Educational soap operas over the phone

December 18, 2011


This blog article has been produced for Eye on Earth Summit 2011 by SciDev.Net Conference Service, which maintains all editorial independence.

How a small communication gadget called the mobile phone can transform the way we do things and change our lifestyles continues to amaze. So many things have already been done with it but new innovations make its uses appear inexhaustible.

One example is an interactive audio soap opera aimed at teaching households how to separate waste, which is now being piloted in Kenya. The programme listened to using ordinary phones (no need for the hightech smart ones) was one of the fascinating ideas presented during the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi.

By dialing a tollfree number, you can listen to and experience the consequences of people’s own decisions regarding waste disposal. The service is based on a GSM network connection and does not require data transmission.

Simple text content and quizzes give background knowledge to the interactive stories of people throughout the community. They are also used for communicating and exchanging opportunities, according to Morton Saulo, communications officer for the National Environment Management Authority, Kenya, which is championing the project.

The whole concept is that changing attitudes requires education, and that is what the project aims to achieve. From household projects, it will move onto targeting larger groups. The hardest part will be getting policymakers at the national level involved, which would help to make effective decisions on waste management. And this way, this tiny gadget can really prove its worth.

Ochieng’ Ogodo

Health going mobile: Mobile Health Summit 2011, Cape Town

June 3, 2011

There are five billion mobile phone subscribers in the world. For many in the developing world it represents the most efficient and reliable way of accessing information and communicating with each other. This provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to improve healthcare for people living in hard-to-reach areas.

The emerging field of ‘m-health’ technology applications will be the focus of the Mobile Health Summit that will be held in Cape Town next week (6-9 June). I will be on site, reporting on the latest innovations and the challenges in rolling them out in developing countries.

On this blog, you will read about the first comprehensive global survey looking at how 112 countries use mobiles to achieve health goals. This report, prepared by the UN Foundation, as part of a partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, and the World Health Organisation will be launched on Tuesday (7 June).

I will also attend an invite-only roundtable where ministers, mobile companies and international development organisations. And of course there will also be a bunch of m-health success stories (and some not so successful ones) to light the road ahead.

Meanwhile, you can check out some of SciDev.Net‘s coverage of mHealth issues on our homepage. Most recently, Jody Ranck argued that using mobile to collect and share health data can make healthcare cheaper, faster and more equitable and we reported from a similar mHealth Summit in Washington DC in November.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist


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