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OpenIDEO has partnered with Oxfam and Nokia to explore how mobile technologies can be used to improve maternal health (particularly in pregnancy and childbirth). We’re asking you, the OpenIDEO community, to come up with inspirations and concepts around improving the knowledge and access to maternal health services, specifically where mobile technologies can be used as a tool to aid this. We’re focusing our solutions in low-income countries, such as Burkina Faso and Bangladesh. In many such countries fees for health care prevent millions of mothers from seeking the professional care they need or where under-investment means health works or medicines are unavailable.


1,000 women die every day in pregnancy and childbirth – adding up to more than 350,000 deaths each year. Over 90% are preventable.

In 2000 world leaders set themselves a set of targets to significantly reduce poverty around the world, MDG 5, to reduce maternal deaths by three quarters, is the most off-track of all the MDGs.

The causes of maternal mortality are multi-faceted and deeply engrained in gender inequalities and decades of under investment in public health care.

Some of the big issues

Cost of healthcare – User fees for health care push 100 million people into poverty each year and block access to skilled birth attendance for those too poor to pay.

Healthcare personnel stretched – Just 1 more midwife could save the lives of 219 women. 700,000 more Midwives are needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths by 75% by 2015. Overall the World Health Organisation has estimated that over 4 million more health workers are needed around the world.

General access to information and care during pregnancy and childbirth – Women need more access to basic information on safe motherhood and to their right to decent quality health care based on need and not ability to pay. Information can help empower women to claim their rights and protect the health of themselves and their unborn child.

Gender inequality – Women and girls have less access to education, assets, services, and security, in general - 12 percent of women suffer domestic violence during pregnancy – WHO multi country study, 2005.

Access to education in general - Women who complete primary education marry later, exercise better birth control and are more likely to use modern health services – K. Watkins, Oxfam Education Report, Oxfam GB, 2001


In the Inspiration phase, we’re asking you to look around and tell us what inspirations are already out there around this issue…

What are some existing products/services/campaigns (anywhere in the World) that are improving health (any type of health issue, not just maternal) in the community?

What are some of your own experiences with maternal health and where did the system succeed or fail for you? How could it be improved?

What are some innovative uses of mobile technology already out there that we could be inspired by?


In the Concepting phase, we’ll ask the community to contribute their own mobile solutions to improve maternal health. These could be new products, services, campaigns, systems.

We’ll ask you to think a little deeper about the feasibility of your concept from technology and business perspectives. 


Once the Concepting phase is completed, we'll ask the community to return and applaud their favourite concepts. The top concepts will also be evaluated more thoroughly for criteria like business viability and technological feasibility.


Oxfam is a vibrant global movement of passionate, dedicated people overcoming poverty together. Since our creation in 1942 Oxfam has consistently been at the forefront of identifying new ways to tackle poverty. People power drives everything we do. From saving lives and developing projects that put poor people in charge of their lives and livelihoods, to campaigning for change that lasts.

To have the biggest possible impact on the lives of poor people worldwide, Oxfam concentrates on three interlinked areas of work:

Emergency response
People need help in an emergency – fast. We save lives, swiftly delivering aid, support and protection; and we help communities develop the capacity to cope with future crises.

Development work
Poor people can take control, solve their own problems, and rely on themselves – with the right support. We fund long-term work to fight poverty in thousands of communities worldwide.

Campaigning for change
Poverty isn’t just about lack of resources. In a wealthy world it’s about bad decisions made by powerful people. Oxfam campaigns hard, putting pressure on leaders for real lasting change.


Mobile phones used to be toys for yuppies. Now, they have become tools for development. Nokia's aim is to see that the potential of mobile phones is fulfilled.
The goal for this challenge is a happy, healthy mother and child. Even though the challenge is structured around mobile technology, our view is that it isn't really about the technology, it's about what you do with it. Of course, that's a marketing slogan but it's also true.

At Nokia, we are very optimistic about the potential of mobile communication in health, whether or not we're involved. We are also mindful of the old saying, 'when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.' So, working with Oxfam and a broader community here is a good way to put mobiles in perspective as one tool among many, not a magic bullet. We look forward to hearing from you.

We would love it if you would spread the word to your friends and colleagues.
If you would like to promote the challenge in your office, feel free to download this challenge poster and post it up where people can see it.

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

We follow a process with phases. Currently we are in the Realisation phase. You can participate by adding stories on the impact of this challenge.
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Photo of Rakiya Na'Iya

I guess I'm late here, there are a number of factors that make maternal and infant mortality an issue in Northern Nigeria. One is the culture an tradition another is poverty and illiteracy. On the other hand, there is inadequate healthcare facilities and or workers at the rural areas or general in accessibility at times of real medical emergencies. If all the above factors are not a problem, then one of the others would be. I've interacted with women, husbands, mother in laws about the issue of ante natal and hospital delivery. You find that the husband family due to fear of what might be spent at the hospital make them stop the expectant mother from having a health worker attending to her.
I remember there was a program by Population and Reproductive Health Partnership in collaboration with University of Berkeley, Ahmadu University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, and a host of others took to the use of "Misoprostol" in women to stop post partum hemorrhage. It helped in reducing maternal mortality.
The use of SMS Technology to Facilitate Community Based Surveillance of Maternal &Newborn Health in Rural Communities in Northern Nigeria.

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