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Using mobile technology to identify mild to moderate learning disabilities in children

Applying data analytics via a fun, interactive study app to help identify children with mild to moderate learning disabilities in Kenya

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What problem does your idea solve?

In Kenya, as in many developing countries, we have many big and obvious problems to grapple with. As such, many subtle and hidden challenges - such as mental disabilities - are often not acknowledged or appreciated as needing attention. Mild to moderate learning disabilities are often missed by both teachers and parents. Children suffering from them may be mistaken for being lazy, naughty, troublesome or simply not intelligent. They are denied the help they need and opportunities in society.

Explain your idea

Revision844 is a study app for 8-14 year olds in Kenya. It has over 3,000 users. By analyzing user performance results and app usage patterns we gain many insights about the user. This has lead us to realize that we could also detect signs of mild to moderate learning disabilities - Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia and Language Processing Disorder. Why a study app? Rather than feeling compelled to use the app, relevant educational content incentivises usage as users see the direct benefit of improving in their knowledge and academics. Why an app? Apps provide an interactive platform with which to apply data analytics. Smartphone uptake in Kenya stands at 44% with access to affordable smartphones increasing. We also hope to eventually partner with schools/NGOs with computer labs to reach those without devices. Why not simply use provide traditional learning disability tests? Often, parents or teachers are unaware or reluctant to simply test for learning disabilities via the traditional methods. Incentivising them to use these methods therefore proves challenging. What is the pilot and roll out plan? With volunteers from the Revision844 user-base, we plan to identify children with and without learning disabilities with the help with mental health experts applying traditional testing methods. The experts, the students and the students' app usage data will then help us develop and test our analysis model for detection.

Who benefits?

"Learning disabilities are not well known in Kenya yet they are more common than either physical disability, visual and hearing impairments or mental handicaps. With the proper intervention, however, they need not be a hindrance to academic excellence” - Florence Onyango (Standard Newspaper, Kenya). The primary beneficiaries will be children aged 8-14 with mild to moderate learning disabilities (Auditory Processing Disorder, dyscalculia, dyslexia, Language Processing Disorder).

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique in the following ways: - Use of data analytics rather than applying traditional, direct testing methods - Targeting of mild to moderate learning disabilities - the milder versions are often ignored or disregarded - Use of a medium (mobile app) and content (study material) that incentivises children and parents to participate due to the direct benefits of being able to revise and study via fun, interactive tests and quizzes. - Financial sustainability and accessibility. Revision844 has free and premium educational content that parents have proven willing to pay for. This enables it to be financially self-sustaining with the paying users helping to subsidise the non-paying users. - Scalability. The solution is scalable beyond the initial target region. - Through partnerships with schools and NGOs with computer facilities (or sponsoring access to them), our solution will be accessible to children without access to the internet or mobile devices.

Tell us more about you

Haba Haba & Co is a software development company. We are the developers of Revision844 - a study and revision application for the Kenyan education curriculum. We intend to consult/work with the following organisations that specialise in learning disabilities: - Kenya Institute of Special Education - Kenya Community Centre for Learning - The Grangeville School - Kenyatta University We currently work with 5 local primary school teachers who generate the study content for Revision844.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We are experts in mobile and education technology. We suspected and have confirmed that our idea is viable - i.e. the vast amount of data we collect from usage of Revision844 can be used to unlock many insights including the possibility of learning disabilities. However, we are not experts in diagnosing or treating learning disabilities. We have reached out to local learning disability experts to help us with: a) Identifying appropriate established learning disability tests b) Applying tests from (a) to identify volunteers with/without learning disabilities c) Identifying the resources we can recommend to parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Kenya

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

Idea Maturity

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

We are working with Revision844 users, teachers, parents and mental health experts to refine our idea. Target audience/users Teachers, parents and some experts felt we should focus on learning disabilities in children aged 8-14. They felt identifying learning disabilities would get easier buy-in and is also more in line with our approach of using a study app. Plan of implementation We previously planned to design our own custom tests and build a new app. We now plan to leverage the Revision844 app, its exiting users and data. We also plan to incorporate established learning disability testing methods to identify the children to work with in developing and testing the solution. The Revision844 user-base will also provide readily-available focus groups and sets of pilot users. Roll out plan The feature will be rolled out to Revision844 users starting with gradually increasing sets of volunteers. Each set will help test and refine the detection analysis algorithm.

Who will implement this idea?

Haba Haba & Co - a software development company - are the developers of the Revision844 study app. We will be the core of the team. We work with 5 local primary school teachers who generate the study content for Revision844. We plan to work with the following organisations that specialise in learning disabilities to provide subject-matter expertise: - Kenya Institute of Special Education - Kenya Community Centre for Learning - The Grangeville School - Kenyatta University

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

We hold weekly status sessions where we review progress and any changes that need to be incorporated into any project or process. If needed, another brainstorming session may be arranged to explore in depth the impact of proposed changes. The brainstorms adopt a 'ignore-sunk-cost' mentality where we evaluate the way forward irrespective of how much we may have invested (time, money or other resources) into our earlier approach. An impact analysis is then carried out to determine how the project plan, specifications, designs or processes may need to be modified. For projects, a project committee decides if/how the project is to be altered taking into consideration factors such as deadlines and available resources. Organisational changes are decided at board level.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

The ability to get assistance in implementing the idea, both from the IDEO team and from the community was really attractive. In particular, the opportunity to strengthen our design thinking. Revision844 is sustainable financially through its freemium model but does not generate high enough returns to entice traditional investors. Content creation or adding of major features and functionality requires significant initial capital that traditional investors may not recoup quickly enough.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

"Sylvia used to be in a mainstream school with her twin sister. She used to have a hard time catching up in school and the teachers did not understand why this was so. They told her to go sit at a corner in the class. One time she was left there sleeping. It was so hard for her that she refused to go back to the school." - Taken from Apart from the lack of recognition or understanding of learning disabilities, society in general considers mental health challenges to be minor or secondary to the many other 'major' problems. Individuals with these challenges therefore face the dual problem of being excluded from society and from help mechanisms that exist.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2022 we aim to have scaled geographically to be in at least 30 developing countries - in Africa, Asia and South America - reaching 1,000,000 students. QUESTION: How do we structure the solution to be locally relevant and effective yet scalable and process driven in order to be sustainable?

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below. (company website) (product/project website)


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Photo of Nancy Wagi

This is ground breaking!Kudos!

Photo of An Old Friend

Thank you Nancy.

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