Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rapid Suivi: Un système de suivi en temps réel.

Facilitateurs à la formation de RapidSuivi
Dans le cadre des innovations, le projet Jokko a réuni à Kaolack les communautés et facilitateurs « pulaar » du département de Kaffrine pour une formation sur le Rapid Suivi. Elle s’est déroulée du 03 au 04 novembre 2010 au centre régional de formation en santé de Kaolack avec 16 facilitateurs, 16 représentants hommes et femmes des CGC (Comité de Gestion Communautaire) des centres UNICEF sélectionnés pour la phase pilote et le staff de Tostan/Kaolack. Tostan dispose certes d’un système de suivi avec de bons outils, un département SERA (Suivi Evaluation recherche Apprentissage) pour la collecte, l’analyse, la saisie, le traitement et la remontée des données statistiques.

L’expérimentation de Rapid Suivi vise à utiliser les téléphones portables pour compléter les bonnes choses du système d’évaluation actuel.

Avec le téléphone portable, on peut limiter le temps entre l’évènement dans la classe ou la communauté et la remontée d’informations vers Tostan ou les partenaires. Par l’envoi d’un message SMS codé avec des chiffres « au numéro magique jokko » l’ordinateur réglé pour comprendre ce que le facilitateur ou le CGC lui a envoyé traite et réexpédie ces informations aux personnes concernées et autorisées. Ce système permet de réduire le temps écoulé entre la tenue de l’évènement/la classe et le moment où les gens de Tostan en prennent connaissance. En effet, cela permet à Tostan de travailler de manière plus efficace, d’appuyer les communautés les plus dynamiques de manière réactive et immédiate.

Un membre de CGC et un facilitateur en train de déchiffrer les guides.
Des guides pour le facilitateur ou le CGC ont été remis aux participants avec des téléphones portables personnalisées (nom, prénom, statut de la personne, facilitateur ou CGC, localité).
Après la classe, le facilitateur pourra au travers du téléphone portable envoyer des informations sur l’âge des participants présents (adultes, ou mélangé, adolescents). Le module en cours d’exécution, numéro de la séance, nombre de participants présents, nombre de femmes, hommes, jeunes filles, garçons. Au début de chaque nouveau module, il peut renseigner sur le nombre d’abandons femmes, hommes filles et garçons. Avec le CGC, après chaque réunion, on peut connaitre le nombre de membres présents, le nombre des invités le sujet principal de la réunion et la planification de la prochaine réunion. Cela est aussi possible après chaque opération financière sur l’argent disponible dans la caisse communautaire, le compte bancaire du CGC. A la fin de chaque mobilisation sociale avec l’utilisation du téléphone portable et Rapid Suivi il est possible de connaitre le nombre de participants, les villages représentés, la nature de l’activité organisée, le lieu où elle s’est déroulée. 

Cette expérimentation de Rapid Suivi ou le suivi par les communautés sera capitalisée avant éventuelle expansion avec tous les enseignements agrégés durant cette phase pilote.

Malick Niang

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The RapidMonitor/RapidSuivi Guide is Ready!

Sunshine and Mobile Phones. The Jokko Télécentres are launched.

The suitcases getting some sun
click here for more télécentre photos!

The Jokko team (Guillaume Debar - project manager; Malick Niang - assistant to the national programs department ; and Amma Serwaah-Panin (me)- assistant to the Jokko Initiative) was recently in Kolda, in the Cassamance region of Senegal, conducting a four-day workshop which launched Télécentres Jokko, a project we are piloting in 7 communities in the Velingara department. The project is based on solar-powered suitcases which act as télécentres where customers can charge their mobile phones or purchase small amounts of credit through a phone-to-phone units transfer system known as Seddo (from the Orange service provider) or Izi (from the Tigo service provider.) The motivation behind the télécentres came from needs raised by participants during the Cell Phones for Literacy and Development module of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). Participants often raised concerns relating to the cost and difficulty of finding places to charge cell phone batteries, the high cost of mobile phone credit, and the limited access that women and girls have to technology.

A télécentre ready for action.
Thus, working with Rural Energy Foundation (REF), a partner NGO, the Jokko Télécentres were developed with two main aims: to act as an income generating activity, and to provide a base for awareness raising activities on the subject of access to technology for women and girls. The télécentres consist of a portable wooden “suitcase” equipped with a solar panel and multiple outlets where phones and other small electrical appliances can be charged.

Every community in which Tostan implements the CEP has formed a Community Management Committee (CMC) which is a democratically elected group of 17 members who help to coordinate Tostan’s work; they might organise social mobilisation events such as village cleanings, they might run a soap-making income generating activity, or they might manage a Jokko Télécentre.

The Telecentre workshop welcomed eight staff members from the Tostan office in Kolda, fourteen CMC members representing the seven pilot villages (two members from each community), three members of the Jokko team, three staff members from REF, and Diallo, the solar-products distributor who built the solar suitcases and who is in charge of their maintenance.  

The suitcases are durable, ideal for rural communities. And baby-proof.
As the sessions began we debated whether or not participants should be allowed to answer personal phone calls during the workshop. During the debate I noticed that most conference participants had a phone that they seemed to consider indispensable to general life – an observation affirming the hype around the ubiquity of mobile phones in rural communities; an observation which also boded well for the utility of a solar-powered suitcase catering to cell phone needs. Eventually everyone put their phones on silent and the training sessions begun.

The discussion on cell phone use at the beginning of the workshop was an example of Tostan’s commitment to an inclusive, democratic environment and learning style. I noticed a lighter, more relaxed and more receptive atmosphere in the room after we laughed about how everyone – from CMC member to solar panel engineer – could describe their incoming calls as urgent. 

Over the course of the four-day workshop, activities included songs, some dance, skits, games, action planning, brainstorming, and a technical adventure through the suitcases (“You can charge a maximum of 15 cell phones a day. It is like having a rain cistern outside your house. If the cistern can only store water for 14 people to bath a day, and you are the 15th person, you will have a problem.”). We covered the main objective of the télécentre training: to allow CMC members to return to their villages with enough information, technical and social, to launch the télécentres with the double pronged goal of creating income generating activities and social mobilisation events. 

Diallo, Jasmien, Bathily, Binta and Malick on the radio.

At the end of the week, Binta Diao, a Tostan supervisor and radio broadcaster invited the training team to speak on her radio show. She took the French words of Malick and Jasmien (REF) and transformed them into streams of poetic Pulaar coursing over the airwaves of the entire Kolda region. After the show, Dialo’s phone rang almost incessantly as interested listeners called to get more information about the télécentres.

An REF brand assuring quality in solar products.
On Saturday, the day after the workshop ended, we held a pedagogical inauguration of the télécentres at Sare Dialo, one of the pilot villages just outside Velingara. It wouldn’t be Africa, and it wouldn’t be development work – although it would still be cliché – if I didn’t say we were welcomed to the village with a brilliant display of song and dance.  We greeted the imams, and other heads of the villages, gave a few speeches, watched a quite fabulous skit that the CMC members had prepared for the village of Saré Dialo, and then sung the Télécentre Jokko song that had been written, set to music, and practiced during the workshop. Everyone was wearing their télécentre marketing material: t-shirts, caps, and flags with REF’s “Solar Here” quality assurance label displayed. Seven large banners advertising the télécentres had also been hung around Saré Dialo and members of the local press were present at the event. We are keeping an eye out for a Jokko spread in the Kolda News. 

The Sare Dialo inauguration was “pedagogical” in the sense that it will act as a model for the CMC representatives from the 6 other villages who will return to their communities and hold their own télécentre inaugurations.
The entire workshop: CGC representatives, REF, Jokko team, Tostan Kolda staff.
At the end of the event, there was a chicken changing hands amongst the Tostan staff – Sare Dialo had presented it to us in gratitude. The Jokko team left with our REF partners to return to Dakar and Thies. The chicken went home with someone from the Tostan Kolda office.  It was a successful training and a colourful inauguration. We drove off in a happy, post-inauguration glow which made me think of the many télécentre marketing phrases that had been discarded during the planning phases for being too schmaltzy. I thought at that moment that my personal favourite (and the most readily discarded) was quite apt : “Télécentres Jokko: Le soleil dans les portable et les cœurs..” Jokko Telecentres: Sunshine in our phones and in our hearts. 

Contributed by Amma Serwaah-Panin; Editing by Sydney Skov.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mobile and Women, a Global Opportunity

The Cherie Blair Foundation and GSMA Development Fund published a groundbreaking report featuring Tostan's Jokko Initiative earlier this year, quantifying the gender gap in mobile technology across developing countries - Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity.  The report shows that, by extending the benefits of mobile phone ownership to more women, a host of social and economic goals can be advanced, but  300 million women are missing out on the mobile revolution.   
Using the findings of the report, GSMA is now leading in efforts to close the gender gap with an innovative new programme, "mWomen".

Key findings of the report:

  • There are 300 million fewer female subscribers than male subscribers worldwide
  • A woman is 21% less likely to own a phone than a man in low and middle-income countries
  • Regionally, the incremental annual revenue opportunity for operators ranges from US$740M in Latin America to US$4B in East Asia
  • Women in rural areas and lower income brackets stand to benefit the most from closing the gender gap
  • 93% of  women report feeling safer because of their mobile phone
  • 85% of women report feeling more independent because of their mobile phone
  • 41% of women report having increased income and professional opportunities once they own a phone

About the GSMA Development Fund

Founded in October 2005, the GSMA Development Fund has rapidly established itself as a leader in identifying and implementing new uses for mobile communications to help people at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid. Find out more at:


Lettre au staff de Molly Melching, Directrice Exécutive de Tostan (rencontre mWoman)

Chère Famille Tostan,

Vous êtes sans doute au courant que j'ai été invitée hier par Hillary Clinton,  la Ministre des Affaires Etrangères (Secrétaire d’Etat) du Gouvernement des Etats Unis, à participer au lancement de mWoman, une initiative destinée à promouvoir l'utilisation des téléphones portables, en particulier en direction des femmes.  La cérémonie a eu lieu dans la salle Benjamin Franklin du Département d'Etat à Washington DC.

J'ai rencontré Hillary dans une salle à part avant la cérémonie.  Elle m'a demandé des nouvelles de tous les membres du staff de Tostan et elle m'a dit qu'elle a entendu de bonnes choses par rapport au travail que nous avons accompli dans plusieurs pays de l'Afrique.  Elle m'a demandé de bien saluer tous les membres de l’équipe, ainsi que les participants qui continuent à œuvrer pour le bien-être de leur communauté.  Nous avons pris des photos que je vous enverrai bientôt. 

Dans son discours pendant la cérémonie, elle a cité le travail important réalisé par Tostan devant des membres du Gouvernement des Etats Unis, des Directeurs de sociétés de téléphones portables (Nokia, Eriksson, etc.) et d'autres invités de marque. 

Son Directeur de Cabinet m'a informé que la Secrétaire d'Etat parle très souvent de Tostan dans ses discours.  Elle répète inlassablement que Tostan est un modèle d'ONG dynamique et à fort impact qui continue à innover et s'occuper continuellement du bien des populations. 

J'ai participé ensuite à un panel de grandes personnalités dont Cherie Blair, la femme de Tony Blair (qui cite souvent Tostan également), pour parler de notre Initiative Jokko - l'utilisation du téléphone portable pour l'alphabétisation et le développement.  Les gens étaient très impressionnés par le travail accompli et les résultats de notre récente évaluation.  Plusieurs sont venus après demander une collaboration - Nokia, GSMA et d'autres.

Je tenais à partager avec vous cette journée importante pour Tostan et par la même occasion vous féliciter pour tout le travail que vous avez accompli. Aujourd’hui, je suis très fière et j'espère que vous l'êtes aussi : vous êtes des modèles observés, écoutés et respectés partout dans le monde.

Wow !


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jokko Telecenters

The solar-powered charging station, a critical part of the Jokko Telecenter
During the course of the CEP, Tostan establishes community-based organizations – called Community Management Committees (CMCs) – composed of 17 democratically-elected community members whose role is to manage and coordinate CEP activities and ensure collaboration between CEP participants and other community members. After having received project management training, the CMCs are provided with sums ranging from $400 to $1,000 and support from Tostan to implement income-generating activities in order to generate funds for local development and initiatives. 

Once the CEP has ended, CMC members continue to serve as social entrepreneurs and activists in their communities. With the necessary development tools and leadership skills in hand, CMCs develop and implement specific action plans through subcommittees focused on topics of importance to the community: from environmental issues, to community health topics, from education and social mobilization, to income generating activities and child protection. Over time, many CMCs register as official community-based organizations in their respective countries, which reinforces community capacity while ensuring that funds, projects, and campaigns are managed in a transparent and professional manner.

In 2006, Tostan created the Empowered Communities Network (ECN) to support the more than 1,500 existent CMCs in their grass-roots development processes by facilitating linkages with other development partners, microfinance institutions, businesses, and government authorities. The ECN is the tool developed by Tostan that guarantees the sustainability of the CEP’s local impacts.
In October 2010, Tostan will be expanding activities to additional villages and identifying new mobile technology-based income-generating and social mobilization activities to serve the needs of rural communities. In June 2010, Tostan will support the implementation of community tele-centers in the Vélingara department in southern Senegal. 

With the implementation of community tele-centers, the Jokko Initiative seeks to address key challenges faced by rural communities in accessing mobile technology - as identified in the continuous monitoring of the pilot phase – at the community-level, while providing the means for people to improve their lives and those of their children in a sustainable manner.

85% of rural Senegal is not covered by the national electrical grid. All the villages targeted for this project are off-grid. Observations in the field and preliminary feedback from CEGA show that the lack of electricity in these villages makes charging mobile phones (and by extension, all electronic devices) extremely problematic, requiring people to (1) Improvise with local power sources that prove hazardous to the village’s health (fuel lamps, etc.) and damaging to phone batteries (use of lead-acid car batteries to charge multiple electronic devices at once) or (2) Travel long distances to urban centers in order to have their mobile phones charged by small entrepreneurs. The latter often entails heavy expenditures on transport; a considerable loss of income due to time spent traveling; and increased risk of theft of and/or damage to phones (i.e. the replacement of good phone batteries with those of inferior quality when given to be charged in urban centers).  

Also identified by community members and Tostan’s field workers as prohibiting the use of mobile phones is the unavailability - or otherwise high cost of - phone credit.  People in rural Senegal often must travel to urban centers in order to purchase credit.  When credit is available in rural villages, denominations are often more expensive by as much as 25% (i.e. credit sold at 1000 CFA in an urban center is sold for 1250 CFA in a village). As a result, many rural people cannot afford to use the mobile phones that they own or share with others.

A vast body of scholarly research reveals the disproportionate access of women and girls in the developing world to mobile technology (reference: Women and Mobile, GSMA and Cherie Blair report). Tostan’s experience and CEGA’s evaluation of the pilot phase confirms these findings.
In the baseline study of the pilot phase, CEGA identified a strong disparity between men and women relative to the use of mobile phones. The men interviewed were found to have both greater access to and better competency at using mobile phones than the women interviewed.
(1)                      Compared to 31% of men, only 12% of women had access to a mobile phone.
(2)                      Compared to 33% of men, 45% of women had never used a mobile phone.
(3)                      Men knew how to use the mobile phone’s calculator function 3 times better than women.

Solar energy household solutions, such as solar lanterns and solar home systems, are highly attractive to off-grid households. Households can considerably reduce their energy costs (kerosene, batteries) in the medium to long run, while access to electricity improves their living standard. People can become more productive, children can study after sunset. Moreover, these solutions do not require expensive and maintenance-sensitive electricity grids. 

Rural Energy Foundation (REF) is a Dutch NGO which facilitates access to renewable energy to hundreds of thousands of rural people in sub-Saharan Africa. It does so by establishing effective and efficient supply chains (through the establishment and training of entrepreneurs and technicians in solar energy solutions), by stimulating demand (through large awareness campaigns), and by facilitating access to loans to entrepreneurs and end users. The approach works: during the past 3 years REF has facilitated access to electricity to more than 332,000 people at a cost of less than EUR 4 per connected person.

REF identifies, trains, and supports commercial retailers and distributors, so that these entrepreneurs start and expand a business in renewable energy household solutions. REF also provides solutions to their financial constraints, for example by guaranteeing the outstanding part of a loan with a guarantee fund. In addition, REF initiates large-scale marketing campaigns to stimulate demand for renewable energy products. Finally, we facilitate solutions where end users obtain credit to make the upfront investments.

REF is active in several countries in both East and West Africa, and has already developed a network of importers, distributors and retailers that covers a vast portion of Senegal. REF works with this network to develop the supply chain, ensuring the quality of the products and service, while working with MFIs to extend credit to micro-entrepreneurs.

In collaboration with REF, Tostan seeks to implement 2 income generating activities for CMCs in the department of Velingara, Senegal: 

Small Business Applications (SBA)

The SBA consists of solar income-generating activities such as mobile phone and small electronic device charging, and solar-powered small businesses such as tailors and hair salons. When up and running, the system needed to run the SBA could be earned back in less than half a year. 

There are several advantages to placing an SBA in the heart of the rural areas, such as lower expenditure of money on travel for charging purposes. Moreover, by involving the community leaders, there is a significantly reduced chance of theft or damage due to increased social control. Part of the revenue from the charging business can be reinvested in the community, making the customer the ultimate beneficiary.

Furthermore, other advantages include: the use of the portable solar system to power other micro-enterprises (tailor, salon, bush-cinema); the portability reduces risk of theft, and allows the entrepreneur running the business to even frequent weekly markets or other places where people from neighboring villages often gather, to create awareness and earn an income by e.g. charging phones.

Sales Agents
The sales agents program entails that local entrepreneurs start acting as representatives for retailers endorsed by REF, and help sell solar products and provide maintenance for solar installations in their villages. For large installations, the sales agent will refer the potential customer to the retailer’s shop, but smaller products (such as solar lanterns) could be sold on the spot. The sales agent is often paid a commission per system sold in that specific community.

The sales agent is therefore directly linked to a specific retailer (holder of the “Solaire Ici” quality label develpped by REF), and receives the needed training and material from the retailer (with guidance from REF). The sales agent’s responsibilities then include: convincing the potential customers, sensitizing the general public to increase awareness and help disseminate information regarding renewable energy solutions, and do promotional activities in collaboration with the retailer. From the part of the retailer, responsibilities include: delivery of promotional materials, providing the actual selling point for renewable energy solutions, and perform the installation and maintenance.

Microfranchising is a development tool that seeks to apply the proven marketing and operational concepts of traditional franchising to small businesses. The primary feature of a microfranchise is its ability to be streamlined and replicated in the most remote areas.

Seddo and Izi are two services developed by respectively Orange Sonatel and Tigo Sénégal (the two major telecommunication companies in Senegal). They allow small entrepreneurs and street vendors to use Orange’s and Tigo’s franchises to retail phone credit and SIM cards.There are two ways to retail phone credit in Senegal.
  •  Sell credit cards, ranging from 1000 FCFA (approx. 2 USD) to 10000 (approx. 20 USD)
  • Sell small amount of phone credit (100 FCFA and more) via a phone-to-phone transfer system.
Through their Community telecenter activities, CMCs will engage in micro franchise: retail of credit, via transfer and selling Seddo and Izi cards and provide calling and texting services. For each transaction, they will earn a small commission. Tostan will support them into contracting with Sedd and Orange, and will provide an adapted training on marketing methods and management of this new income generating tool. 

A portion of the funds yielded by the income-generating activities of the community tele-center will be dedicated to providing SMS texting free-of-charge for women of girls. Under this initiative, SMS texts must be development-related and sent to a specific list of contacts, using the RapidSMS Forum (cf. annex). A paper phone book as well as mobile directories with listings for local development actors (including Tostan regional staff, RapidSMS, CMCs in the region, and SAV distributors) will be provided.

This social mobilization activity will facilitate increased access of women and girls to mobile phones, serving to help close the gendered mobile gap while enhancing opportunities for women and girls to practice their literacy skills and expand their communicative network.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Relecture et Correction du Module TPAD à Kolda

Le nouveau module TPAD (Téléphone portable pour l’alphabétisation et le développement) est constitué de 23 séances exécutées durant l’Aawde 1 et 2. Il permet aux participants d’apprendre à :

•    Reconnaitre les éléments de base du téléphone portable
•    Ecrire avec le téléphone portable
•    Calculer avec le téléphone portable
•    Ecrire, envoyer et recevoir un message SMS
•    Utiliser le téléphone portable à des fins de développement communautaire (santé, AGR, mobilisation sociale etc..)

En faisant du téléphone portable à la fois un support pédagogique fiable pour renforcer l’Aawde et un outil de développement efficace par et pour les communautés, les bénéficiaires du PRCC pourront :

-    Pratiquer la lecture et l’écriture régulièrement en particulier en envoyant et recevant des messages SMS
-    Pratiquer leurs connaissances en calcul et en gestion de projet, au travers de leur maitrise des autres applications du téléphone portable (calculatrice, convertisseur, agenda etc)
-    Avoir un meilleur accès à l’information de base et prendre des décisions importantes en fonction des ces informations ( par ex  : les prix au marché, médicaments, feux de brousse etc)
-    Communiquer davantage avec les membres de la diaspora et inclure ces derniers dans le processus de réflexion autour du développement de leur communauté
-    Favoriser la rétention des connaissances en lecture, écrire, calcul et gestion etc..

Après les observations de terrain, suggestions, recommandations et suite à l’atelier de capitalisation Jokko, un nouveau module TPAD a été retravaillé en intégrant autant que possible les remarques soulevées.

Le nouveau module TPAD a été retraduit en langues nationales par des consultants. A la réception des documents, un atelier de relecture, correction s’est tenu à Kolda du (15 au 17 sept 2010) pour partager avec les collègues agents de terrain des coordinations régionales de Kolda et Ziguinchor. Le choix de cette zone est judicieux en raison de la présence des langues de travail sur place.

La mission s’est bien déroulée avec le remarquable travail de relecture détaillée et la correction des modules TPAD en langues nationales.

L’implication et le partage avec les agents exécutants et utilisateurs (assistants coordonnateurs, superviseurs et facilitateurs) ont abouti à la finalisation d’un produit opérationnel et performant. Avec les boites à images TPAD qui accompagnent le module les bénéficiaires sont outillés pour une utilisation optimale avec cette importante innovation « Initiative Jokko » très appréciée par les communautés.

Malick Niang
Assistant Département des Programmes 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Clinton Global Initiative - Annual Meeting (September 21 - 23)

UPDATE: You can re-watch Molly Melching, Tostan's Executive Director, speak on the Jokko Initiative at the CGI  here.

Thursday. September. 23rd, from 10.30 to11.30 am, do not miss "Mobile Revolution: Transforming Access, Markets, and Development", a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting between:
Cherie Blair, Founder of The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Mohammad Kilany, Co-Founder of Souktel Mobile
Molly Melching, Founder and Executive Director of Tostan
Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation

Jack Dorsey, Creator, Co-founder and Chairman of Twitter
John W. Stanton, Founder and former CEO of Western Wireless Corporation
[To watch the live stream video] 
[To learn more about the Clinton Global Initiative]
[To learn more about Tostan's CGI commitment]

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Press release

Study Shows Promise for Innovative "Text Messaging for Literacy" Approach in Africa 

DAKAR, Senegal September 8, 2010- On International Literacy Day, Tostan, along with partners UNICEF and the Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley, have released initial findings of an evaluation that shows great promise for using text messaging as a means for improving literacy and community development.

The evaluation centered on a pilot of the Jokko Initiative, which was implemented in 25 villages in the Velingara region of Senegal, bringing innovative mobile technology education to 800 program participants. These villages were already engaged in Tostan's Community Empowerment Program (CEP), a 30-month holistic education program covering human rights, democracy, health and hygiene, problem solving, literacy, and numeracy.

Focusing on improving communication and reinforcing literacy during and after the CEP, the Jokko Initiative teaches participants to use cell phones and send text messages in local languages. It is designed to give participants a vital literacy practice tool and enable them to better reach out to their communities and social networks.

According to the evaluation conducted by CEGA in these villages, women and girls, who had the lowest rates of literacy and numeracy before the Jokko Initiative began, greatly improved over the course of the project. The percentage of women and girls who scored in the highest category for literacy and numeracy increased from 12% for women and 8% for girls at the baseline, to 29% and 33% at the follow-up. Moreover, the number of participants who were able to write a text message jumped from 8% to 62%.

To power the text message system, UNICEF contributed knowledge and expertise around the RapidSMS tool--a free and open-source framework for interacting with mobile phones. Much of the RapidSMS framework has been built and tested with users in sub-Saharan Africa.

During the evaluation, two rounds of data collection took place: a baseline and a second round after the first four months of Tostan's literacy and numeracy training. At the outset of the program, only 22% of the participants--the majority whom are women--reported being literate. Only 18% reported having any formal schooling. CEGA's research shows that after the four months, both literacy and numeracy increased substantially.

"While more research needs to be done to identify how best to harness cell phones in promoting literacy--the results from the pilot study are promising as they show that teaching people how to read and write messages on a cell phone can be a positive addition to a successful literacy program," says Theresa Beltramo, Economist and Evaluation Coordinator for CEGA.

Molly Melching, Executive Director of Tostan, said that this program, in her opinion, has incredible potential. "For years we have been looking for ways to address the challenge of making literacy relevant, finding ways for participants to practice their new skills, all the while engaging women and girls in the process and reinforcing existing social ties. This project does all of these things."

Today, International Literacy Day, is an occasion to celebrate these women in Senegal as well as women the world over who empower themselves and their communities through education and literacy.

Find more information about RapidSMS on their website To read more about the Jokko Initiative, visit or follow the blog

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RapidSuivi, Tostan’s Future Real-Time Monitoring System

Tostan’s collaboration with UNICEF provides a unique opportunity for Tostan to improve the monitoring and evaluation capabilities of its Community Empowerment Program (CEP). By adopting UNICEF’s RapidSMS technology, Tostan aims to design a platform for real-time monitoring in combination with geographical analysis that will facilitate strategic decision-making regarding how to employ resources, work with communities, and track impact.

The purpose of RapidSuivi is to address certain issues that can hinder adequate monitoring and evaluation of Tostan’s CEP. The CEP lasts for 30 months, consisting of in-the-field learning, community organization, and outreach and grassroots advocacy, and contributes to the overall development of participants as they engage with their community in designing, carrying out, and sustaining community-led activities.

"How It Works" - Tostan 2010

Challenges that Tostan faces in monitoring activities include inadequate follow-up and capitalization on the success of field operations. The lag in receiving data in Tostan’s main offices hampers timely data analysis and digestion.  Simply put, community-led activities can be spontaneous and Tostan representatives cannot be present at every event or report on all of them. The implementation of RapidSuivi would address this issue by providing up-to-the-minute data to be reviewed and analyzed by Tostan’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research & Learning (MERL) Department. Naturally, it is in Tostan’s best interest to identify where programs are achieving results and to continue to allocate support to those villages. RapidSuivi will provide the MERL department with the most recent data, helping Tostan to identify areas where results have been achieved and where progress is still needed.

Another issue the real-time platform will address is the demand for increased CEP supervision by Tostan. The real-time monitoring system will provide Tostan with the unique ability to view current data and information sent from the villages where it has programs. This provision of real-time data will further help Tostan in analyzing the effectiveness of its programs as well as identifying areas where a program may be lagging, and thus requiring more assistance or oversight from Tostan headquarters.

While achieving better efficiency in analyzing and organizing data will help increase Tostan’s supervisorial abilities, another main benefit of the real-time system will be the establishment of a database of up-to-the-minute information that will allow Tostan to create a more effective system of support for its village programs. As stated, there are many benefits to having instant access to the most recent data. The creation of the real-time database will assist in the objectives of monitoring and evaluating Tostan projects. It will also help to identify areas where Tostan’s programs have been successful and thus require further assistance in continuing program activities or where the programs have been ineffective and more oversight may be required.

Benjamin Bryan, 
Project Assistant MERL Dpt

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Talking RapidSMS in Vélingara

Last week I traveled to Vélingara, a department in Southern Senegal, to talk to community members about their experience with the Jokko module and with the RapidSMS-based Community Forum. Once there, I met up with Malick Niang (Proj. Coordinator for Senegal), Finté Boiro (Assistant Coordinator, Kolda), Alimatou Diao and Almamy Yoro Badji (Supervisors, Kolda), and we headed out into the villages.

For those of you who are new to the Jokko Initiative, a brief recap : In April 2009, Tostan collaborated with UNICEF to launch the RapidSMS-based « Community Forum » in 15 villages in the department of Vélingara where the Jokko module was being taught.

Vélingara department, Senegal. Villages where the Jokko module was taught marked with a pink dot. 

In a nutshell, the Community Forum is a practical, SMS-based application that allows a community member to disseminate information to a virtual network of his or her peers by sending a single text message to Tostan’s server. In the villages where we piloted the Community Forum, participants in the Jokko module not only learned how to use a mobile phone and send text messages, but received training in RapidSMS technology. Our goal : to provide community members with tools to bolster their local development initiatives- especially those that involve mobilizing people around common causes to effect positive social change.  

One year later, it was high time for a field visit to talk RapidSMS with community members. We split our time between two primarily Pulaar villages, Sare Dialo and Barkatou, in which we had identified many "power users": people who frequently send messages to the Community Forum on themes related to development and social mobilization.

With this tool, the Jokko team is able to visualize all text messages sent in the Community Forum.

The feedback we received confirmed many of our initial hopes. Overwhelmingly, community members find the Community Forum to be extremely beneficial to their communities and would like to see the system expanded to other villages and regions of the country. We also found that many of those using RapidSMS were not participants in the Jokko module, and some don’t even live in the villages- news and know-how traveled fast!

Alimatou and I jump into a group shot of the women and children of Barkatou.

So what did RapidSMS users have to say? Those interviewed confirmed much of what we already knew as members of the Community Forum ourselves : community members use RapidSMS to disseminate information and to organize meetings and events on an array of themes including vaccination campaigns, bed net distribution for malaria prevention, village clean-ups and school enrollment for children.

For me, two anecdotes were particularly illustrative of the beneficial potentialities of RapidSMS technology, and of SMS technology in general.

In Sare Dialo, we spoke with two RapidSMS users, Khadiatou M’Ballo and Dieynabou Baldé, who are physically disabled. Both are also extremely active in local development issues and described how they used the Community Forum for these purposes. Of greater interest to me, however, was the story of social empowerment that emerged from their testimonial. Dieynabou learned how to read, write, and send a text message in Tostan's education program. Now she uses the Community Forum to arrange transportation to community events that shy might not otherwise be able to attend.

Khadiatou M’Ballo and Dieynabou Baldé, local activists and RapidSMS users in Sare Dialo.

A second anecdote, related to me by multiple users, is emblematic of the potential of RapidSMS technology to accelerate the diffusion of and to help reinforce positive social change : A man wanted to have his young daughter cut, despite the fact that his village had collectively decided to abandon the harmful traditional practice of female genital cutting. Other villagers sent messages to the Community Forum to warn community members of the man’s intentions. The news spread rapidly, and in the face of overwhelming social pressure, the man renounced his intention to have his daughter cut.  As many community members we spoke with pointed out, mobile technology can be harnessed to accelerate the grassroots movement in Senegal for the nationwide abandonment of FGC and early/forced marriage. 

Back in Dakar, the Jokko team is finalizing a new and improved Jokko module- the fruit of our Capitalization Seminar back in May- and preparing for the early Fall launch of the Jokko community telecenters, in collaboration with Rural Energy Foundation.

Lindsay Powell

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Documenting the Jokko Experience in Touba

Last week, Guillaume (Project Manager, Tostan International), Malick (Project Coordinator for Senegal) and I traveled to Touba, Senegal, to sit in on classes at four different centers where the Jokko module, which teaches participants how to use mobile technology to improve their lives, is currently being taught. 

The majority of participants in Tostan’s programs are women and girls, but in Touba all of the participants in the Jokko module - as well as all of the Facilitators leading the classes - are female.  Given the conservative environment of Touba – a holy site that is a destination of pilgrimage for Muslims across the globe – this fact is all the more remarkable.

The dynamism of the participants was unmistakable. Despite the potential distractions posed by the presence of three newcomers with video cameras and lots of questions, the participants remained highly engaged with the Facilitators. In fact, the only time that any of the participants seemed to pay us any attention at all was when they snapped our photos with their own camera phones (!).

What made me think I would be the only one snapping pictures?

The sheer motivation and the level of skill that participants demonstrated with mobile phones in each of the classes we visited was excellent. Over the course of two very productive days, we managed to gather a tremendous amount of feedback and to make important observations that will help us as we scale up and implement new activities in the coming months. 


  • Khai-ra 2

At the Khai-ra 2 center, the class was working on Session #6 : The Mango Tree Workshop.  Participants learn how to navigate the main menu of a standard mobile phone with the help of a visual aid in the form of a mango tree.

A participant at the board explains how to access the calculator function by tracing her steps along the branches of a mango tree representing the different manipulations possible.

Participants walk through a larger, more interactive version of the mango tree excerise outdoors.

Once the session had ended, we interviewed two young women who explained that one of their reasons for participating in Tostan’s program was so that they could learn to read and write in their national language, Wolof. After participating in the Jokko module, they can now compose text messages in Wolof without assistance.

  • Touba Bêgg Bamba

At the second center of the day, participants greeted us with a skit demonstrating the cost-efficiency of SMS texting relative to placing a call. An animated discussion with participants brought forth some interesting stories about how the knowledge gained in the classes has affected their everyday lives. One adult participant related how her husband had prevented her from using the household mobile phone, fearing that she would waste the credit, as she did not know how to properly use the phone. Once she demonstrated what she had learned in the Jokko module, her husband began to let her use the phone and now plans on purchasing a second.

Participants who have their own mobile phones - some being relatively sophisticated - bring them to class.

Like at the Khai-ra 2 center, a major theme that emerged from the participant’s personal stories was that of social empowerment. Facilitators and participants explained how friends, relatives and community members now sought their help in using mobile phones and how they frequently shared their newly acquired knowledge with those around them.

Participants also spoke of the sense of autonomy and independence engendered by knowing how to use certain mobile phone functions. For example, several young women explained how before they began the Jokko module, they did not know how to send text messages and were forced to ask someone to send text messages on their behalf. Now, mid-way through the Jokko module, they no longer need assistance to send text messages and appreciate the discretion this allows them.

Boys are eager to get in on the action. The doorways and windows of most classrooms are typically crowded with other community members curious about mobile technology.


  • Touba Palléne

Participants follow along on the Nokia 1202 handsets provided by Tostan in classroom.

At the Touba Palléne center, Session 12: "SMS and Health" was being covered. At this point in the module, participants apply the skills they’ve gained to specific themes (such as health, agriculture, and the environment) relevant to their everyday lives. In this session, participants learn how to send text messages to spread news about vaccinations and awareness-raising campaigns, to make appointments at health clinics, and to ask for advice on matters concerning health and hygiene.

  • Touba Diémoule

Our last stop was the Touba Diémoule center, where we engaged in a lively discussion with the participants about their experience both inside and outside the classroom. A major topic was access to mobile phones: To what extent do our participants have access to mobile phones outside of the classroom? What kind of barriers to access do they face ? . The more surprising answers we received concerned utility: participants  did not fully grasp the usefulness of mobile phones prior to starting the Jokko module. Once they understood that a mobile phone could be used for far more than  making and receiving calls, and how functions such as the alarm and the calculator were relevant to their everyday lives, they were much more motivated to use them.

Participants often share mobile phones in the classroom and help one another to learn. However, participants and Facilitators alike expressed a demand for additional mobile phones to use in the classroom.

We’d like to thank Madame Bousso Gaye Diop –  Supervisor for Tostan’s Touba Coordination – for her careful planning, Serigne Fallou Fall for his time and for hosting our classes at Touba Pallène, our talented Facilitators – especially N'deye Fatou Fall, N'déye Binta N'diaye, Aminata Basse, Fatou M'backé N'diaye -  and all of our highly engaged and motivated participants in Touba.

Contributed by Lindsay Powell, Edited by Sydney Skov

Blog adapted by Salim Drame