Technology

  • 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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  • Save a life: Vote for innovative Mobile for Reproductive Health program

    Degrees recently featured a post “Family planning and text messages: How mobile phones can save lives” from Kelly L’Engle, an FHI 360 scientist, that highlighted Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH), a text-message-based health communication program that provides lifesaving information about family planning methods to anyone with access to a mobile phone.

    The m4RH team is now very excited to be considered as a finalist for funding through Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development (Round III). A DevelopmentXChange event taking place in Washington, DC, July 29–31 represents the final stage of the funding competition, and the public showcase will feature displays of the projects for each finalist. The showcase will also feature live and online voting for a People’s Choice Award, which will be considered in final funding decisions.

    m4RH needs your votes!

    To vote for m4RH for the People’s Choice Award in person, attend the showcase from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31st at the Ronald Reagan Building (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20004).

    To vote for m4RH for the People’s Choice Award online, please visit http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/248 (you must register to vote).

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  • Family planning and text messages: How mobile phones can save lives

    The numbers on maternal and child mortality around the world are staggering. Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. A notable 99 percent of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries, where over 220 million women lack access to effective contraception and family planning services. Statistics indicate that if even half that number, or 120 million of those women, had adequate access to family planning information, the lives of 3 million children would be saved.

    In recent years, many people have dedicated themselves to bridging the gap between this sizeable problem and a workable solution. And, as it turns out, answers have come in the form of something as common as a mobile phone. With more than three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants having mobile connectivity, millions of women can benefit from information delivered through what has become a standard 21st century way of communicating: text messages.

    It was the growing use of mobile phones and text messaging in developing countries that prompted FHI 360 to develop innovative ways to use technology to improve family planning services. In 2008, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360’s Program Research for Strengthening Services (PROGRESS) project started developing Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH), an opt-in text message-based health communication program that provides information about family planning methods to anyone who wants it who has access to a mobile phone.

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  • How ICT is helping farmers and combating climate change

    Greenhouse gases from agriculture account for over ten percent of total emissions globally, roughly equivalent to the entire global transport sector. Meanwhile, it is estimated that agricultural production will need to increase by about 70% by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth. What’s more, the real impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector are likely going to be hardest felt in many of those countries whose people rely on agriculture most for their livelihoods. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, for example, some estimates show a reduction in the productivity of most major food crops as a result of changes to the climate over the next forty years.

    While this may sound like a doom and gloom scenario, this Earth Day I want to focus on an area of promise: the increasing availability of affordable technologies that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases and increase productivity in agriculture. I am referring here not to agricultural technologies—although those certainly play a role—but rather to information and communications technologies, like the mobile phone, video, and even radio. If you are wondering how a mobile phone, a video camera, and a radio might relate at all to climate change, allow me to explain.

    For starters, so-called “climate-smart” methods of agriculture, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and others already exist. The challenge is that not all farmers know about them, there is no single prescription, and traditional practices can often die hard, particularly when you are working with very small margins and taking risks could spell utter ruin for yourself and your family. So how do ICTs change this? In short, they make it easier to share locally relevant information on improved techniques and to provide time-specific information and recommendations (such as weather forecasts, and when to do what).

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