Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, along Lake Malawi, is a Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) recognized broadcaster and has been in operation for eleven years. More than 500,000 people live within our coverage area- transmissions reach Nkhotakota and Ntchisi districts and parts of Nkhatabay, Salima, Dowa, Mzimbaand Kasungu.
According to the report, with support from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, Developing Radio Partners (DRP) launched the one year pilot project, working with three local radio stations in each country. The primary aim of Zachilengedwe Tsogolo Lathu, as the participants named it ("Our Environment, Our Future"), was to empower rural Zambians and Malawians to address key climate change issues, especially local deforestation, by improving their access to information on the subject via radio and mobile phones.
In a rapidly changing, globalised world education can help young adults to understand life beyond their own national borders. Here, in our thirtieth guest blog post, Alex Monk, School Linking Officer at Plan UK, discusses how FrontlineSMS is being used to support a project called Plan-ed. This project links schools across the globe, and thus helps deepen young people’s understanding of our world today.
“The Plan-ed School Linking programme has been running since 2008 and connects young people aged between 7 - 14 in the UK with their counterparts in China, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Schools exchange pen-pal letters, e-mails, videos and local artifacts. The Linking programme also allows children to share examples of work on mutually relevant topics such as climate change, successful enterprise and Children’s Rights. This helps the young people involved to learn about others their age living in different areas of the world; to recognise their similarities and appreciate their differences.
The Plan-ed project uses a variety of communication methods to help linking schools stay in touch, including sending post, video conferencing, interaction through their website, and more recently text messaging. Over the past six months schools in Malawi, Sierra Leone and the UK have been using FrontlineSMS to communicate with their partner schools. The schools use FrontlineSMS to send texts confirming receipt of posted letters and material. They also exchange text messages about ideas for new projects, and to organise travel for teacher exchanges as part of the linking project, and even to wish each other happy holidays.
The videos here show Headteachers from two schools who have been linked together as part of this Plan-ed project.
Orphent Kawonga (Zombwe School in Malawi) and David Lodge (Countess Anne School in the UK) have been on teacher exchanges to each others schools, to help strengthen their link. Here they discuss the benefits of the use of FrontlineSMS to support their link projects.
The benefit of using FrontlineSMS for the schools involved is that they have a way to regularly stay in touch with each other, and keep a record of their communications. FrontlineSMS has proved particularly helpful in the schools in Malawi in which the internet is not easily accessible, and the post can take a while to get through. Sending and receiving text messages is a quick and convenient way to stay in touch that helps the teachers maintain momentum in the linking school project, thus building sustainable connections between the schools.
Moving forward teachers in Malawi, Sierra Leone and the UK will continue using FrontlineSMS to support their connections with their Link schools. In addition, Plan-ed hopes to explore further ways to utilise FrontlineSMS. For example we are investigating the idea of using FrontlineSMS for more operational purposes; to help Plan-ed’s country coordinators stay in touch with the schools more regularly. It really is a great help to have a piece of technology such as FrontlineSMS, which helps facilitate quick communication in otherwise hard to reach areas of the world.”
For more information on Plan-ed visit: http://www.planschoolslink.org/
Medicine stock-outs are a potentially lethal problem in a number of African countries, yet governments insist they don't occur. What could be more powerful than a map which contradicts this claim? Last week activists in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia started surveying clinics in their respective countries, checking stock levels of essential medicines, including:
- First-line anti-malarials
- Zinc 20mg tablet
- First-line ARVs
- Metronidazole 200mg tablet
- Amoxicillin suspension
- Cotrimoxazole suspension
- ORS - Diarrhea
Each of these are seen as essential in varying degrees to fighting disease and illness, and are widely used when available.
Armed with the data, activists report their results via structured, coded SMS - "x,y,z" - where the first number represents their country code (Kenya, Malawi, Uganda or Zambia), the second their district or city, and the third the medicine which they found to be out of stock. These messages are received by a phone connected to a computer running FrontlineSMS, which then runs an automatic script which validates the data before it is sent over the internet to a Ushahidi-powered website.
From there the results are automatically displayed on a map, below (click to visit the live site).
As of today, there have been over 250 stock-outs of these essential medicines.
Since the data is automatically populated, the map represents an almost real-time picture of stock-outs in the four target countries. After a successful launch and a week piloting the service, the "stock-out hub number" will now be distributed to medicine users throughout each country so that anyone with a mobile phone can send in a stock-out report. Unlike reports from official, known data collectors, these messages will firstly be checked by staff at Health Action International (HAI Africa) before being posted up on the map.
The technological portion of the campaign was implemented by Michael Ballard and Claudio Midolo, both Open Society Fellows from the Department of Design + Technology at Parsons the New School for Design in New York. Ndesanjo Macha also helped in getting FrontlineSMS up and running in Uganda and Malawi.
For further background information and up-to-date news, visit the "Stop Stock-Outs" website.
It doesn't quite make the headlines in the same way as elections in Nigeria, the DRC or Zimbabwe, but today the people of Malawi are awaiting the results of a general election which many are saying is too close to call. A peaceful and orderly outcome is crucial. Malawi has one of the fastest growing economies in the world (although it is starting from near-bottom, admittedly) and continued stability is vital if progress is to continue. Access to balanced and unbiased election information is often a key problem at crucial times like these. The logistical challenges of running nationwide elections is often compounded by a lack of election-specific knowledge among local media, which can often lead to misreporting, misinformation and - in worse-case scenarios - civil unrest. The availability of ICT tools for local journalists can also be problematic, compounding the problem yet further.
The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi focuses on developing the capacity of the media through the use of ICTs, and mobile-enabled AEP Malawi team members are working across the country, using voice and SMS to stay in touch with a central newsroom based in Blantyre. This newsroom is equipped with a copy of FrontlineSMS, which is helping manage incoming and outgoing SMS to and from newsroom members, and helping auto-manage and disseminate news via SMS to subscribers.
FrontlineSMS is free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones.
To receive regular election updates and certified results from the Malawi Electoral Commission, log on to www.africanelections.org/malawi. Malawians can text "subscribe" to +265 884 583 980 or email their mobile number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates are also available on Twitter by following @malawivotes2009
The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi is co-ordinated by the International Institute for ICT Journalism working hand in hand with key partners, with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Today sees the official launch of the new version of FrontlineSMS. To celebrate, kiwanja.net invited Josh Nesbit - a Senior in the Human Biology Program at Stanford University - to talk about its use in east Africa where he's spending the best part of this summer introducing the system into a rural hospital in Malawi. You can read Josh's Blog here "St. Gabriel’s Hospital is no stranger to assaults on well-being spread by disease and illness. Located in Namitete, Malawi, St. Gabriel’s serves 250,000 rural Malawians spread throughout a catchment area one hundred miles in radius. With a national HIV prevalence rate of 15-20%, children orphaned by AIDS will represent as much as one tenth of the country’s population by 2010. With tuberculosis (TB), malaria, malnutrition and pneumonia ravaging immuno-compromised populations, the health system - including St. Gabriel’s Hospital - faces a disquieting burden. Malawi’s health challenges are compounded by its devastatingly low GDP per capita, by some measures the lowest in the world.
With just two doctors and a handful of clinical officers, St. Gabriel’s Hospital is strikingly understaffed. This perennial state of affairs explains the shift of primary healthcare in other, similar settings, to Community Health Workers (CHWs), trained for specified tasks. Through the hospital’s antiretroviral (ARV) treatment program - drug therapy for HIV/AIDS - over 600 volunteers have been recruited. These volunteers are spread throughout villages in the Hospital's catchment area. Some CHWs are HIV and TB drug adherence monitors, while others accompany patients during long journeys (up to a hundred miles, often by foot) to the hospital.
A few of the more inspired volunteers record their activities in notebooks, and travel to the hospital to have their good work acknowledged. The vast majority, however, remain disconnected from hospital activities, interacting with hospital staff only to pick up their drugs. It’s not that they don’t want to play a legitimate role in a community health system - there is no communication to foster such a role.
Enter FrontlineSMS. The program, developed by Ken Banks and his team at kiwanja.net, is the cornerstone of a new, text-based communications initiative at St. Gabriel’s Hospital. Funded by the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University and the Donald A. Strauss Foundation, I'm currently knee-deep in a pilot program.
FrontlineSMS is being used to connect the hospital with its CHWs, expanding the role of the volunteers. Drug adherence monitors are able to message the hospital, reporting how local patients are doing on their TB or HIV drug regimens. Home-Based Care volunteers are sent texts with names of patients that need to be traced, and their condition is reported. "People Living with HIV and AIDS" (PLWHA) Support Group leaders can use FrontlineSMS to communicate meeting times. Volunteers can be messaged before the hospital’s mobile testing and immunization teams arrive in their village, so they can mobilize the community. Essentially, FrontlineSMS has adopted the new role of coordinating a far-reaching community health network.
The hospital sees intense promise in the formidable duo of FrontlineSMS and the cell-phone-yielding health worker. The usefulness of a well-managed communications network is undeniable, particularly when the information is so vital. In the first hours of the pilot program, a deceased patient’s extra ARVs were secured, the Home-Based Care unit was alerted of ailing cancer patients, and a death was reported (saving the hospital a day-long motorbike trip to administer additional morphine).
Rural healthcare has found, in FrontlineSMS, a powerful protagonist".