NIAMEY, NIGER, March 6, 2020 —The government-led Niger Smart Villages pilot officially launched at the end February. Led by the National Agency for the Information Society (ANSI) in partnership with ITU and other UN agencies, Smart Villages aims to digitally connect 15,000 rural villages. The Amplio will be used to disseminate informational and behavior change messaging on agriculture, health, and education topics. The pilot will be implemented in two villages over the next six months to identify lessons learned before scaling the project to other villages.

Providing access to digital services

Hani Eskander, ICT Applications Coordinator for ITU, said the Smart Villages team will visit communities weekly to ensure that local citizens are able to use the services and to collect feedback.

A range of services have been deployed, including:

  • Internet connection via VSAT, a satellite communications system for remote locations
  • Talking Books loaded with informational and behavior change health and education messages in French and Zarma 
  • An application for integrated management of childhood illnesses (IMCI) designed by Terre des Hommes
  • Voice messages on farm advisory information
  • Skype teleconsultations with the central hospital of Niamey
  • Tablets to train school teachers on Internet use, Ministry of Education learning modules, and more 

The Niger Smart Villages pilot is using Talking Books to deliver agriculture, health, and education information.

A program model designed to scale

Ryan Forbes Morris, Amplio’s senior program manager, has traveled to Niger to train and support government staff and program officers on Amplio technology and content creation. Morris previously worked in Niger as a Peace Corps officer. He says Talking Books will be used to share information and drive demand for new services.

“It’s been wonderful to collaborate with the Niger’s ministry teams and leverage their expertise to create interactive content. Only one in five adults in Niger is able to read, so I’m excited to see how Talking Books will reinforce the other aspects of Smart Villages programming, especially the user feedback mechanism,” Morris said.

If the pilot stage goes well, Executive Director Cliff Schmidt said this will help Amplio achieve its goal to reach and share knowledge with a million people in the next two years. “It’s great to be working on government-led project with a model that’s made to scale,” Schmidt said. 

Niger’s digital initiative, Niger 2.0, aims to promote digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Investing in the future of ICTs now will ensure that Niger’s young population—almost 60% of its population under 24 years old —won’t be left behind. Strategies include e-government, an innovation and technology hub, and digital technologies for economic and social development, particularly for women and youth.

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