Mali Health

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Photo Credit: Revi Sterling for DAI

This project leverages a locally developed voice-based social networking app to provide health information and market opportunities to women’s cooperatives and savings groups in Bamako’s peri-urban communities. The majority of group members are women living under the poverty line, including widows and those turned out by their families. As most women have low literacy levels and haven’t been able to continue their education beyond primary school, there is a significant need for a rich visual voice-based interface that enables women to advertise their wares, connect with larger market opportunities, and access health information, all in their native language.

The Mali Health application launched in June 2019 to a pilot group of now 65 women who completed two rounds of user training and testing using their own or project-issued smartphones. Early feedback indicates ease in navigating the application and a high level of interest in on-demand health information that reduces the need to travel to local health centers and provides access to useful topics such as maternal healthcare, children’s health, and vaccination schedules. In response to women’s feedback, Mali Health added a feature where users can record their questions for a doctor and get voice responses back via their phone.

Women in the program have reported feeling more equal to men when armed with more information they want and need. In addition, we have seen that as husbands become more involved and better understand the potential benefits of this technology, they increasingly show support for their wives’ use of the technology. When asked if technology could cause problems in a marriage, one cooperative member shared:

“On the contrary, it brings us closer to our husbands. I share the health information I receive on my phone with my husband. One day, when I shared with him the messages on family planning and childhood vaccination, he told me this: I now understand that women can do good things with the phone. With this information, they [the women] will be useful to themselves and their children.”

Usability, utility, and the value of information exchange are at the heart of this project. Going forward, the program will continue to assess how the addition of this voicebased technology has affected livelihoods and levels of empowerment.

Last updated: May 14, 2020

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