FailFaire: What We Learned About Tech FAILs From The Latest FailFaire

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 16, 2011

FailFaire – where it's okay to admit the mistakes. MobileActive hosted another round of FailFaire, bringing together practitioners, developers, donors, and students involved in the use of technology for social change development to discuss what's usually swept under the rug – project failure. The event is an open space to discuss those projects that went wrong in our field fostering a sense of learning from mistakes and knowledge sharing. The latest FailFaire in New York brought together eight practitioners to present their failed projects and what they learned along the way.  Take a look at this FastCompany article about the NYC FailFaire for some background. 

So, here we bring you...

Grassroots Support Organizations and Capacity-Building in M4D: A Case Study of the Jokko Initiative in Senegal

Posted by LindsayEllen on Sep 30, 2011
Grassroots Support Organizations and Capacity-Building in M4D: A Case Study of the Jokko Initiative in Senegal data sheet 1151 Views
Lindsay E. Powell
Publication Date: 
May 2011
Publication Type: 

Fueled by renewed enthusiasm about the potential of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are implementing ambitious projects with mobile technology components in the developing world in a phenomenon commonly referred to as “Mobiles-for-development” or “M4D.”


A participatory approach that responds to the needs and realities of local communities is widely recognized as a necessary component of a successful M4D intervention. However, project failure-especially in sub-Saharan Africa- remains the norm, pointing towards the need for more thorough enumeration of best practices and more rigorous impact evaluation on the part of field-based practitioners. This thesis calls for greater attention to be given to the role of human capacity, which is a precondition for participation in M4D interventions but which also tends to be deficient in rural, poor communities. A greater focus on capacity would entail both assessing capacity- in terms of physical resources and human capabilities- at the local level and including capacity-building in project activities when necessary.


This study employs the human development and capabilities approach and the case study and participant observation methods to examine the efforts of the American NGO Tostan to integrate mobile technology into its non-formal education and empowerment program in rural Senegal. The findings of this study underscore the decisive role played by local capacity and intent and by effective, locally based intermediary organizations, conceptualized in this paper as grassroots support organizations (GSOs), that support the acquisition of the human capabilities needed to harness the empowering potential of mobile technology and other ICTs.






Digitizing Uganda's Health Services: UNICEF Uganda's New Mobile Programs

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 26, 2011

The Ugandan Ministry of Health has launched an initiative to digitize the country’s health management systems. Because mobile technology can be the fastest, cheapest means of collecting and analyzing data, especially in rural areas, the Minstry is embracing mobile technology to create a seamless system of health management and early warning techniques across the country. The Ugandan UNICEF country office has developed projects to work with the Ministry’s goal of digitizing the health systems. mTrac and Community Vulnerability Surveillance are two new projects that use SMS to gather and disseminate data and news, with a focus on health and public services.

Digitizing Uganda's Health Services: UNICEF Uganda's New Mobile Programs data sheet 3520 Views
Countries: Uganda

uReport: Citizen Feedback via SMS in Uganda

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 28, 2011
uReport: Citizen Feedback via SMS in Uganda data sheet 3482 Views

For aid organizations, knowing what local communities and beneficiaries want and need is the key to running successful, sustainable programs. In Uganda, UNICEF is using mobile phones and broadcast media to get direct feedback from Ugandans on everything from medication access to water sanitation. The project, called uReport, allows users to sign up via a toll-free shortcode for regular SMS-based polls and messages. Citizen responses are used both in weekly radio talk shows to create discussion on community issues, and shared among UNICEF and other aid organizations to provide a better picture of how services work across Uganda.
Sean Blaschke, a Technology for Development specialist at UNICEF Uganda, explains that uReport gathers information from participants and informs citizens of their rights and available services. Recent polls have included questions about school dropouts, water point availability, mosquito net usage, and youth employment, all collected via SMS polls.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project is three-fold:

  • To collect feedback and information directly from beneficiaries of projects in Uganda
  • To create a system to directly communicate with and push messages to uReport members
  • To allow beneficiaries to share their views on a number of different topics
Brief description of the project: 

uReport is a UNICEF project in Uganda that sends SMS polls and messages to subscribers in order to gather feedback about communities across Uganda. The information is then used in broadcast and print media to inform citizens about their rights and available services, while also acting as a means of detecting vulnerabilities in communities.

Target audience: 

The target audience is youth in Uganda who want to share information about their communities and start discussions at a community level about available services and programs.

Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

The project has seen a huge number of signups (more than 28,000 registered users), and reasonably high response rates (ranging between 18% and 30%). UNICEF also found that the program is mutually beneficial between them and their partner organizations, as partner organizations can use the SMS system to directly target their members, while UNICEF can use the information collected in the polls to get a clearer picture of how services and systems are working in individual communities.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Challenges include:

  • Finding ways to keep uReporters interested in the project so that they answer the polls (UNICEF is currently testing out multiple incentive programs to see how they affect response rates)
  • Finding a balance between the one-to-one contact of mobile communications and the need to share information with a large number of people (partnerships were built with eight local radio stations in different districts so that information could be broadcast regularly to non-mobile owners)

Mobiles for Development: Understanding the Mobile Telephony Landscape

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Mar 18, 2011

A comprehensive new study, commissioned by UNICEF, sheds light on trends and challenges in global mobile telephony. The report, Mobiles for Development, focuses on mobile tech as an area of significant future opportunity for advancing social development around the word. The report finds that there is an increasing number of mobile-based projects, with the most common sectors being health, socio-economic development and agriculture. Findings also show that "mobile tools can identify the most deprived...communities, provide cost effective interventions, overcome bottlenecks to services, and enable communities to maximise the impact of available resources."

Additionally, the report takes a look at the mobile operators in this field. It finds that there are significant business opportunities for regional operatators in the field of social development, including:

Women and Mobiles: Voices from our Tech Salon

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 28, 2010

Last week's tech salon, "Mobiles for Women and Women in Mobiles," brought together practitioners, researchers, and mobile developers. The event highlighted both the amazing women working in the field of mobiles, and also showcased the promise that mobiles offer to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.

Designed to encourage discussion, the tech salon featured both presentations and an open marketplace, where attendees mingled and shared their work and experiences. 

Women and Mobiles: Voices from our Tech Salon data sheet 3463 Views
Countries: United States

How to RapidSMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 23, 2010
How to RapidSMS data sheet 7437 Views

A how-to guide on using and implementing RapidSMS for mobile data collection and communication.

Ths manual give an overview for how to implement and use RapidSMS in a mobile data collection project. RapidSMS is a SMS framework for data collection, group coordination, and complex SMS workflows.  The tutorial outlines when and when not to use RapidSMS, guides the user through project steps and milestones, outlines factors for a successful implementation, and provides worksheets for project planning. Example training materials are included.

More documentation and developers guides can be found here on the RapidSMS site.

Mobile Tools: 

Malaria Kills: Distributing 63 Million Bednets in Nigeria with RapidSMS

Posted by PenelopeChester on May 25, 2010

The human and economic cost of malaria in Nigeria is staggering. There are currently 110 million clinically diagnosed cases in a population of 151 million.  Malaria kills 250,000 children under five years old in Nigeria every year, and is the cause of 11% of maternal deaths. 60% of out-patient visits and 30% of hospitalizations in the country are malaria-related.

In addition to the enormous toll malaria takes on public health, it is also expensive. 132 billion Naira (USD $870 million) is lost every year in the form of malaria prevention and treatment costs and from the loss of overall economic productivity.

 And yet in spite of the risk malaria poses to the Nigerian people, health surveys from 2006 to 2008 indicated that only 8% of households in the country owned at least one insecticide-treated net (So-called ITNs).

Malaria Kills: Distributing 63 Million Bednets in Nigeria with RapidSMS data sheet 10378 Views
Countries: Nigeria

Building a Mobile Open Source Community in Palestine

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 17, 2010

Later this month, Souktel, a Palestinian NGO, and UNICEF will host a two-day bootcamp and mobile programming workshop with young Palestinian developers in Ramallah. The bootcamp hopes to jumpstart a mobile open source developer community in the region. 

“There are a lot of young Palestinians who are unemployed. […] We wanted to work with young people who have time and are creative. We hope to create the first mobile open source community in the Middle East,” says Souktel’s Katie Highet. 

Building a Mobile Open Source Community in Palestine data sheet 3906 Views
Countries: Palestine

Feedback from Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action: "If this is the Future, I like it"

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 17, 2009

After coming back from Amman, Jordan, where we co-hosted a workshop on mobiles, data, and social action, we heard from many of our colleagues who have been blogging about their experience. We also combed through the evaluations and tweet and other social media streams to evaluate this unique workshop. Here are some excerpts.

Robert Soden from Development Seed writes

Last week I got the chance to present some work we're doing on Managing News and SlingshotSMS at the Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action workshop in Amman, Jordan. It was an eye-opening event that brought together representatives from the Iraqi government's Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology (COSIT)UNICEF Innovation, and several dozen of experts on the cutting edge of mobile technologies, data visualization, and mapping.

The workshop was organized by Mobile Active with the goal of bringing new technology to bear on the challenges involved in Iraq's efforts to meet the Millenium Development Goals. We focused on using mobile phones for data collection around child malnutrition and school attendance. The Iraqi government and UNICEF are looking to collect this information so they can better design and target their interventions.

Several participants have blogged elsewhere about the difficulties on the first day of bridging the jargon-gap between the technologists and the development workers. Yes, the geeks spoke too fast and focused too little on storytelling during the first day's Ignite Talks. True, the development folks could have communicated more effectively about the goals of the project or the context in which they were working. As someone who has tried hard throughout my career to straddle these worlds, I can attest to a few painful moments.

But that's not the story here.

When Development Seed was first getting started seven years ago, this sort of event would have been unthinkable. For me the chance to participate in passionate, intelligent, and creative discussions with high-level representatives of a government and the United Nations about how technology can be utilized to solve some of the world's most challenging development problems was amazing. Even better, many of the tools and strategies discussed will be piloted early next year and rolled out in the months following that. This workshop was the real thing. Real decision-makers working with leading technologists to design and implement a project that would be rolled out in the real world on a scale big enough to matter.

We had great discussions about strategies for verifying data, making mapping participatory, visualizing data, and incentivizing participation in crowd-sourced data collection projects. The range and depth of experience of the attendees ensured that the conversations were peppered with examples of previous work conducted across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. COSIT deserves a lot of credit for their willingness to adopt these tools as well as their active and critical participation in the group discussions. The UNICEF Innovations team also deserves recognition for spearheading the development and deployment of these technologies in a famously slow-adopting UN system. If this is the future, I like it.

Cory Zue from Dimagi notes:

Imagine, for a moment, putting a member of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning next to an MIT researcher working on creating distributed micro-networks of peer to peer communication through cell phones. Now say: “You two – go work together for Iraq’s children!”

Does this sound like an impossible task? The Iraqi is concerned about the unique challenges facing their operations. How to build trust in a government among a skeptical population base. How to tackle the problem of daughters being forced into early marriages, and thus never having access to a proper education. How to reduce violent crime by getting kids off the streets. And how to make policy decisions without access to good data, and difficulty coordinating among ministries.

Meanwhile the researcher is thinking about network modeling, asynchronous communication channels, and extracting meaningful information from a vast, complicated space of data.

Neither person has any domain knowledge of what the other person does or is interested in. Throw in a language and cultural barrier on top, and how can these two people possibly be able to work together effectively?

Well this is exactly what happened at the Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action in Iraq and the Middle East (tumblr, netvibes) workshop last week in Amman.

The key to solving this seemingly intractable problem was, as it often is, the right people. See, it wasn’t just the technophiles and the Iraqis in the room. There was an incredibly broad spectrum of people ranging from the uber-techies, to the tech-for-dev crowd (like us and the Ushahidi guys), to the UNICEF crowd of devs and program managers, to the local and regional UNICEF experts, to the team of ministry officials from Iraq. What this meant was that there was a perfect bridge of communication between every different group, and information flew readily from end to end along this bridge. Everyone in the room contributed to this process.

During the conference’s excellent IGNITE talks, we got an overview of all the different projects being executed around the world, and a picture of how these projects succeed and fail and how they might be brought together began to emerge among the community. At the same time we got to see several of UNICEF’s programs, both tech and non-tech. The convergence of these ideas, with the goal of applying them to help Iraq’s children, was one of the primary objectives of the conference. The ministry officials were supposed to pick and choose from what they saw and decide how best to apply technology for the kids.

But it wasn’t working. The geeks were talking too fast. The translators, struggled with the excessive techo-babble and NGO-acronym-speak. The team from Iraq struggled to keep up. And the techies couldn’t understand what the the team from Iraq needed from them.

This was where the bridge came in. A group broke off from the main session with the goal of framing the discussion in a way that the Iraqi officials could relate to, and providing them an environment to communicate their needs that they were comfortable in. With this bridge in place, each party was able to reach that a-ha! moment where they understood how they could work together.


For the Iraqis it came after an excellent talk about the RapidSMS Malnutrition Project in Malawi by Merrick Schaefer, and then a second presentation (in Arabic!) from Jacob Korenblum on Souktel’s mobile offerings in the Middle East. After a vibrant Q&A session, several of the Iraqis approached me for a RapidSMS demo, and when they saw actual messages coming to and from their cell phones and then showing data on a map they got it. They started talking excitedly about how this could be used in their own programs, and I found it one of the most rewarding moments of the conference.

Likewise, in the last session of the conference the Iraqis presented their visions for potential systems they could build to help the Iraqi children. This time it was the geeks who lit up. A lively discussion of how to build the systems ensued, asking and addressing questions that spanned from the current state of cell phone coverage and costs in the region, to defining specific user and service models, to the unique-to-the-region questions around building the population’s trust and working in an environment where security is a huge concern.

Word visualization of the talks with the Iraqi officials

In this way we were able to expand our small tech-for-dev community’s core of interested parties to both the hard-core techies and the Iraqi officials, and successfully build the bridges of communication to bring the most unlikely of partners together.

We greatly appreciates the thoughtful, smart, passionate people who were able to come together for the three days in Amman to critically and constructively engage, share, and plan together. If this is the future, we like it, indeed. 


Photo: flickr user katrinskaya

Feedback from Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action: "If this is the Future, I like it" data sheet 3374 Views
Countries: Iraq

Scenes from Amman: Mobile Data for Social Action in the Middle East

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 09, 2009

"Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action," a workshop co-hosted by MobileActive.org and UNICEF in Amman, Jordan, featured Ignite Talks -- five minute presentations by inspiring people who are using mobiles for social action in the Middle East -- and interviews with key participants.  Jacob Korenblum describes the work of Souktel in Palestine, and Erica Kochi from UNICEF Innovation, the co-host of the event, illustrates why data collected by mobiles is so important for their work in Iraq. 

Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 07, 2009

We will be blogging and twittering this week from a workshop we are co-hosting on Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action in Amman, Jordan.

Co-hosted by UNICEF’s country office in Iraq, UNICEF Innovation, and MobileActive.org, this three-day gathering is bringing invited experts from around the world together to explore some of the key issues related to using mobiles for data collection and analysis of some of the toughest social issues.

Why are we hosting this event?

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, data collection and monitoring of key indicators from the ground up by affected populations is now possible. Mobile technology in the hands of people can now be more than a person-to-person communication medium but can be used for capturing, classifying and transmitting image, audio, location and other data, interactively or autonomously.

When People, not Computers, Sort SMS Data

Posted by CorinneRamey on Sep 17, 2009

Currently, most SMS surveys have questions that ask people to respond to a menu of multiple choice answers.  But Textonic, an open-source tool that helps sort open-ended text responses, seeks to change that.

"I think it's potentially a major shift in terms of the way we do social research," said Thomas Robertson, one of the lead developers on the project.

Textonic, which has yet to be actually used, was developed as part of a graduate class taught by Clay Shirky in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. The tool is a way of connecting RapidSMS, the data collection platform used by UNICEF, with Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Nutritional Surveillance with RapidSMS in Malawi

Posted by admin on Aug 03, 2009

Tagged With:

Nutritional Surveillance with RapidSMS in Malawi data sheet 4226 Views

This case study was published originally by UNICEF's Innovation Group/RapidSMS. All photo credits: UNICEF Innovation

UNICEF Malawi deployed RapidSMS to address serious constraints within the national Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance (INFSS) System, which was facing slow data transmission, incomplete and poor quality data sets, high operational costs and low levels of stakeholder ownership. 

Health workers now enter a child’s data, and through an innovative feedback loop system, RapidSMS instantly alerts field monitors of their patients’ nutritional status.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

UNICEF Malawi deployed RapidSMS to address serious constraints within the national Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance (INFSS) System, which was facing slow data transmission, incomplete and poor quality data sets, high operational costs and low levels of stakeholder ownership. 

Health workers now enter a child’s data, and through an innovative feedback loop system, RapidSMS instantly alerts field monitors of their patients’ nutritional status. Automated basic diagnostic tests are now identifying more children with moderate malnutrition who were previously falling through the cracks.  This system also increased local ownership of the larger surveillance program through two-way information exchange.  Operational costs for the RapidSMS system are significantly less than the current data collection system.


Brief description of the project: 

RapidSMS is an open-source framework for data collection, logistics coordination and communication allowing any mobile phone to interact with the web via SMS text messages. in Malawi, the tool was used to monitor child nutrition levels.

Target audience: 

UNICEF field staff.

Detailed Information
What worked well? : 

Proper Training in Data Measurements

While RapidSMS cannot directly address many broader constraints of the INFSS system, including the high prevalence of improper measurement techniques, it can help identify potential problems. Measurement inaccuracy is difficult to identify in a system of INFSS’s size, since it is impossible to observe whether child measurements are actually being taken correctly.

However, improper height measurements are easy to identify within datasets, as children do not generally lose height from one month to the next. Subsequently, height-loss errors were used as a proxy for improper measurement techniques. At one site, height-loss was reported for 25.8 percent of children during this period. Not surprisingly, this site had received little supervision or training while using the original paper-based system.

Monitoring and Oversight

By using RapidSMS, stakeholders at the national level will be able to track nutritional trends in each district. The data’s easy accessibility and legibility facilitates the identification of data-entry errors. However, there is presently no one trained at the national or district levels on how to monitor incoming data using the RapidSMS platform. While this platform does not provide any new data, it supplies conventional data sets in real time. This offers its own set of rewards and challenges, and necessitates a different approach to monitoring.


What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Coordinators at the district and regional levels can immediately identify sites that fail to report data and contact them directly through the RapidSMS web user interface. However, this entails regular monitoring of the data. During the pilot, one site failed to report data for two weeks. While this was quickly identified by UNICEF workers in New York, despite the availability of this data outside consultants monitoring the project in Malawi were unaware of the situation.  This points to a need to further simplify the internet user-interface and provide a concrete tool-box to support capacity building in Malawi. RapidSMS should be seen as a tool that allows health care workers at all levels to do their job more efficiently.

Data Bias

The INFSS system was set up not as a predictive model to extrapolate statistics for the larger population, but to identify changing trends in health in target populations over time. Participants are self selecting, as they only include children measured at the GMC. This likely leads to an overrepresentation of very young or sick children in the surveillance program. Additionally, many of the most vulnerable children who live great distances from the GMCs are probably underrepresented.

Furthermore, by automating the weight for height calculations which has shown to effectively identify previously uncaught children with mild malnourishment, it can be assumed that children whose data is being reported via RapidSMS are receiving better care than those that are not. This further biases the sample group, albeit in a positive and hopefully life-saving way. However, it is critical to recognize the limitations of the larger INFSS system due to this data bias.

RapidResponse, a m-health Platform

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 08, 2009

RapidResponse is a m-health platform built on RapidSMS developed for the Millennium Villages Project with support from the UNICEF Innovation Group. RapidResponse uses SMS text messages to facilitate and coordinate the activities of health care providers in the field. These are usually lay community health care workers who tend to provide the majority of patient care in many developing countries.

Using simple text messages, the community health workers are able to register patients and send in health reports to a central web dashboard that allows a health team to closely monitor the health of a community. Powerful messaging features help facilitate communication between the members of the health system and an automated alert system helps reduce gaps in treatment.

This video gives an overview of the platform in a clear and accessible step-by-step manner. While Rapid Response in this case is focused on child malnutrition, Rapid Response has applicability in many other health and non-health settings.

RapidResponse Overview from Matt Berg on Vimeo.

For more information on Rapid Response, see the RapidSMS website.

63 Million Bednets to be Distributed with Rapid SMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 15, 2009

This post was written by Marcia Stepanek of Cause Global where it was orginally published.  Marcia graciously allowed up to repost it here.  

Rapid Android: Turning an Android Phone into a Data Collection and Supply Management Server

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 21, 2009

In 2006 alone, aid organizations such as the Measles Initiative and UNICEF distributed almost 20 million bed nets to prevent Malaria submission in ten African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. The distribution and supply management of bed nets, and the follow-up surveys of recipients of bed nets --insecticide-treated nets that can reduce malaria transmission of as much as 90% in areas with high coverage rates--is a daunting logistical challenge.

Aid organizations everywhere are discovering that mobile phones are an essential part in managing supplies and distribution of nets, food, and other aid.  Rapid Android is a new tool now being tested in Nigeria by UNICEF for the distribution of bed nets.  Rapid Android is a supply chain management and data collection tool built on Android, the open source operating system developed by The Open Handset Alliance and Google. 

RapidSMS Review

Posted by admin on Jan 30, 2009
RapidSMS Review data sheet 7093 Views

RapidSMS is an SMS-based tool that allows for mobile data collection and bulk sms messaging. User can collect both quantitative and qualitative data through SMS forms. RapidSMS also features bulk SMS messaging functionality similar to what you would find in desktop SMS tools like Frontline SMS.

RapidSMS is a relatively new project coming out of the UNICEF Innovations and Development team of the Youth Section in New York. RapidSMS requires strong technical skills to install and configure. For the organizations that are able to impliment it, RapidSMS offers many advantages over a desktop system.

First, since it is web-based, multiple users are able to access the system remotely at the same time. RapidSMS is also an "open" platform based on a popular programming framework which should appeal to organizations with technical staff who want to customize or integrate the tool into their current web systems. RapidSMS is designed for "mass-scale" monitoring and data collection (both qualitative and quantitative). Quantitative data collection is done through the creation of SMS forms that consist of a keyword followed by several questions (fields). For example, "LSTMKT 20 30 15" could be used to monitor the report on the trading activity in a livestock market with 20 goats, 30 cattle and 15 camels being traded.

RapidSMS handles unlimited forms aggregating all data from incoming text messages that come with the proper keyword and parameter format. Data for the forms can be edited through the RapidSMS interface, exported to Excel or displayed with a built-in graphing tool. Qualitative data can be collected in open-ended questions known as 'general queries.' General queries are a useful way to poll a base of users or community on a certain question or topic with responses stored in an SMS inbox for easy review.

RapidSMS is built upon Asterisk which allows RapidSMS, with the proper setup, to record and store audio voice message responses. This is a very powerful feature for non-literate users, and is ideal for gathering content that can be redistributed locally via community radio. The audio capture feature, however, requires a computer with the proper PBX hardware installed and a land line or voice-over-IP line which is cost-prohibitive for many smaller NGOs and is somewhat limiting if you can't host your server in a major city. UNICEF is currently working to see if then can figure out a solution to use the cellphone connected to the computer to receive phone calls and record messages into the system. Technically, this is quite a challenge but if they are able to achieve this it would open up RapidSMS' powerful audio capture feature to a much larger potential user base.



RapidSMS is an SMS-based tool that allows for mobile data collection and bulk sms messaging. User can collect both quantitative and qualitative data through SMS forms. RapidSMS also features bulk SMS messaging functionality similar to what you would find in desktop SMS tools like Frontline SMS.

RapidSMS is a relatively new project coming out of the UNICEF Innovations and Development team of the Youth Section in New York. RapidSMS requires strong technical skills to install and configure. For the organizations that are able to impliment it, RapidSMS offers many advantages over a desktop system.

USAID's Development 2.0 Challenge on Mobile Innovation: And the Winner is UNICEF/Columbia University

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 08, 2009

UPDATE:  Henrietta Fore, the administrator of USAID, announced today the winner of the USAID Development 2.0 Innovation Challenge focused on mobile technology.  MobileActive was a judge for the Challenge. The Challenge, a co-production between USAID's Development Commons and Netsquared, focused on mobiles in development. The winner of the $10,000 award is Child Malnutrition Surveillance and Famine Response

Preventing Famine with a Mobile

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 21, 2008

Ethopia again this year has experienced crippling droughts.  Faced with the possibility of famine, UNICEF Ethiopia launched a massive food distribution program to supply the high-protein food Plumpy'nut to under-nourished children using mobile phones for monitoring and delivering supplies its more than 1,8000 feeding centers in the country. 

To coordinate the distribution and maintain appropriate stocks, field monitors reported on supplies and number of children fed through an SMS reporting system using a UNICEF-built mobile data collection and monitoring software, RapidSMS.  We have previously reviewed RapidSMS here, comparing it with a less scaleable lower-end tool, Frontline SMS. 

The emergency food supply chain before RapidSMS

UNICEF use Red Oxygen Text Messagings solutions to communicate with field workers

Posted by redoxygen on Sep 02, 2006

"SMS lowers the cost of operations for UNICEF - to help feed the children of Africa"SMS messaging has become an important communication tool for many of the most successful businesses in the world. Thanks to collaboration between the United Nations' UNICEF and Australian software company Red Oxygen, SMS has also become an essential tool for helping some of the poorest people in Africa.Tauhidur Rashid, the director of UNICEF's operation in the African nation of Tanzania, says that Red Oxygen's two-way email to SMS software has become an indispensable part of UNICEF's operations. "We've found that SMS is the best way for us to reach the wide variety of people all over the country that we need to keep in contact with. Red Oxygen's software has made that SMS communication easy and practical".UNICEF is a worldwide agency of the United Nations specializing in human rights, education, public health and development issues, primarily for children and women. With such a broad mission, the UNICEF team has a wide range of communications needs. SMS is the best communications option to meet those needs in Tanzania, according to Mr.