Latest posts by Grant Trahant
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photo by: text to change
Bas Hoefman is social entrepreneur, founder and director of Text to Change (TTC). Back in 2006, while working at ING Bank in the Netherlands, he was inspired by the growth of mobile technology in Africa from where he discovered the potential of using mobile technology for social development.
In February, I had the opportunity to attend the Economist Conference in Cape Town , South Africa. The conference gathered leading healthcare stakeholders, including suppliers, patient groups, NGOs, policy-makers and government ministers, debating the key issues around healthcare systems in Africa. This edition of the healthcare in Africa summit aimed to reshape the discussion and question assumptions, focusing on the health and well being of Africans. Healthcare is an important subject of discussion in Africa, but often a voice of perspective is missing: the voice of the patient.
Technology is just a tool
At the conference I presented a few case studies of Text to Change where we used simple text messaging to improve patient behavior, such as increasing attendance at maternity clinics or improving uptake of HIV/AIDS testing. It is important to remember that technology is just a tool and not let it rule the roost. Local context and content remain the highest priorities, while African solutions should focus on delivery via low-cost, 2G handsets as these are most prevalent and will be for some time to come.
The Wazazi Nipendeni (which is Swahili for Love me, parents) SMS platform, that Text to Change set up, allows pregnant women, birth supporters and others interested in safe motherhood to receive free information and reminders about healthy pregnancy. The participants can send the word “mtoto” (‘child’ in Swahili) to the number 15001, which is free of charge on all mobile networks. After registering, users receive text messages covering a comprehensive range of safe pregnancy and early child care information. Because this campaign is interactive we are able to determine in what phase of their pregnancy these women were. This way we can provide them with the right personalized message at the right time during the course of their pregnancy. This is one of the many great examples explaining how technology is the right tool for social change.