UNICEF, Airtel team up in Africa to widen access to free health, data analysis apps

UNICEF, the U.N. Children’s Fund, has made its RapidPro suite of apps available to Airtel customers for free across the 17 African countries in which the telecom company operates.

The open-source family of applications is designed to help governments deliver rapid and vital real-time information and connect communities to lifesaving services. The apps offer health, education and youth-focused content.

By introducing the apps to Airtel users, UNICEF content will be more accessible and data-gathering across regions made easier. RapidPro makes data related to interactions on the platform available in Excel for analysis.

RapidPro also allows organizations to create personalized messages based on information collected from users, which could in turn increase response rates.

Launched originally last September, RapidPro was designed by UNICEF’s global Innovations Labs in collaboration with Nyuruka, a Rwandan software development firm, based on eight years of experience with SMS-based applications.

Downloading a free RapidPro Android application creates an instant connection to the platform. Apps include: mHero, deployed in West Africa to help tackle the Ebola crisis; U-Report, used in Zambia to link people to the resources of the National AIDS Council; EduTrac, which tracks education indicators to help in decision-making; and Project Mwana, used in Zambia to deliver HIV test results, cutting turnaround time in half, to 33 days.

The next addition to the RapidPro platform will be RapidFTR, an Android forms-based data collection app developed in UNICEF’s Innovation Labs in South Sudan and Uganda but originating in New York University’s Design for UNICEF class.

Countries in which Airtel operates include: Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Chad, DRC, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

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