UNICEF – UNICEF Uganda, through a unique Technology for Development unit, is working closely with the Government and partners to develop and implement innovative solutions to keep children alive, safe, and learning.
These innovations use widely available technologies like basic mobile phones and text messaging service, and will make it easier to keep track of medicine stocks, upload and share information on the quality of community services, increase access to information for those who need it most, quickly register children’s births, and help the Government plan for better service delivery.
In addition, the innovations aim to help young Ugandans realize their right to participation, and are one step forward in ensuring transparency and accountability at the grassroots level.
Birth Registration using Mobile Phones
Currently one child out of five is registered at birth in Uganda. UNICEF is working to increase this number to four out of five children by 2014.
Without birth registration, a child’s existence, age, and citizenship can be called into question. This makes it difficult to protect her or him from childhood-robbing problems like child labour, underage military service, child marriage, and being unfairly treated as an adult when in conflict with the law.
In a groundbreaking move to keep children safe, the Government with support from UNICEF and our partner, Uganda Telecom, will implement a solution called MobileVRS that uses mobile phone technology to complete birth registration procedures in minutes, a process that normally takes months. By using MobileVRS and engaging with community-level ‘notifiers’, UNICEF aims to ensure up to 80 per cent of children under 5 are registered at birth by 2014.
DevTrac is a simple, publically available knowledge management tool that will merge information on socio-economic conditions, government services and development projects with data collected directly from stakeholders in the field. When fully operational, DevTrac will enable the Government and its development partners to share information and prioritize interventions. By having the impact and results of development work in the field openly shared and made more transparent, this will be a valuable tool for advocacy and accountability.
The Digital Drum – Increasing Access to Information via Rugged Solar-Powered Computers
UNICEF Uganda is developing rugged, solar-powered computer kiosks that will serve as information access points aimed at youth and their communities.
About 13 per cent of Ugandans currently use the Internet, and a majority live in rural settings with little to no access to information across areas of health, education, job training, and protection from violence and abuse.
The most isolated and vulnerable children and youth are hit hardest from this lack of access when they do not benefit from crucial services and resources that could improve their health, safety and future.
The drum’s computers are being preloaded with dynamic multimedia content on health, education, employment training, and other services.
UNICEF Uganda aims to install Digital Drums in over 100 outdoor locations over the next two years, and ensure they will be easy and cheap enough to manufacture so that they can be installed in communities in every district in the country. An aim is also to eventually make this an open-access solution that could be implemented in other developing countries.
Mobile health (mHealth) – Using RapidSMS for Faster Reporting and Response
Health workers in the front line are being trained to send real-time reports via SMS (short message service, or text message). In comparison to filling out paper health reports, this innovation significantly cuts down the time in transmission of vital information that helps the Government plan and respond on issues like disease outbreaks, medication supply stock-outs, and malnutrition.
Through the Rapid SMS mHealth package, UNICEF and partners predict the Ministry of Health could be receiving SMS health reports from 900 health facilities and 4,000 community-level health workers in 2012.
mTRAC: Monitoring Essential Medicine Supply using Mobile Phones and RapidSMS mTRAC is an innovation using SMS to track the health facility stock of essential medicines like the anti-malarial drug ACT. Launched by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and our partner FIND Diagnostics, mTRAC allows health facility workers to send government reports by SMS, including real-time data to map facility stocks. The aim is to avoid unnecessary stock-outs and to ensure transparency and accountability for the drugs. Using mTRAC, the Ministry of Health will receive real-time information on medicine stocks, and district health offices will be able to successfully lobby the National Medical Stores for resupply based on their ability to present reliable and timely data.
Monitoring the Quality and Safety of Schools using SMS
UNICEF is helping the Ministry of Education and Sports engage with advocates at the community level, such as the Girls’ Education Movement, school management committees, faith-based organizations and others to monitor aspects of the quality and safety of schools using mobile phones.
The information collected – such as on teacher absenteeism, violence against children in schools, and the functionality of water points – will make it easier for the Government to target interventions, and will provide greater accountability to communities in terms of the quality of education available to their children.
U-report is a free SMS service designed to give young Ugandans a voice on issues they care about. Every U-reporter is given an opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect them and take an active role in the development of Uganda, leading to transparency and accountability at the grassroots level.
U-report was launched in May 2011 with the support of UNICEF, and now has over 145,000 active users. The system is growing daily through a partnership with Government, NGOs, youth organizations, faith-based organizations, and private companies.
How it works: Users register for free by texting “join” to 8500 on their mobile phone to become a U-reporter. Each week, U-reporters answer a free SMS poll or question on issues dealing with health, child protection, school, safe water, and more. Poll results are published in newspapers, reflected on radio, and placed directly into the hands of Members of Parliament. All SMSs are free, a vital element in removing the barriers to participation.
The most engaged U-reporters are given an opportunity to represent the views of their fellow members in special engagement with the media or a Member of Parliament.
For more information and to read poll results, go to www.ureport.ug