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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid