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Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at your fingertips!

Photo of Coenie Louw
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Opportunity Areas – Select those that apply

  • mHealth
  • Data

What specific problem(s) are you trying to address? (300 character limit)

Young people in Southern Africa have very little knowledge, and receive even less information, about their everyday sexual and reproductive health and rights. Most of their lives are dominated by poverty, lack of sexuality education and myths and misconceptions steeped in a male dominant society.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address? (500 character limit)

How can we use machine learning to effectively segment youth for risk - risky attitudes and behaviour, lack of knowledge, lack of access to adolescent and youth friendly services, norms and values - all of these and more contribute to high rates of HIV infections in South Africa, (where girls are 8 times more likely than boys to get infected by HIV), high rates of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs... The proof will be in the pudding.

Who are your end users? (1000 character limit)

SmartYouth specifically targets the most at risk group of young people 10 to 24 years old, who live in deprived rural areas and informal settlements, Girls are disproportionately affected, that is a fact. We have seen that mobile phone edutainment has a positive effect with feedback from Zimbabwe such as these: 'You just need your handset - and interest - then you are in!' 'I was able to start conversation about menstruation with my daughter. I just gave her a phone and asked her to play.’ and even more positive: ‘Apparently - a friend saw our USSD game - and thought it was a great idea to engage girls in the deaf community - so we are doing it!’ Supporting the edutainment with a toll-free helpline will provide information and support, and using machine learning to identify individuals at risk will enable us to reach out and engage those high risk individuals and recommend specially designed intervention packages to thousands of at risk boys and girls, and young men and women.

Explain your idea. (500 character limit)

SmartYouth is the product of engaging with Zimbabwean youth-led organizations in 2016. The need was to find an affordable platform to educate girls and young women on SRHR issues affecting them. From that a USSD platform developed, consisting of the scenario-based game, quizzes and surveys. A toll-free helpline offers advice, counselling and referral to care by peer educators and counselors. Machine Learning will be used to segment youth into risk groups, to offer differentiated care packages.

What is your value proposition? (500 character limit)

For an intervention aimed at youth to be successful, it should be developed on the premise of "nothing for us, if not by us". Young people need to participate fully and take ownership of interventions. They should be given the opportunity to be advisors, implementers and evaluators. Youth need access to evidence based information and support, while their privacy and confidentiality is guaranteed. USSD and cloud based helplines guarantee that stigma and discrimination is not perpetuated,

What's different about your idea compared to current solutions? (500 character limit)

USSD is a low-cost, interactive, menu-driven mobile phone technology that does not require internet data and works on any kind of mobile phone. It is ideal to provide a free service to vulnerable youth in remote areas who cannot afford or where there is no internet coverage. Toll-free cloud-based helpline is an affordable way to provide support and counselling, referral and linkage to care. Risk segmentation and designing specific interventions through machine learning has not been done before.

What are the key reasons why end users would turn to your organization over another?

  • Customization: Tailoring to specific needs

What would success look like for your end users? (500 character limit)

Youth will have increased knowledge about SRHR issues affecting their lives. Youth will exhibit less risky behaviour such as unsafe sex and alcohol and drug abuse. Boys and young men will have a change in attitudes about the value of girls in society, which will positive impact gender equality.

How would you measure the impact your idea has on your end user(s) ? How will you measure the success of your program? (500 character limit)

With pre- and post surveys via mobile phones we can determine change in attitudes/knowledge and risk behaviour. Through Supervised Machine Learning we will determine risk segmentation. After applying specific risk interventions we can measure the individuals change in risk profiling.

What strategies will/are you testing to acquire end users? (300 character limit)

SmartYouth was successfully piloted in Zimbabwe thanks to promotion by youth-led groups. GHI is a member of both the SRHR Fund's youth community of practice as well as the Sex Rights Africa Network. We also host networking learning discussions. Lastly we have a number of youth clubs.

Key partnerships - Who will you partner with to make your idea work? (500 character limit)

We have partnered with 4Sight a global ICT company with more than 150 employees at their Digitata division in Johannesburg, working in 15 coutries around the world. GHI already has its USSD edutainment platform in place, helpline infrastructure is 99% in place. 4Sight will be assisting is to create supervised machine learning algorithms to segment SmartYouth users into risk groups - low, medium and high - based on predictor data collected through responses to the USSD games, quizzes and surveys.

What is your organization’s name? (150 character limit)

Gateway Health Institute (GHI)

Tell us more about you: (750 character limit)

GHI has a head office in Pretoria, South Africa. We operate mostly from satellite offices around the country. Our team consists of innovators, academics and young people. SmartYouth team members include Dr Coenie Louw, a medical doctor with a postgraduate qualification in HIV management. Sara Nieuwoudt is a social behaviour change communication expert based at the University of the Witwatersrand. Professor Antonie van Rensburg is an industrial engineer and extraordinary lecturer at University of Stellenbosch and an expert in machine learning/artificial intelligence. Dr Lisa Le Roux holds a PhD in sociology and is an expert in sexual and gender-based violence. Vusani Maseda is a youth ambassador with expertise in community needs assessment

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • Locally/community-led organization

Where will your idea be implemented? (200 character limit)

SmartYouth was pilot tested in Zimbabwe in 2016. In 2017 it was implemented and is available across South Africa. Plan is to roll it out through the Sex Rights Africa Network in 3 more countries.

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • National - expansive reach within one country

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.

Organization Location (200 character limit)

South Africa.

What is your organizational status?

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.



Join the conversation:

Photo of Chenai Muchena

Thank you Ashley Tillman .
Hello Coenie Louw  I really loved reading through this concept as this is something close to home. The USSD platform is a great way to to tackle issues around connectivity and access to data and also an effective way to relay information as seen with the current trends in Zimbabwe. I have some questions you could perhaps help me with. When we went out into the field in Epworth, a peri-urban area on the outskirts of Harare, we noted that the majority of the adolescents did not have access to the normal Feature phone. This is a community living below the poverty line, and the youths in this area are a high risk population when it comes to Sexual reproductive health issues and in need of these interventions. In your programme, how then did you address that issue in that bracket? Perhaps you could share some information on where the programme was implemented in Zimbabwe?

Photo of Coenie Louw

Hi Chenai
The Beauty of USSD is it works on ANY kind of phone - from the most basic Nokia to the newest Smartphones. That is why we are using USSD to get exactly to the group you mention.
It was tested all over Zimbabwe with the help of Katswe Sistahood.
Hope this helps

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