How simple technologies can help with community-driven development communications and monitoring for COVID-19 response

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need to share and collect accurate health information in vulnerable, hard to reach communities. In response, the World Bank’s Social Development division has endorsed low-tech solutions that their global development partners can tap for communications and monitoring to slow or prevent the spread of the COVID-19. The Amplio Talking Book made the list.

Here are some of the other simple technologies that are making an impact:

WHO COVID19 Alerts via WhatsApp

Launched by WHO in parnership with WhatsApp and Facebook, this easy-to-use messaging service provides news and information on coronavirus. Governments, health workers, and communities can get the latest situation reports and real-time numbers. The service is accessed through a link that opens a conversation on WhatsApp. Users type “hi” to activate, prompting a menu of options about COVID-19.

Africa’s Voices Interactive Radio

In March, Africa’s Voices and Radio Africa Group launched a pilot that combines Public Service Announcements (PSAs), interactive radio shows, and 1-to-1 SMS communications in order to provide immediate high-quality public health content. Weekly shows aired through Radio Jambo have reached 5 million listeners. The interactive pilot is providing access to rapid socio-epidemiological insights. Read about the pilot.  

Farm Radio International

Farm Radio International is helping to keep millions of rural Africans updated about COVID-19. Listeners can share concerns and feedback through mobile-based polls and call in to ask questions. Farm Radio has set up a WhatsApp group, a broadcaster hotline, and an emergency response fund to support broadcasters and radio stations to develop quality communication on COVID-19. Learn more

Cambodia’s 115 Hotzone  

In Cambodia, the Ministry of Health has scaled up its national hotline to share information and reports on COVID-19. In recent weeks, the toll-free 115 Hotline has received up to 18,000 daily calls. The hotline system was set up in 2015 by InSTEDD iLab, an Amplio partner, to monitor disease outbreaks and get reports from rural and illiterate populations in vulnerable, hard to reach communities. Learn more.

One of the simple technologies highlighted by the World Bank to fight COVID-19, the Talking Book is being used in Ghana to share information on symptoms and prevention strategies.

The Talking Book is low-tech solution for COVID-19 response in Ghana.

A low-tech solution for COVID-19 response, social inclusion

In 2019, the World Bank selected the Amplio Talking Book as a low-tech solution for social inclusion. Though apps and SMS interventions can work for people with mobile phones, there’s still a need to reach communities that lack access to technology or mass media. This is the case in Ghana’s poverty-stricken Upper West Region.

In April, Amplio partnered with Ghana Health Services, Literacy Bridge and UNICEF to launch a Talking Book COVID-19 response in eight vulnerable districts near the Burkina Faso border. Community health nurses and volunteers are using Talking Books to share information on COVID-19 awareness and prevention. Already communities have requested additional Talking Book messages on COVID-19 social stigma, domestic violence, malaria, and more. 

Reaching those who are furthest behind is a core mandate of the World Bank’s Social Development Global Practice. To learn more about how low-tech solutions like the Talking Book can be used to enhance social impact in hard to reach communities, see Inclusive Disruption: Harnessing the Social Power of Technology.

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