Few weeks ago I attended a launch of M-health project implemented by AMREF, Safaricom Kenya and Accenture. http://www.amref.org/news/news/amref-unveils-mlearning-project/.
This is a pilot project using mobile phones to train community health workers in 3 districts in Kenya. At the launch, it was stressed that the M-health training purpose is not to replace face to face training!
Development is being revolutionized and now it is no longer about just feeding the 'hungry orphans' in Africa. Technology is changing lives and the world has seen how mobile phones are creating positive impact in lives of people especially in developing countries.
Use of appropriate technologies has to be part of post MDG talks. Technology is not just needed in the business sector or in the 'Western' countries but more so in developing countries. Following are 5 reasons why my village in Kenya needs technology:
Efficiency: With improved technology and communities trained appropriately, services become efficient, quick and precise. How powerful and accurate is a text from a community leader when calling for a meeting? When a pregnant mother needs attention, by a tap on her phone, she can reach her mid-wife within seconds. What's not efficient about that?
Exposure: With advent of social media, many communities are exposed to current information and one doesn't need for instance to buy a Health text book to learn about non-communicable diseases, information is on our mobile phones. A chief executive in Silicon Valley is following a young entrepreneur in Nairobi on Twitter. Through this channel, they are constantly talking and sharing ideas. Majority of world leaders are reaching out to population via internet. Even some announcements are made via internet.
Connection:Through internet, human beings are more connected now than ever before in history. When I want to speak to my relatives back at home, all they need is my sister's smart phone, stand where there is network reception and we can all skype and see each other. One smart phone connects the entire village to the world!
Inclusive: Technology brings everyone to the table; most marginalized and vulnerable members of communities are involved and included through technology. Women are accessing information through mobile phones, people with disabilities don't have to walk long distances to read newspapers, and anyone can enroll to online courses despite gender, sexual orientation or religion. Through technology, my village will understand that London is a city not a country and my friends from Bromley will appreciate that baby lions cannot be found hanging out in the market places! Everyone will have information and not selected few.
Improvement of skills: Education improves lives and technology saves lives. If we combine education and technology, how many entrepreneurs would we have? With introduction to free primary education, number of high school students is going up and that means demand for post-secondary education is soaring. Even though Kenyan government upgraded polytechnics into universities to accommodate influx of high school leavers, number of students is still very high and completion for places is getting tougher. What difference would online courses make?
Role of development is changing and it is no longer about provision of basics but improvement of lives. Development workers should not sit comfortably with 'bread basket' like projects which only benefit a few but should play a role of creating opportunity for governments involvement.