Converging ICTs for health in development

The range of information and communication technologies is broadening and new advances are finding useful applications in the health sector. However, their deployment in developing countries is often hampered by barriers such as low connectivity and ICT literacy. ‘Older’ media such as radio remain comparatively more accessible and reliable, proving their continuing relevance as strategic tools for health communication. Far from the new technologies replacing the old, there is strong evidence of technological convergence, with, for example, online broadcasting reaching wider audiences and Internet content being repackaged for radio listeners. Technological solutions in developing countries should be responsive to local needs and priorities and consistent with the available enabling environment, infrastructure and capacity. The analysis and case studies highlighted in this list support the idea that combining new and older technologies enhances local ownership and maximises the impact of ICT in the health sector.

The research for this list was carried out by a team of researchers working on an infoDev contract to explore the use of ICT in the health sector in developing countries. The research team was led by a consortium involving Healthlink Worldwide, AfriAfya and the Institute for Sustainable Health Education for Development. Source welcomes additions to this list. Please email suggestions to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

Selected resources

Discussion and analysis

Community television for the poor : a scoping study. Final technical report. The one to watch, literally?

BACHELOR, S,
SCOTT, N,
EASTWICK, G
et al
2005

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A technical report on the use of community television. The purpose of the research was to explore the opportunities presented by digital convergence for locally produced and broadcast integrated television and radio for development education, development communication strategies and local content capture among the poor. The research confirms the starting premises of the research, that community radio is known to have strong developmental benefits; that there is a strong trend towards television, even among the poor; and that there will be new opportunities for audiovisual media presented by digital convergence. The report concludes that community television could play a huge role in empowering local communities

Good ICT practices

DANIDA

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This excellent website presents case studies, good practices, policy insights and guidance on implementation regarding ICT in development activities. It includes 'lessons learned' sections dedicated to ICT in health, agriculture, education and business, and a well-researched 'key documents' listing. Background information and definitions are clear and well-presented, offering a thorough introduction to the topic and sensitive analysis. Designed for use by DANIDA staff and partners, it will be useful to other donors, policy-makers, programme planners and implementers throughout the development sector

ICTs for poverty alleviation : basic tool and enabling sector

GREENBERG, Alan
November 2005

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This report acknowledges the crucial role that information and communication technologies play in the fight to reduce poverty. It focuses in particular on the impact that "older" technologies such as radio and telephone can have in addressing poor communities' problems. The study investigates the linkages between ICTs and four key areas: education, livelihoods, healthcare and government. It reports on pilot studies which have shown that use of technologies can help reduce child mortality and maternal mortality by nearly 50 per cent. It suggests that ICTs can enable people's empowerment and ultimately strengthen human rights

Knowledge and information for food security in Africa : from traditional media to the internet

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS (FAO). Communication for Development Group
1998

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Discusses in detail the contributions that different communication technologies can make to agricultural knowledge and information for food security. Media discussed are: traditional folk media (song, dance, puppet plays, theatre, storytelling); rural radio, participatory video, and the internet. The possibility of combining methodologies is discussed (eg, traditional storytelling on a radio programme); as is the potential and ramifications of a 'digital divide'

Providing low-cost ICT access to low-income communities in developing countries : what works? what pays?

CASPREY, G,
O'CONNOR, D
2003

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This Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report discusses the potential of and need for telecommunications development in rural areas of low-income countries. It outlines the main challenges, and describes sustainable options. The report also reviews low-cost options and summarizes policies that would support the more rapid diffusion especially telecommunications reform

Revisiting the "magic box" : case studies in local appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICTs)

BATCHELOR, Simon,
O’FARRELL, Clare
2003

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This book looks at the way communities and groups in developing countries are appropriating information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address their needs. It finds that ICTs are being integrated into wider community-based activities and adapted to fit different contexts. It follows on from the paper "Discovering the Magic Box". It finds that there are still few examples of community-driven and locally appropriated ICT initiatives and an absence of standards or guidelines to evaluate ICT-based projects. The book includes some analytical frameworks and indicators to identify good practice and evidence of impact A significant development has been in the growth of telecommunications, in particular mobile phones, that are relatively cheap and powerful tools for poor communities, even in remote areas. The book concludes that the power of oral communication through telephones and radio cannot be underestimated. The book proposes that the main challenge is to adapt the new, usually computer-based ICTs to the needs of poor, predominantly oral-based communities so that they can be appropriated effectively and quickly

The digital pulse : the current and future applications of information and communication technologies for developmental health priorities

FEEK, Warren
2003

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Analyses the hopes and realities of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) in health and development programmes. Includes a Top 10 of strategic issues and gaps, and an overview of ICT for development (ICT4D). Sixty case studies document programme experiences of using ICTs in four areas: database and resource centres; social development, education and advocacy; networking and dialogue; and telemedicine and high medical tools. Recommendations include: prioritise local content and the voice of local people; integrate ICTs with other communication technologies and methods; engage with overall ICT trends like internet cafes and mobile phones; pay attention to structural issues like pricing, access and controls; take advantage of the interactive elements of ICTs to create a space for dialogue; evaluate the impact of ICTs on health; acknowledge the improvements to health when there is more equitable access to information and knowledge through the new technologies; incorporate ICTs into ongoing programmes; and support the vital role of intermediaries

The one to watch : radio, new ICTs and interactivity

GIRARD, Bruce
Ed
2003

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This book presents examples of converging radio and new ICTs for development. The radio/telecommunications combination is helping keep communities together despite the distances imposed by migration. The book argues that radio will have even greater significance and value in years to come. It is split into five sections; concepts and context, gateways, networks, communication with migrants and rural radio. It features case studies where methods have been tried and proven

Case studies

Global (Sexwise) : blended technologies offer sexuality education

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In some countries, even the most basic information concerning people's sexual well-being is rarely discussed or disseminated. Through Sexwise, the BBC World Service (BBC) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have been working together in different regions of the world to speak to people in their own languages about sexual health and reproductive rights. This very brief report provides programme results and details of the ICTs used

ICTs and the fight against HIV/AIDS in India : the SAATHII experience

RAMAKRISHNAN, L
January 2005

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This article explores the work of SAATHII - Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India - a non-profit organisation launched in 2000 to facilitate dialogue among the diverse sectors involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in India. The author reports on the organisation's use of various ICTs to provide information in a range of ways to activists, volunteers, NGO programme personnel, funders and policy makers, and also examines the lessons learned so far

Information and communications technology : web sites, CD-ROMs, and on-line educational projects hold promise for youth|[Tecnología de información y comunicación. Sitios web, CD-ROM y proyectos educacionales en la web prometedores para los jóvenes]

BLOOME, Anthony,
ZWICKER, Caroline,
FINGER, William
September 2003

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Technology resources increasingly link professionals working with reproductive health and HIV prevention programmes in developing countries. These same resources (websites, CD-ROMS, listservs, radio and TV) offer great promise for reaching the youth as well. This edition of Youth Lens looks at some of the projects working in these areas

Maternal health care in rural Uganda : leveraging traditional and modern knowledge systems

MUSOKE, Maria
January 2002

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A case study of the RESCUER project, in Iganga District, Eastern Uganda. The project was designed to link the traditional rural community health providers with the formal health delivery system in a cost-effective way. The increased number of deliveries under trained personnel, and increased referrals to health units, led to a reduction of about 50 percent in the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in three years

Simple ICTs reduce maternal mortality in rural Uganda : a telemedicine case study

MUSOKE, Maria
July 2002

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This case study is on a pilot project carried out in Eastern Uganda. The Rural Extended Services and Care for Ultimate Emergency Relief (RESCUER) project (use of a VHF radio and mobile walkie talkies) helped empower a network of Traditional Birth Attendants to partner with the public health service centers to deliver health care to pregnant women. This resulted in increased and more timely patient referrals as well as the delivery of health care to a larger number of pregnant women

Using ICT to Fight HIV/AIDS

BLOOME, A
July 2002

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Technology can play a complementary and useful role in helping combat HIV/AIDS. This report on the AIDSWEB project in secondary schools in Africa explains how they are using information and communications technology (ICT) to promote HIV/AIDS education and prevention activities. The use of ICT complements other IEC campaigns designed to reach youth. The same technology resources holds great promise for reaching youth, who typically embrace the use of the technology for entertainment, learning and communication when given access to these resources. Evidence shows that women almost any level of skill in ICTs increases their self-esteem and has spillover effects into other activities that work toward poverty alleviation.This decreases their susceptibility to economic situations which put them at greater risk of catching HIV/AIDS hence the importance of teaching girls and young women how to use the Internet