News / Africa

Aid Organizations Use Technology in Africa Development Work

A WFP field monitor assistant conducts a food security survey with a Burundian resident in Bihogo village, using a personal digital assistant (PDA) to collect the data
A WFP field monitor assistant conducts a food security survey with a Burundian resident in Bihogo village, using a personal digital assistant (PDA) to collect the data

Multimedia

Audio
Zack Baddorf

The U.N. World Food Program provides food to about 90 million people in 73 countries.  In Burundi, the WFP is using a different technology to determine where exactly to focus their food assistance.  

The World Food Program provides food assistance to more than 600,000 "food-insecure" Burundians in a country of eight million people.

WFP-Burundi Public Information Officer Marc Neilson says in order to gauge where there is need, WFP staff go out on fact-finding missions.

"So for example if you enter in a village that the government has recommended as at risk or if based on past studies you may think is at risk, you will do a study in there, and you will ask questions everything from, 'How many meals a day are you eating?  How are you cooking?  What do you use to cook?  What kind of fuel do you have to cook?  How many people are in the household?" said Neilson.

WFP program assistant Gerard Bisman is interviewing Elisabeth Tembaidai in Bihogo village in northern Burundi.  He is asking her, in the Kurundi language, how much maize she eats each month and where she gets her food.

He is typing her answers directly into a handheld electronic device as part of a new initiative by WFP to use technology to help keep tabs on the country's food situation.

The information collected on a PDA is used to determine where to send food aid.
The information collected on a PDA is used to determine where to send food aid.

The palmtop computer is a little larger than a normal cell phone.  Since he started using the device in March, Bisman says the result is more accurate data, collected faster because there is no prep time and no paper shuffling.

He says it is very interesting to use the device because it is a lot faster.  It is used to take him about an hour and a half to complete the entire interview with paper and now it takes only half an hour.

The WFP staffer says the survey takers appreciate the improved technology, too.

Bisman says they used to be very, very tired when we did the survey with pen and paper, but with the 30-minute digital survey, they do not get as tired. A nd so they provide more accurate data, he added.

Tembaidai, a 56-year-old primary school teacher, had never been interviewed by the WFP and said it is the first time for her to see such a device.  She said it shows the country is making progress.  

A few years ago, Tembaidai received food aid from the WFP because she said there was a food shortage in her village due to a drought.  She hopes WFP will provide them with food this year, too.

"We will probably need some help in regards to food this year, because the water that used to come from up north does not come anymore," she said..  "It is the dry season and the village is short of food at the moment."

Neilson said interviewing people like Tembaidai with the electronic devices provides a more precise picture of the needs of the country.

"So you have the speed of gathering data, which means you can expand your survey area and that makes it more valid by interviewing more people," Neilson said.

Right now, WFP Burundi is in Phase One of the project with information collected on a memory card and sent to the main office in Bujumbura.  But soon, WFP staff members in the field will begin transmitting their findings wirelessly.  

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with average income per person at about $300 per year.  It only emerged from a 13-year civil war in 2006, with one rebel group finally laying down its arms just last year.  But the country has a new hi-speed 3G wireless network.

Sending the data wirelessly to the central database to be analyzed will allow the WFP to plan more effectively and quickly where to send food around the country.

Each device costs about $200, so with two devices in each of the 15 provinces, that comes out to about $6,000, not including the cost of training personnel.  Neilson said it is a "good investment."

"Anytime you can save doing that, it means those most at risk, the poor, are getting the assistance faster and more effectively, and you are not perhaps going in an area where you really should not be," he said. "WFP needs to be in the areas that are most at risk and that is the bottom line.  And so anything that can help improve that process, reduce the time to get there, improve the data, improve the validity of the data, is to me definitely worth the investment."

Neilson said the technological advances have improved the ability of aid organizations like the World Food Program to do their work effectively.  The U.N. agency has put the wireless devices to use elsewhere in Africa, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the U.N. Children's Fund uses hand-held devices  to provide a rapid assessment during emergency situations, and in the West African countries of Togo and Niger, the U.S National Centers for Disease Control has got into the act too, using devices with global positioning system capabilities to help prevent malaria.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs