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Using AI and Machine Learning to improve immunisation outcomes.

We will improve immunisation outcomes by communicating with parents using two-way mobile chat technology powered by AI and machine learning.

Photo of Jennifer Crouch
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Describe what you intend to do and how you'll do it in one to two sentences (required 350 Characters)

VillageReach and Praekelt.org will use two-way chat technology powered by AI and machine learning to improve vaccine outcomes for mobile phone users in DRC, Mozambique and Malawi. This technology has the potential to provide vaccine reminders, track vaccine availability, improve missed opportunities for vaccinations and track outbreaks.

Explain the innovation (2,500 characters)

Parents who receive vaccination schedules are more likely to fully immunize their children, improving their children’s health outcomes. VillageReach and Praekelt.org will design and build a guided conversation tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to provide immunization information and reminders and respond to immunization questions. This solution will benefit children ages two and under in DRC, Mozambique and Malawi. This solution will use Turn, a human operator-driven tool developed by Praekelt that leverages WhatsApp to engage users and drive impact at scale. Aided by AI, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, operators can respond to more health inquiries efficiently, consistently and accurately. The technology can also be used for outbreak surveillance; to track immunization stock availability; and to engage parents who might otherwise have missed opportunities for vaccinations (MOV). Turn was first implemented in MomConnect, the South African government’s flagship maternal health program for which Praekelt.org is a key design, technology and implementation partner. Over 2.5 million two million pregnant women and new mothers have used the programme to receive stage-based messaging and support for children under two. With the Malawi MoH, VillageReach has developed a nationwide, 24-hour a day Health Center by Phone which provides free health resources for 18 million people. VillageReach has also designed and implemented next generation immunization supply chains in DRC and Mozambique. VillageReach and Praekelt.org will test and pilot the solution simultaneously in each of the three target countries, building off the existing MoH infrastructures and national MNO’s which provide free calls for users. In Mozambique, Turn will be integrated with two MOH digital health solutions, Alo Vida (voice health hotline) and PENSA (USSD with one-way/push SMS). In Malawi, Turn will be integrated with the Health Center by Phone, and in DRC, we will work with Viamo and the MoH to build upon existing SMS technology. VillageReach will draw upon their expertise in immunization supply chain, digital health solutions and government partnership to manage the implementation, scale, work with government and measure impact. As design and technology partner, Praekelt.org will spearhead all activities to design, integrate, build and launch the digital solution that will leverage Turn to support at scale

Which part(s) of the world does this innovation target?

  • Middle Africa
  • Southern Africa

Geographic Focus

Initially this solution will be implemented in Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Malawi, but we believe it has the potential to be used throughout low and middle income countries.

Stage of Innovation

  • Majority Adoption

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

VillageReach and Praekelt.org will partner with WhatsApp, social enterprise Viamo, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the Ministries of Health (MOH) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique. VillageReach has country offices and close working relationships with the MOH in each of the implementation countries, and sits on technical working groups including mHealth and EPI. MNO’s already provide low-cost or free services to the digital health solutions into which we will integrate Turn. Viamo developed the Health Center by Phone open source platform used in Malawi and has capabilities to support similar deployments in 40+ countries. Praekelt.org initially partnered with WhatsApp to test the WhatsApp Business API within their MomConnect programme. Now that the API is more widely available, Praekelt has continued this partnership to share their learnings and enable various non-profit programmes to make use of the WhatsApp business API to expand their impact.

How is your idea unique? (750 characters)

Many digital health solutions rely on one-way messaging. The proposed solution integrates two-way WhatsApp chat into existing nationwide call centers and USSD platforms. By registering users, the system allows us to send reminders about immunizations, respond to user immunization queries, and collect data in both urban and rural contexts. We envision that this tool can reduce Missed Opportunities for Vaccinations (MOV) and help improve surveillance, particularly for immunization-related outbreaks. This technology is a leap forward in improving vaccination outcomes. By using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, this solution can reach millions of people with a small team of health professionals.

What is the name of your organization

VillageReach and Praekelt.org

Explain your organization (250 characters)

VillageReach works with governments in sub-Saharan Africa to solve health care access challenges in low resource communities; Praekelt.org leverages cost effective, scalable mobile technologies to solve social problems and improve health & wellbeing.

Type of Submitter

  • We are a registered NGO or Non-Profit Organization

Organizational Characteristics

  • Female-led organization
  • Women’s health/rights focused organization

Gender and Diversity (500 characters)

VillageReach and Praekelt.org are dedicated to diversity and equity. At VillageReach 100% of country directors, 75% of management team, 50% of staff, and 42% of Board are women. At Praekelt.org the managing director, 75% of the chairpersons of the 4 operational committees, and 64% of staff are women. Our programs, such as MomConnect and Health Center by Phone, target women to improve their family’s health, and this solution will also target mothers.

Organization Location (less than 250 Characters)

Praekelt.org is based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa with offices in the US, Canada, Nigeria, Netherlands, and UK. VillageReach's HQ is in Seattle, US, with offices in DRC, Mozambique and Malawi, and remote staff in the US and Europe.

Size of organization (number of employees):

  • 101-1,000 people

Website URL

villagereach.org and praekelt.org

Scale of organizational work

  • Global (within 2 or more global regions)

Tell us more about you

VillageReach and Praekelt.org have proven experience in developing solutions that improve health. Together, we have improved health access for over 120 million users in 60 countries. The Praekelt.org team includes: Debbie Rogers (Managing Director, Praekelt.org); Simon de Haan (Technical Lead, Turn.io); Pippa Yeats (Product Lead, Turn.io); Jeane van Greunen (Head of Delivery, Praekelt.org); Marcha Bekker (Head of Business Development, Praekelt.org). The VillageReach team includes: Brandon Bowersox-Johnson (Digital Solutions Director, VR Seattle); Dercio Duvane (Solutions Architect, VR Mozambique); Christine Lenihan (Digital Solutions Manager, VR Seattle); Steven Simkonda (ICT Specialist, VR Malawi); (Health Systems Manager, VR Seattle)

Applying to Gavi INFUSE

  • Referred by a friend / colleague

1 comment

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Photo of Uchenna Okafor
Team

Superlative Congratulations to you!
Indeed a fantastic innovation, if you ask me. More so, for the blind whose ease of access to places of personal interest is still very restricted and/or subjected to the interest of third parties in Africa. This two-way interaction will really provide voice for them to channel other health complaints and also receive the necessary attention, against the dictates of most cultures about blindness in the continent. Sure; the blind in Africa will now stop bemoaning their condition and languishing in silence at the mercy of other relatives who may care but very little.