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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs