Innovative Use of Mobile Phones Will Expand Access to Contraceptive Choices
I really commend Melinda Gates for taking on this challenge. Although I’d prefer she include abortion in her cause, I understand that with wide-spread contraception use the need for abortion should (in theory) be less. It is an important step.
With strong leadership and a commitment to community-based health services and family planning, Ethiopia has dramatically reduced child mortality and nearly doubled the prevalence of modern contraceptives in recent years.
Now, Ethiopia is on the leading edge of an innovative effort, using mobile phone technology, to ensure more women have access to voluntary family planning services and a broad range of contraceptive methods, close to where they live.
Going door to door in communities across Ethiopia, a cadre of local women data collectors will interview women about their reproductive health, including contraceptive preferences and use. The responses are entered into mobile phones, and after a day of interviewing the data is uploaded to a cloud-based computer system. The data is available for immediate analysis, and is useful for identifying patterns of contraceptive use, maintaining adequate supplies in health clinics, and monitoring family planning information and services to ensure they are voluntary and high quality and achieving the intended impact.
The effort is part of a broader program, known as PMA2020, that is using mobile technology to help 10 countries - eight in Africa and two in Asia - improve their family planning services. The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University is leading the effort, with funding support from our foundation.