Question Box: Catching Up with an Old Grantee

Back in 2011 we awarded Open Mind a grant to develop new software, which will provide open-source tools combining custom software and printable how-to guidebooks that allow almost any community organisation to start their own local hotline. Two years on we caught up with founder and CEO, Rose, to see how things had progressed since then:

Most recently, there is a new collaboration launching in Uganda next quarter – supporting local clinicians in running a health hotline and emergency ambulance dispatch service in Pader district. This is a really important initiative for us, as it is the first Question Box system in sub Saharan Africa that will be implemented directly by a grassroots organisation – and it is focusing on health, a sector we have always believed Question Box is uniquely suited to make a difference.

The Question Box system manual has been effective in attracting partnership support, and advocating for a hotline system approach amongst larger organizations with stronger programmatic underpinnings. Children’s Radio Foundation in South Africa is studying the manual, and the Qatar Foundation is as well. Qatar Foundation’s Director Patrick Meier (a true advocate of Question Box, and of mashing up differing technologies to reach the broadest spectrum of population) is also is an adviser to iLab in Liberia, which has requested a test Question Box system to try out and pilot locally.  We’ve sent out manuals to smaller groups, and are relaunching our website early in 2014, which will feature the DIY materials prominently.

Currently, the software is running well on Windows XP and 7, 32 bit; as Windows platform is updating continuously, we are doing our best to keep the system stable. As finding volunteers to maintain desktop software code is a challenge, the progress has been in small increments. The next step is writing a complete manual for the software.

Much of our attention in 2013 has been on hardware, as we had to identify new manufacturers with more advanced capabilities. We’ve commissioned a trial run of 10 QBs from a manufacturer in Taiwan, and we are also investigating using components from a company that specialises in reclaiming abandoned payphone pedestals and running them off of the grid.