The US Agency for International Development (USAID) focuses on humanitarian assistance, agricultural and health issues in developing areas around the world. Among their goals is to begin new projects by being in direct contact with the people and communities involved. One of the primary methods of achieving this level of contact is through mobile technology.
In Afghanistan, USAID was seeking an effective method of surveying teachers about how they receive salary payments, and if they are satisfied with current methods or whether they would prefer to be paid in another way. They hired us to deploy PULSE in order to find the answers to their questions, as well as gain insight into possible solutions.
Currently, teachers are paid either through electronic bank transfer or cash disbursements made at their school. However, there is a scarcity of bank branches throughout the country, making access to bank transfers difficult and receipt of a months salary by cash a dangerous proposition. This is not an ideal solution in the eyes of many teachers. But without a way for them to be heard collectively, there was no initiative in place to explore alternative forms of payment.
Our goal was to communicate with as many teachers as possible to gauge their preference for how they are paid, with an eye toward instituting mobile payments. Afghanistan is a country of diverse landscapes and populations, so we needed to make sure that we were representing rural, urban and peri-urban teachers equally. And we needed to be able to confirm that teachers in each of those areas were receiving timely and complete payments.
For us, the measure of success would be to effectively verify the efficiency and security of electronic salary payments while also establishing a more effective monitoring and evaluation process for Afghanistan’s education sector.
We started off by creating the framework for a database of teachers, their schools and locations, and we deployed the initial launch in Kabul and Nangahar to ensure a diverse sampling environment. This database helped us to establish an SMS-based mechanism system to periodically query the workforce. Initial connections are made through community engagement and radio broadcasts with SMS being the receiving channel for teacher feedback.
As more teachers participated in the program, we saw proof that the approach was working. The nature of PULSE will allow us to easily scale up to reach and survey teachers in the remaining areas of the country and ensure that alternative payment methods are working as they move forward.
Now that PULSE is in place, the platform can be used for country-wide engagement with the Afghan population on any variety of topics related to education.
Results of our partnership with USAID are still coming in as the program is still in its infancy, but a recent interview with USAID Mobile Solutions Director, Priya Jaisinghani, shows that early efforts have been successful and the stage is set for this to remain the case.
With over 6500 teachers surveyed "the results are showing that there’s a strong preference to be paid by mobile or by card instead of being paid in cash, which is how most teachers in Afghanistan are paid today. Having this kind of information gives us the impetus to work with our partners, [including the government,] to pay civil servants through electronic means.” - Priya Jaisinghani