Technology

  • The future of Myanmar is online

    Today, Myanmar has similar mobile phone usage rates to North Korea, Eritrea and Cuba – less than 10 percent of the population. At the same time, technology restrictions in the country are easing. Three mobile operators are racing to roll out services, which will rapidly bring the 60 million people who live in Myanmar into a digital reality, practically overnight.

    On August 6, 2014, FHI 360 convened a workshop in Yangon to explore the role of information and communications technology and development in Myanmar, attended by leading technologists and development experts from Myanmar and across the Asia Pacific region. The workshop centered on three questions that address technology’s impact on government, civil society, business and most importantly, people’s lives:

    1. What are the social and cultural impacts when a country goes online virtually overnight?
    2. What will the people of Myanmar find on the Internet of today? Or tomorrow?
    3. Who will benefit when all of the citizens of Myanmar have a digital voice?

    While attendees touched on many points throughout the discussion, and did not always agree on the answers to our questions, we did find general consensus that by 2018, Myanmar will have a very different technology landscape.

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  • Technology for economic growth: How mobile money expands financial inclusion in Malawi

    What is mobile money?

    Mobile money is currency stored on your mobile phone. Typically, a customer will bring cash to a local agent who deposits the cash onto the customer’s phone in the form of mobile money. Agents are also able to withdraw money from a customer’s phone and provide cash. These agents, often local shopkeepers, are selected and trained by mobile network operators.

    Why is mobile money important?

    An overwhelming majority of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas, where agriculture is the source of income for more than 85 percent of the population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A 2009 FinScope Demand Survey found that 55 percent of Malawians do not have access to any type of financial institution, and only 19 percent of the total population uses a formal bank. Because bank accounts are so rare, mobile money offers an accessible alternative for safely depositing, withdrawing, transferring and even saving money.

    Why has mobile money been adopted so quickly in Malawi?

    FHI 360’s Mobile Money Accelerator Program has been working to create an environment that is ready to receive and adopt mobile money systems. We provide financial literacy trainings that help increase understanding and acceptance of mobile money.

    The Government of Malawi has shown its support by signing and participating in the Better Than Cash Alliance, which aims to transition government cash payments to electronic payments in an effort to increase transparency and expand financial inclusion across the country.

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  • Innovative technologies address youth unemployment in Iraq

    What is the Foras project?

    The word foras means “opportunity” in Arabic, an apt name for this project, which seeks to dramatically accelerate individuals’ access to employment opportunities in Iraq. USAID-Foras has launched web-based and mobile technology platforms to overcome barriers to employment, linking jobseekers with employers. Our immediate goal is to increase the number of youth and adults placed in jobs, but ultimately we want to introduce a more efficient model for how employers hire their workforce.

    Why is this project needed in Iraq?

    What USAID-Foras is doing in Iraq is essential to growth of the country’s economy and its stability. About 50 percent of the population in Iraq is 25 years or younger, and roughly half of that demographic is unemployed. Even more alarming, about 400,000 new jobseekers or eligible workers are added the economy yearly, but a vast majority of these individuals remain unemployed. This problem will only worsen without intervention.

    What technologies has Foras launched thus far and who has access to them?

    In 2013, we launched an online jobs portal, which is used by jobseekers and employers looking to hire. We adapted our portal from a similar tool developed by Microsoft in partnership with Silatech, a Qatar-based nonprofit organization. The original portal allowed jobseekers to upload a personal profile and resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and to look for available positions. We improved on this portal by adding a feature that matches jobseekers based on their skills and experiences to jobs that have been listed on the site by employers. We also made it available in English and Arabic.

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  • Center on Technology and Disability: Leveling the field for all learners

    What is the Center on Technology and Disability and how is it unique?

    FHI 360’s Center on Technology and Disability is a collaborative effort with American Institutes for Research, PACER Center and an experienced team of researchers and practitioners. Together, these partners strengthen the ability of individuals and institutions to understand and embrace evidence-based technology, tools and strategies that level the playing field for children and youth with disabilities in the United States.

    The scope of FHI 360’s collaboration is unique in terms of audience reach and the breadth and depth of professional and personal development activities. Individually, each organization has made major contributions to technology and education. Combined, the CTD team will make available to the field the most influential and knowledgeable thought leaders in assistive and instructional technology. CTD will provide accessible information resources and universal and targeted technical assistance to children and youth with disabilities, families and service providers, state and local education and health agencies, teachers, teacher preparation programs, researchers, parent training and information centers, and family advocacy organizations.

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  • Expanding the Contraceptive Armamentarium

    Armamentarium. It’s a big word. It’s what we in the U.S. like to call a fifty-cent word. An armamentarium refers to the full range of resources that are available to tackle a problem, often in the arena of health care.

    Today, we have an unequivocal need to expand the contraceptive armamentarium for women around the world.

    In some cases, this means expanding access to existing, underutilized family planning methods. In too many settings, women do not have adequate access to a full range of options, including long-acting and permanent contraceptive methods. Barriers to access include frequent stock-outs of commodities; a lack of adequate health care facilities or trained staff to administer contraceptives, especially in rural areas; prohibitively expensive client fees; a lack of comprehensive, accurate information for clients; a provider bias against the provision of long-acting methods to some women; and opposition from family members or community institutions.

    This week, over 3,000 program implementers, health care providers, researchers, faith-based leaders, donors and policymakers gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the third International Conference on Family Planning. The theme of the week-long event is “Full Access, Full Choice.” The organizers explain that this is more than just a conference; it is part of a movement to garner commitments globally to implement evidence-based solutions targeting the persistent barriers to access that women and men face every day.

    In addition to identifying effective service delivery and policy approaches to increase access to existing methods, we must also take advantage of this moment in Addis to make a long-term commitment to expand the contraceptive armamentarium to include new, innovative methods. The basket of family planning methods available has remained largely unchanged for several decades. There are gaps in the method mix that, if filled, could result not only in increased uptake of contraceptives by women, but also in improved continuation rates by better meeting individuals’ needs and desires.

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  • The award-winning power of Mobile for Reproductive Health

    FHI 360’s Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) project has been nominated for a prestigious 2013 Katerva Award, which recognizes “the most promising ideas and efforts to advance the planet toward sustainability.” This nomination adds to the considerable recognition that this innovative mHealth information service has already received. In June of this year, m4RH was one of ten recipients of the first African Development Bank eHealth Awards. Just a year earlier, Women Deliver 50! selected m4RH as one of the top 10 innovative technology programs supporting women and girls.

    The Katerva Award nomination highlights m4RH’s innovative packaging of reproductive health information and behavior change components in a single mobile phone technology. Using mobile phones, m4RH disseminates family planning information to the general public, as well as information on the nearest clinic that offers these services. One of the few text-messaging services globally that provides family planning information as a means of education and behavior change communication, m4RH has revolutionized the concept of informed choice in the provision of family planning information. With m4RH, any person with a mobile phone can access standardized, essential and comprehensive information in simple language. One user said, “m4RH is using terms you can understand, it has clear knowledge on what you want to know. It is simple to understand, simple language that everyone can understand.” Given that more than 85 percent of global citizens have mobile connectivity, the potential impact of this simple service is truly exciting.

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  • LitScan 360: An innovative digital tool to improve global reading outcomes

    What is LitScan 360? How does it work?

    LitScan 360 is a tool based on Literacy 360°, FHI 360’s comprehensive, child-centered approach to literacy improvement in primary schools. The LitScan 360 app can be used on a tablet or smartphone. It collects customized data on the factors that affect literacy, such as teachers, instruction, materials, school leadership, school curriculum, policy, community and family, as well as societal practices and beliefs related to inclusive education, gender, language and culture.

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  • Today, roughly six billion of the world’s seven billion people now have a mobile device. Mobiles serve as our personal communication hubs, connection points to the global internet and powerful tools to access information. In many places, inexpensive mobile phones have become invaluable substitutes to traditional information and communications technologies (ICTs) and vastly outnumber computers.

    On Sept 26, 2013, FHI 360 co-hosted an all-day event entitled Mobiles! What Have We Learned? Where Are We Going? The gathering brought together over 150 leading practitioners in mobiles for development (M4D). The event itself was co-organized by DAI, Development Gateway, FHI 360, IREX, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

    Over the past decade, the international development community has worked to harness M4D approaches and technology, resulting in thousands of pilot projects, interventions and public–private partnerships. The goals of these initiatives have ranged from overcoming barriers of resource access, encouraging healthier behaviors and democratizing education to creating bottom-of-the-pyramid markets, to name a few.

    At the event, Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Foundation delivered a keynote summary that illustrated how big technical and social challenges have been addressed, making the achievement of scale more possible than ever. He also noted, however, that cost, compatibility of different technical standards and coordination between organizations continue to create challenges. “We need some wins to show that we can work together,” said Praekelt. “If we can solve email in the 1970s, then we can get rid of the horrible technical silos we have today.”

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  • Optifood: A new tool to improve diets and prevent child malnutrition in Guatemala

    What does it REALLY take to ensure young children get the proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy? This is an especially important question in poor rural communities in Guatemala, where about half of the children under five years of age are stunted (too short for their age—a sign of long-term deficits in the quantity and/or quality of food, including the right vitamins and minerals). In some parts of western Guatemala, more than eight in ten young children are stunted.

    Now there’s a new tool to help answer the question: Optifood is a computer software program, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), and Blue Infinity, that provides scientific evidence on how to best improve children’s diets at the lowest possible cost using locally available foods. Optifood identifies nutrient gaps and suggests food combinations the local diet can fill—or come as close to filling. It also helps identify local foods’ limits in meeting nutrient needs and test strategies for filling remaining nutrient gaps, such as using fortified foods or micronutrient powders that mothers mix into infant or young children’s porridge.

    The Government of Guatemala is fighting stunting through its Zero Hunger Initiative, which aims to reduce stunting by 10 percent by 2015 and 24 percent by 2022 through nutrition, health, agriculture, and social safety net programs. The U.S. Government and USAID are supporting these efforts through Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives focused on the Western Highlands. USAID/Guatemala asked the USAID-funded FANTA/FHI 360 to help find strategies to improve the nutritional quality of children’s diets in the region. The challenge was to develop realistic and affordable diets for children that both meet their needs and are firmly based on scientific evidence. FANTA worked with its local partner, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), to collect the diet data needed for Optifood from communities in two departments of the Western Highlands, Huehuetenango and Quiché. FANTA then used Optifood to analyze the information.

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  • Mobile money offers a unique opportunity for human development

    What is mobile money? How does it work?

    Many people in developing countries, particularly in rural areas, do not have bank accounts or live near a bank branch. It can be difficult and expensive for them to make simple financial transactions, such as cashing a government check. Mobile money allows people to use mobile phones or other mobile devices, which are increasingly more available, to transfer money and make payments or deposits.

    The mobile money process is straightforward. Local stores and businesses serve as “cash-in, cash-out” agents. In general, when users get funds sent to their phones, they receive a code that they show to an agent. The agent finds the code in a system and then allows the user to withdraw the funds. When users do not withdraw all of their funds, mobile money functions like a savings account. Mobile money systems differ by country, depending on the regulations governing electronic payments. It is a fast-changing field, because a wide variety of mobile financial products, such as savings accounts, are just now becoming popular around the world.

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