Remote communities… and how to reach them

Awarded on 27 May 2015

Open Mind

United States of America

Basic health infrastructure, Support to international NGOs

Grant amount £20,000.00

You live in a remote village that is three hours’ drive from the nearest health centre. Your family can’t afford a mobile phone and the only person with a phone in the village is away visiting relatives. You notice that one of your children is developing breathing difficulties and has a fever. There are no doctors or nurses for miles around, so what do you do? Well, you could try to care for the child yourself but you don’t know what is causing their symptoms and nobody in your community has seen a condition like this before. You can’t get to the health centre, as you don’t have any viable means of transport.

This kind of situation is familiar to many hundreds of millions of people around the world, whose remote communities are isolated and many miles from any health facility. It’s the kind of community that our grantee, Open Mind, seek to serve. Open Mind run the Question Box project, which provides a way of linking rural communities to sources of help and advice. The model is a simple one: Open Mind and/or a local partner organisation install Question Boxes in different communities. A Question Box is essentially a free, easy-to-use callbox that connects via mobile to a local organisation, service provider or NGO. They offer a low-cost way of reaching communities where tech access is low and a way of overcoming literacy barriers. To date, Question Boxes have been deployed in a number of different communities and settings around the world. To give a few examples:

Rural Ambulance Dispatch

At 8 remote locations on average 60 km from nearest hospital, identify community members with life-threatening emergencies, and provide 24/7 emergency dispatch services of motorcycle ambulance. Expansion requests from Community Health Workers and Nurses for clinician mentorship support. (NUMEM, Pader, Uganda)

Antenatal Care and HIV Testing for At-Risk Women

Antenatal and Postnatal Care Hotline to identify at-risk pregnant women in a region with 10% maternal to child transmission of HIV amongst HIV+ women. Provide direct antenatal and postnatal counsel to women. Connect identified pregnant women to Community Health Workers, who guide women through government system of antenatal care; HIV testing; andPrevention of Maternal to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services. (Spring 2015 Launch, Lotus Medical Foundation, Kolhapur, India)

Rural Agricultural Extension Services

Rural agriculture and all-questions-answered extension service hotline, deployed via outreach worker in 40 rural Ugandan communities. Provide agricultural extension services and Internet search queries in 7 local dialects. Demonstrated utility of data stream to identify type and location of agricultural disease outbreaks (coffee & banana wilt diseases.) Demonstrated utility of on-demand, as-needed economic empowerment knowledge service to enable communities to source, retain, and disseminate locally high-value information. (Grameen Foundation, Mbale and Bushenyi, Uganda.)

Here at Indigo, we think that this approach provides underserved communities with a way of connecting to sources of help and advice in a sensible, tech-enabled way. That’s why we are happy to be supporting them with a £20,000 grant to help cover their core costs. The organisation is seeking to expand its reach, put itself on a secure financial footing and be in a position to offer ongoing support and development to organisations deploying – or wanting to deploy – the Question Box technology.