Old Phone Donations to Provide New Phones for Community Health Workers in Africa

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 18, 2009

There is a new initiative under way to used use old phones to donate money for mobile health initiatives for clinics in Africa.  The Hope Phones campaign is a project of kiwanja.net, the UK parent organization of FrontlineSMS, a text messaging platform.  The project asks people in the United States to donate their old phones for a small donation, in turn, to FrontlineSMS that then can be used to purchase new phones for community health workers in clinics in Malawi and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Working with The Wireless Source, a phone recycling facility in Michigan, United States, Frontline receives a certain amount of 'hardware credits" for every phone donated. According to Josh Nesbit, a recent Stanford University graduate and now FrontlineSMS Medic's director, a donated phone's value is assessed by the Wireless Source which also pays for shipping and processing costs of the donated phones.   The assessed value can then be turned into refurbished phones for the clinics by Frontline purchases from the same company -- such as for unlocked phones that have the right GSM band for a respective country.  

Community health workers who are often volunteers with little medical training, are on the frontline of healthcare in many countries in Africa. There has been much attention on these community health workers lately, and how to support their critical work with mobile technology.  Some projects have focused on using mobile phones to deliver just-in-time treatment protocols that help community health workers walk through a diagnostic process and approriate treatments, other programs, such as FrontlineSMS Medic and others, focus on remote patient management using text messages between community health workers and patients.

According to Nesbit, there are currently 200 phones used by community health workers at clinics in Uganda and Malawi. in Malawi, according to Nesbit, the community health workers receive and send about 30 text messages a day, communicating with patients on HIV/AIDS treatments, and other medical matters. 

Note:  This is a corrected post to indicate how value is assessed for the phones by the recycling company.

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