HIFC completes Nokia data gathering pilot project in Zimbabwe

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Breakthrough data gathering project achieves high success rate in humanitarian zones of Zimbabwe

Though no longer considered to be in a humanitarian crisis, Zimbabwe has in the past decade experienced a series of emergencies such as the outbreak of cholera from 2008-2009 and the measles crisis of 2010. The country is now in a period of early recovery as humanitarian organizations attempt to find new ways to communicate quickly across vast geographic distances and tiresome bureaucratic restrictions.

Against this background, Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC), with the support of IMS, sought to undertake a ground-breaking pilot project utilizing Nokia Data Gathering (NDG) software and the technology of mobile telephony to collect, send and analyse data in near real time. NDG is a software system developed by Nokia that allows collection of data using mobile phones to replace traditional paper-based questionnaires.The pilot project was created with the intention of opening communication lines between local media, humanitarian aid workers and policymakers.

HIFC is the first organization to pilot this tool in Zimbabwe. Through a partnership with a local NGO working in community health, HIFC convened thirteen community health monitors for training with the Nokia phones and the data collection software. The thirteen monitors conducted drug availability surveys in five districts of the country to health workers and patients alike and sent the results to over thirty health institutions with their Nokia phones. Their work revealed that painkillers and drugs for common ailments were in short supply in many areas across the country and that these shortages could be attributed to expiration, non-replacement and pilferage.

A survey conducted amongst the 13 monitors who participated in the pilot revealed that the NDG solution is a relatively easy technology that can be used across a range of age groups and by any individual who has handled a mobile phone before. The fact that data goes straight from the field into a pre-existing database means increased accuracy through elimination of transcription errors and the ability to make informed and prompt responses is enhanced.

Various partners working in the humanitarian sector have already started expressing interest and HIFC expects to roll out this service to more humanitarian non-governmental organizations this year.