PNG is home to some of the most remote communities in the world. These communities have been isolated by rugged mountains and dense forest which has made equitable service delivery and community level communication difficult.
In response to these challenges and capitalising on the dramatic increase of feature phone use across the country, UNICEF PNG is helping its government partners by developing a number of projects using RapidPro - an innovative open source real time information platform - to better connect via SMS. RapidPro is UNICEF’s mobile phone based system for real-time data collection for improved monitoring of service delivery.
It is hoped these initiatives will help government partners better communicate and collect vital data from some of the hardest to reach parts of the country to inform policy decisions.
There are four main partnerships that the PNG Country Office is growing into solid innovations projects. Partnerships with the Departments of Education, Implementation and Rural Development and Justice have all led to the development of real time data collection tools using SMS. Through RapidPro these government departments are collecting a broad range of data from school enrolment numbers to information about district level funding and cases of juvenile justice. UNICEF PNG is also working with the Department of Health to use RapidPro as a mass communication mechanism. Pregnant women and new mothers across the country can now subscribe for a free text message service giving them vital information about how to look after their health and the health of their babies. Health workers can also receive mentoring messages related to the new malnutrition treatment protocols. See separate story - Advancing RapidPro projects in Papua New Guinea.
As these projects mature and grow to scale UNICEF continues to explore new innovations opportunities. The expansion of this program will include the development of a U-Report platform in 2016 which will work to provide the large youth population a platform to engage with policy makers.
So far, RapidPro has given those even in the most remote communities of PNG a mechanism for communicating directly with government representatives at the national level, for free. Real-time monitoring and citizen engagement across key development sectors, including health, education, water and sanitation and children protection will ensure greater transparency, accountability and dissemination of information which will have a lasting impact on the ability of the government of PNG to provide vital services, especially to the most disadvantaged communities.