the delivery or picking up of packages. The user is able to request a courier, track them on a map and receive notification of the pending delivery.

5. Slimtrader
This app was founded in 2009 and is popular in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Slimtrader allows its users to perform e-commerce transactions, such as buying or paying for goods and services. In other terms, the app allows its users to effectively shop by text messages. However, it is only available on Android devices.

6. M-Farm
Launched in 2012, M-Farm is primarily aimed at Kenyan farmers in order to keep them informed of crop prices and other farming-related matters. The app runs on an SMS-based service and is now available to users in five major towns in Kenya. This app is only available on Android devices.

7. Voicemap
Voicemap allows its users to explore places such as Cape Town with the help of its walking tour setting. These audio walking tours are available in voices belonging to expert correspondents, veteran broadcasters and passionate locals. This app is available on both Android and Apple devices.

8. Kids First Aid
The Kids First Aid app gives parents and teachers access to emergency first aid information when they need it. Ideally, this app will be able to give information to parents when they are travelling in a place where they do not speak the local language or when help is not readily available. This app is available only on Apple devices.

9. Suba
Suba is a location-based group photo album that creates a group photo stream. Once the stream is created, users can add pictures and send invites to others. Suba is available on both Android and Apple devices.

10. Safari Tales
Safari Tales was developed in order to eliminate the shortage of books in Kenya. The app is interactive and available in multiple languages. Safari Tales offers African stories that may not be easily found in countries that lack educational books for children. This app is available on Android devices.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: IT News Africa, Voices of Africa
Photo: Flickr

5 Mobile Apps that are Doing Good

Here is a list of 5 mobile apps that encourage people to participate in addressing global issues like poverty, slavery, employment, and infrastructure:

Abolishop: This app was a winner of Virginia Tech’s competition to invent technology that would help combat modern day slavery. The app is a web extension which provides consumers with a quick and easy way to check if the available products were ethically made. Abolishop will check potential purchases and, using research from independent organizations, will give the item a letter grade (A, B, or C) depending on the manufacturer’s history of using child labor or exploitative practices in production. Abolishop is based on the idea that consumers want to make ethically responsible choices, and lack the know-how to do so.

One Day’s Wages: One Day’s Wage is based on the idea that every individual will be willing to donate one day’s wage towards the fight to end extreme poverty. Their small and simple app allows you to calculate what one day’s wage is for you, and then select a charity to make a one time or recurring donation. Free, direct, and with a relatively simple idea, the ODW app has the necessary ingredients to make an impact. 

Causeworld: Causeworld is an app that calls upon businesses to donate part of their profits, with the help of the public. When individuals check in to stores and scan their products using the app, the sponsor company agrees to donate a certain amount of money to an organization of the consumers’ choice. This is an excellent app, as it relies on big business, and makes it as easy and painless as possible for consumers to get involved in doing good.

Give Work: Launched by Samasource, the Give Work app is aimed at Kenyan women and refugees. The app pairs smartphone users with Kenyans to complete short, on-screen digital tasks. So while waiting in line at the bank or stuck in traffic, one can now assist an individual in Africa. In turn, the Kenyan users are trained. The organization says the iPhone app has pinpointed what they need to focus on in training as well as generating money and awareness. 

Donation Connect: Donation Connect does what many other organizations do: it matches individuals with charities they’re interested in and allows them to donate. However, what makes Donation Connect innovative is that donations can be made through your phone, and appear on your next bill or deducted from your prepaid balance, rather than needing to go through a credit card or in person. This small tweak makes a major difference, for its ease, accessibility, and huge database of organizations. 

SeeClickFix: See Click Fix allows citizens to contribute to the good of their community in real time. They can highlight and update problems or areas of concern, e.g. broken roads, piles of trash, or hazards complete with descriptions, pictures, or videos. They can also track progress and discuss existing problems within the neighborhood  Citizen participation and communication is faster and more detailed and quicker, thereby enabling a much more engaged community. 

Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Virginia Tech Youtube, One Day’s Wages, Forbes, Donation Connect,  SeeClickFix
Photo: Doxon