There is a misperception among many that tech or innovative developments are being introduced from the national level downwards. When we started to scale-up the reporting with RapidPro in Northern Nigeria, it was immediately evident that the majority of implementation staff at health centers and hospitals were already using SMS to send their regular reports.
So consider this a Failure Friday posting on the wrong day.
Across west and central Africa, since the nutrition emergencies of 2010/11, there has been tremendous pressure put on implmentation staff to send regular report on program activities. As cellphones became more and more common across the region, it was only natural for fieldstaff to use their phones and their own credit to send the program data. In Nigeria an SMS costs 4 Naira. This was about 2 cents before the recent decrease of value of Naira.
The formatting of the information in the SMS gently followed the order on the report forms. Some entertaining reports reported 72 cases under ‘threat’ instead of under treatment, but overall the information was clear and immediately passed to the LGA or state level for input.
This system was reliant on someone to regularly request the data. And on the receiving end, to have someone available to read, interpret and enter the data into an excel spreadsheet. At the receiving end, these efforts were tedious, time consuming and always at risk of introducing data entry errors.
Now with the roll-out and use of RapidPro, we are able to deliver on our side of the tech / innovative developments with the tools that allow us to catch their data and drop it immediately into analysis and response algorithms to trigger action. So we changed this from a fail to scale as we begin to catch up with the fieldworkers and their technological capacities.