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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ICT4D Ideas from Plan Cameroon

I had a chance to meet with Plan Cameroon's Program Technical Team today (including those that look at Monitoring and Evaluation, Health, Education, Sponsorship, Child Protection, Water and Sanitation, Gender and the overall Program Support Manager) to give a quick brief on the ICT4D research and training that Plan Finland is supporting with Plan offices in 8 countries in Africa (Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda).

We are working with Hannah Beardon, who wrote Plan's Mobiles for Development guide (available in both English and French) and building on that towards some more focused and concrete ideas for ICT use in these 8 countries. We'll share the research with staff during 2-day workshops to brainstorm and gather ideas on information and communications needs, as well as available tools that could be used or adapted to local situations.

The 2-day workshops are planned for Aug and Sept. Hannah, Mika (Plan Finland) and I are developing the methodology and will make a training DVD to send ahead of time to each country (apparently complete with our selves doing presentations!) since we don't have funding to do face-to-face training. We'll have a staff person in each country as the main facilitator, and 10-12 key staff, from management to frontline, will attend. Mika or I will beam in by skype to support if needed. We'll use the Frontline SMS demo video that Mika and crew did also, (see my earlier post about this from a few months ago), show how Nokia Data Gathering Software works, share the Common Craft Social Media videos, among other things. Hannah's methodology will also come in for thinking about how ICTs could enhance existing efforts.

The idea is to both learn about new tools as well as look at current programs and see if there are ways to use ICTs to improve impact, and how to begin tailoring them to the programs and local settings. We're also doing research on government policies and how Plan's work links there. I hope that we can also look at partnering with local developers and ICT4D innovators in each country....

The idea of ICT4D was a bit new to some of the Plan Cameroon staff and not at all new to others. One interesting idea they shared was using SMS in anti-malaria programs to periodically remind people to retreat their bednets. There was some concern about literacy rates if one relies on SMS, and interest in using voice response, but given the number of languages in Cameroon, voice could also be a bit of a challenge. I'll have to try to find out if/how that's overcome in other places. Another concern was 'scamming' and how to avoid that happening. But it seemed that the issue of scamming is not something that Plan alone would face, but something in general that is faced with mobile phones.

The program support manager was really keen on using mobiles for program monitoring as that is something that can always improve and be more efficient with ICT, he said, and wants to test some ideas. The ICT manager also said he wanted to write something up. The sponsorship manager suggested trying out some data collection or quicker communications tools for linking with community volunteers. And as mentioned earlier, child media and child protection are areas that can be greatly enhanced and supported via ICTs (help lines, SMS incident reporting, social media and mobile reporting).

After the 2-day workshop, we should have something really nice to go forward with.

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