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Low cost free SMS forum

When questions occur pregnant women or caring moms just need to send an sms to the other women and local healthcare workers. Whoever knows the answer replies to it thus helping the woman and everyone else who might have the same problem later.

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25 23

Written by DeletedUser

The idea is to connect with different parties - hospitals, mobile communication providers, and possibly government - in order to provide pregnant women and moms in the areas with non-existent or little Internet coverage with information on how to take care of themselves and their new-born babies.


Business model (also see picture):


Women get to use the service for free. In return they listen to short voice ads or get sms ads regularly as well as answer queries and questionnaires. The ad payments from the companies is then used to provide the service (paying doctors and nurses involved; communication expenses, database maintenance etc.).


How it works (see picture):


The area is organized in many smaller areas with one hospital assigned to each of them. This guarantees that questions asked and answers shared are relevant to the people because they can give suggestions about where to buy what etc. Also there is a chance that later sms friendship between these women will bring them to personal interactions.


Women are subscribed in the local hospitals and are given a special number.
When a woman or her family have a question (regarding her state of health, advices on food, exercise and anything else) but cant, doesn't want to or considers unnecessary to go visit a doctor, they can ask community. First, database with ready answers is searched by keywords. If the answer is not relevant or not found then the sms is delivered to others. Other women or doctor/nurse can answer the question or share experience.
Answers can be directed to everyone or just one specific number.












What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?

Cell phone

Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?

  • Nokia
  • Mobile operators
  • NGOs
  • Government

Virtual Team

My virtual team: 1. Mokeira Masita-Mwangi She gave me an idea about dividing women into smaller groups by areas. Since women already visit hospitals I decided that its better if they subscribe there and not by sms. This way they can be better explained how it works. 2. Meena Kadri She gave an idea of filling the air time with users answering queries (not just ads) 3. My sister Although not on the Open IDEO but as a young mother of 2 children she gave me some valuable insights about what it looks like to take care of yourself when you are pregnant and your kids when they born. She told me about what kinds of information she looked for on regular Internet forums and how important it was for her to connect with other pregnant women.

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. Does this concept have the potential to save lives related to maternal health in the poorest and most marginalized communities?

A great deal of potential - 57.1%

Some potential - 42.9%

Not a lot of potential - 0%

2. How realizable do you think this concept can be? Think about the real issues faced by low-income communities, such as literacy challenges, affordability of devices and tools, usage costs.

It's very realizable - 28.6%

There are some hurdles to realization - 57.1%

This concept is not realistic - 14.3%

3. How much does this concept leverage resources and partners in existing low-income communities? Thus enhancing positive aspects of the way things work in the community as opposed to taking away what is a valued way of working and living in the community.

This concept works harmoniously with existing resources and partners - 42.9%

This concept does not work against existing resources and partners - 57.1%

This concept conflicts with existing resources and partners - 0%

4. Can this concept become self-sustaining and even provide some livelihood value add to the community?

This concept could become a self-sustaining business for locals - 42.9%

This concept still needs some work before it is self-sustaining - 57.1%

This concept is not self-sustaining at all - 0%

5. Will this concept work in low-tech & low-connectivity environments?

This concept is very well suited to low-tech and low-connectivity environments - 42.9%

This concept needs to be evaluated for technology feasibility - 57.1%

This concept may be too high-tech for low-income communities - 0%

25 comments

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Photo of Chathura Gunawardana

who is going to decide which content to push to the end user? how do you go about getting first signups? great idea! probably can setup a mobile version of sms gateway like http://smsfree4all.com

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DeletedUser

great idea!~ simple and efficient

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DeletedUser

Olga, I really like this idea. What do you suggest be done in a case where the women to be reached are illiterate? Is there support for MMS for pictures and graphics, and would that cost be covered by some sort of grant or donations?

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DeletedUser

Thank you for suggestion!
Generally illiterate communities would be less well off so I dont think that they would have devices like smar phones which support interactive pictures and videos. But MMS certainly should be used. For example, a woman can even receive images of her developing baby depending on her pregnancy time, inforgraphics explaining how things work, pictures of food, exercise etc.

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Photo of Hima Batavia

Also, we should be mindful of how much can be answered in 140 characters, and what the process is if the question can not be answered within this constraint. Health issues can be complex, and answers should not be simplified to meet this requirement

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DeletedUser

The issue of longer messages can be addressed by cutting one message short and typing more or -> (to make an arrow). The cost per text message can be an issue that needs to be addressed.

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DeletedUser

Interesting idea, which makes so much sense given limited health resources and huge health needs. Like many things in a low-income context the how is where the best thinking becomes really important.

I have noticed that Google has some recent experience in this area - http://blog.google.org/2009/06/google-sms-to-serve-needs-of-poor-in.html From a brief discussion with a staff member of google.org about it, I understand that it worked in Uganda if it is completely free. This was supported by a pilot that started out free and then moved to usual sms costs where the usage tapered off. Perhaps you should get in touch with them to see the pilot evaluation to find out why.

Best of luck!

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DeletedUser

I like this idea. The how is seems to be the tricky part - like with many ideas in low-income contexts.

I understand that Google.org has some recent experience in this area - http://blog.google.org/2009/06/google-sms-to-serve-needs-of-poor-in.html

From a brief discussion with a staff member of google.org, I understand that it worked in Uganda when it was completely free. This was supported by a pilot that started out free and then moved to usual sms costs where usage tapered away. Perhaps you should get in touch to see the evaluation of the pilot and find out why?

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DeletedUser

Oh, sorry. You already mentioned it in your brief. My bad.

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DeletedUser

I see the potential here. Some refinement needed though. I think this idea can be further polished to resemble a dynamic FAQ page (I don't know what it's called). Basically, before you ask a question business/person/organization, the system looks up for similar questions and provides you with answers that might be helpful.

This way, redundancy is eliminated. Quora is a perfect example of this. :)

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thanks for valuable comments everyone! To have a mentor is a good idea. Actually I was thinking a doctor or a nurse assigned to an area would take the responsibilities of a mentor. Having weekly SMS with high quality content is a good idea as well. For example specific suggestions can be given to different women depending on the their pregnancy period.

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DeletedUser

Thanks for valuable comments everyone! To have a mentor is a good idea. Actually I was thinking a doctor or a nurse assigned to an area would take the responsibilities of a mentor. Having weekly SMS with high quality content is a good idea as well. For example specific suggestions can be given to different women depending on the their pregnancy period.

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DeletedUser

Hello!
I agree with some of the comments regarding the quality of the content that the women may be answering in the forum. Some times in rural areas there exist a lot if "myths" and "tabus" and if no moderation exist in this forums, it might as well be a source of dissinformation. So what I suggest is that you could maybe place a mentor per each of the geographic/ or social group, how can play the role of demystifier. Users might as well receive a weekly SMS with high quality content that you can provide as a free service to mantain the netwrk active.

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Photo of Sina Mossayeb

groupme.com is a good technical model. i'm sure you could build a similar service using Twilio (which is a platform that boogies using SMS and Mobile interaction technologies).

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I think this is great concept and agree with the recent comments. I think targets the groups by geographic area is important for group/sms management. My concept of geosocial SMS network would work well in supporting this initiative http://openideo.com/open/maternal-health/concepting/global-village-supporting-new-mothers/

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Photo of OpenIDEO

Hey there Olga!

Congratulations for being one of our top 20 finalists in the Maternal Health challenge! We really like your idea for a low-cost internet forum.

As part of this Refine phase, we're urging you to dive deeper in the details of your concept and give some more thought into what might be involved.

When you're ready to update your concept, please click the 'Update this' button on the right-hand-side of your concept and fill out our 2 new fields:
+ Concept Builds – Here you can list additional builds on your concept
+ Virtual Team – Here you can credit others in the community who have contributed to your concept.

Cheers from the OpenIDEO Team!

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DeletedUser

Olga, the concept of creating community is a great one, and so is the idea that women themselves can be owners of information. However, it seems that misinformation can be a real problem. I imagine this could be a great add-on to one of the other ideas here that provide information. Perhaps the women participating in a camp during the NONVULNERABLE season, or midwives could keep in touch through this SMS tree.

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DeletedUser

Hi. This is a simple and great idea. In order to make it more manageable in terms of numbers consider location based SMS forums so that the expectant mothers could automatically be placed into groups depending on their geographical locations and they would then SMS one another within a smaller group. It would perhaps also make the conversations more relevant and closer to home with the mothers sharing similar situations and having a manageable continuous conversation via SMS which is more focused as opposed to a myriad of issues with very large numbers tapping into one forum. Also maybe it could be possible for a mother in one forum who wishes to participate if only for a limited time in another forum in a nearby or far away location could also subscribe to it temporarily. Just a thought. Looking forward to the refined concept.

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DeletedUser

Thanks for the comments. I agree that this will have lots of limitations (such as what you have listed and more). But I would like to stress that the idea is to simulate online forums where you dont necessarily meet knowledgeable people but rather people with the same issues and some previous experience (this is the answer to the 3rd point).

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Photo of Tristan Cooke

It's a nice idea... but I am a glass half empty person, believing we can learn from the holes/issues. So please don' t take this the wrong way. I'll be putting up a concept tomorrow so you can 'half empty' that as much as you want.

So, my issues:

1. I think this could suffer from size issues and the numbers of sms messages don't get unwieldy.

2. Answering questions in the format of an sms itself can be limited.

3. You have to be confident that the people answering the questions will have good answers. If they don't (and at worst give contrary info) then you'd have a problem.

However, I understand this is just a brainstorm.

The great things:

1. I do think this idea creating a network with phones has legs.

2. SMS is an existent technology so it will be able to diffuse quite easily.

Overall: nice building block. Well done.

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DeletedUser

I think this idea could work very well with the 'Cellphones as incentive and compliance mechanism for maternal health' concept (which established buy-ins and compliance), and could be incorporated as a more structured incentive for literate users to participate!

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DeletedUser

Yes. Thank you for the link!
In this case it can be focused on a specific crowd - pregnant women and moms with new born babies.

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DeletedUser

Yes, since the program has to very cheap or even free (otherwise sending one sms to many numbers at the same time would make user think twice) then sponsorship should be provided. Ads is a way to go!

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DeletedUser

I agree! Powerful yet simple.

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Photo of Haiyan Zhang

Olga, kudos for using the concept capture sheet!
A lovely idea!