As Project Manager of KiraMAMA for UNICEF Burundi, it was my job to implement and deploy a system to lower rates of infant and maternal mortality (MDGs 4 and 5). Using the RapidPRO platform, Kiramama would plug into maternal health resources – physical infrastructure such as clinics and ambulances, as well as maternal health personnel. In this way, if a mother or a child had an emergency, needed a regular check-up, or another kind of consultation, necessary equipment, materials and personnel would be on-hand for the procedure and monitoring and evaluation.
Burundi is considerably challenging context with very low mobile penetration rates, a poorly educated population, a huge lack of qualified personnel, infrastructure, funding, materials and equipment, and a potentially disruptive election. Both for feasibility concerns of the project and for personal reasons involving my debut novel, The Paths of Marriage, I elected to leave my position after three months. Even so, I learned a lot about field operations in a different part of the world, and furthered my belief that working with the private sector is key to any ICT4D project. To learn more about one lesson in the field – how to convert non-believers of technology – click here.