With 95% penetration, mobile phones are the most lucarative tool for information dissemination.
Design menu based expert system (using protocols like USSD) which gives authentic information on queries ranging from what do for infant's rehydration to STDs using a simple mobile interface (without requiring any specific apps or programs)
This can further be used to connect people (seeker with the knowledge giver) for a better "feel" of the service.
The system addresses the most basic roadblocks in personal/family health care (infant mortality and sexual health are relevant here):
- Lack of authoritative information (infant care and sexual health)
- The awkwardness involved in discussing such matter with parents and peers (sexual health)
Using a system implemented through USSD (see note at end)
the user invokes a menu from their mobile phone by dialing a code like *4357# (*help#) Which then leads to
a series of menu based choices aimed at narrowing the query to the specific information that the user seeks.
e.g. If i need information on AIDS prevention
- Dial *4357#
- Send 2 for query on sexual health
- Select option corresponding to Diseases
- Select option corresponding to AIDS
- Select option corresponding to Prevention
- I get a text message (or a push message) with the required information
The expert system here is also envisioned to be capable of identifying a query from a text message. The development of such a system is easy (most troubleshooting guides use a similar format) and the associated technology is also standard.
The system is expected to be capable of gauging the required information from unstructured phrases like:
- "What causes AIDS?"
- "Am I pregnant?"
- "Baby vomiting"
In case of unresolved issues (questions which are not satisfactorily addressed by this automated - text menu based system) there would be the
provision of connecting you with people who have solved similar issues earlier.
Here we are looking at a model of users (identified by their phone numbers) who are categorized by their queries and earn reputation points as and when they guide a fellow community member. And all the while maintaining anonymity (or known, if desired)
At this point I would like to clarify that there are two sub-systems here:
- Menu based (textual) navigation which used a series of menus to narrow down the query and then provides the info or processes a text phrase to identify the query required.
- A community based service where the user is connected to an experienced user from withing the community who has had a similar experience anonymously or otherwise. Monetary incentives maybe introduced to drive motivated knowledge sharing.
The system is intended at being a source capable of quelling myths,
provide basic information which aids towards prevention through precaution and in other cases timely action.
It would be ideal for answering queries regarding sexual behavior and handling simple issues like - oral rehydration for infants, even vaccination or even a recommendation for visiting the doctor based on the data supplied.
Not being deployed through apps, this system does not depend on the users having smart phones. The system envisoned here (deployed using USSD) is usable even through the most basic mobile phones and thus would be accessible to all mobile phone users
The plan caters to the objective of addressing health in a the society with a focus on preventive measures (awareness). Moreover, one aspect of the plan focuses exclusively on using the existing intra-community knowledge base to improve the overall general awareness.
The fee for the service would be a bare minimum and it might be possible to eliminate the fee completely through partnerships with companies - where in advertisements included at appropriate place (so as not to compromise the user experience)
The most exciting part is that this
orients around the community strengths (95% mobile penetration and >90% literacy) for its adoption and success!
Other merits highlighted
The feasibility of the scheme here maybe questioned. It seems unlikely that
literate individuals (here) miss out on mass media campaigns and instead find out facts through a mobile service which dole out the same information (at a price).
The point is well made, but the plan here has its merits:
- The complete agenda of this plan is centered around providing information on demand - and at all times, which is not feasible through a human contact (a serves can handle thousand queries at a time compared to a community member or a health practitioner)
- The cost of a wide public awareness campaign (for same targets as this plan) will be costly and will need a continuous effort from the community for the information to "live" in memory.
USSD is a protocol for real time communication with the central server. It provides a richer interface for communicating with the server, as compared with the SMS interface increasing the efficiency and reducing the learning curve for the user.