One of the biggest challenges to international development is the communications gap that exists between decision makers and populations that reside in rural areas of developing countries. In support of USAID, IST employed early prototype components of its Pulse Platform to assess the state of paycheck disbursements for teachers in rural Afghan schools. The information gathered from this project informed decision makers about the preferences of teachers to receive their wages in traditional manners, or electronically. The goal for the project was to build a scalable system that enabled more efficient and secure salary payments while also enabling more effective monitoring and evaluation processes in the education sector. The system incorporated robust data and content management, a web interface with the ability to set privacy by organization and user, and the ability to send and receive SMS messages.
“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for socialLouis Brandeis, 1913
and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of
disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
A century later, these words remain true. Data, however, has joined sunlight at the top of the disinfectant list. In this context, data is critical to identifying and locating “social and industrial diseases,” as well as guiding the effective applications of “electric light” to address them.
Our version of Brandeis’ sunlight is Pulse, technology to identify and communicate effectively with at-risk populations in disconnected areas. Pulse helps provide a voice to the voiceless.
Pulse enables real-time information collection across the internet and from hard-to-reach populations. Digital internet monitoring is based on a web-scraping infrastructure, providing continuous capture of targeted information for prolonged periods of time. Active engagement involves direct communication with individuals in at-risk populations and utilizes their mobile technology. Gateway phones are portable and inexpensive, enabling interaction with large populations. Monitoring and engagement data are fused in a common database and custom analytics provide the most complete representation of populations of interest.
Pulse In Action
At the height of the Ebola crisis in Liberia, IST deployed the Pulse Platform to Ebola effected areas to eliminate information gaps that existed between decision makers and affected populations. Given the epidemiologic nature of the crisis, IST was able to ship the Pulse Platform to a local partner, LibTech, a Liberian technology firm, who successfully set-up and aided IST in the execution of information campaigns. Mobile phones were distributed into the hands of health workers responding to Ebola stricken areas to obtain information about the outbreak including the number of new cases, symptomology, and public opinion of response efforts. Further campaigns were conducted through the use of local FM Radio to conduct data calls from local populaces. Initial respondents were surveyed through SMS campaigns, and Health workers were surveyed and interviewed to create a network of healthcare providers across the region.