To reach the hardest-to-reach children and those most in need, we need to know where, when and how to act. That means establishing innovative partnerships among UNICEF, governments and the private sector that facilitate access to various data and contribute the skills needed to interpret massive data sets. Given the emergence of new infectious diseases, health partners in particular will need to work across sectors to effectively use and apply health data to save and improve lives. We also know that including the voices of affected people is critical to designing effective and predictive responses.
The ability to access credible, up-to-date information about the situation of children is key to improving their lives and protecting their rights. UNICEF, government and NGO partners use RapidPro, a free, open source software that allows users to easily build and scale mobile-based applications from anywhere in the world.
RapidPro collects data via short message service (SMS) and other communication channels (e.g. voice; social media channels, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp) to enable real-time data collection and mass-communication with target end-users, including beneficiaries and frontline workers. RapidPro also powers U-Report, UNICEF’s youth, and citizen engagement platform. As part of national systems strengthening, RapidPro also supports Digital Health interventions in 18 countries.
As a mobile tech programming tool, RapidPro allows partners to gather accurate real-time information on vital areas such as health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, and child protection—even in remote and hard-to-reach places—and use that data to reach those most in need. Now in use in 36 countries, real-time monitoring using RapidPro can reach even more people by integrating with popular channels, including Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp and Viber.
The technology allows users to design, pilot and scale direct mobile outreach services without the help of a software developer in both normal development contexts and humanitarian emergencies.
Millions of children have been reached through mobile tech programme messaging using RapidPro. In Pakistan in 2018, families of 37 million children in 163 districts across Pakistan were reached through real-time information to increase demand for routine immunization with an initial focus in poorly performing polio tier 1 districts.
Other exchanges have helped to coordinate cash assistance programmes; monitor water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition interventions; and provide early detection and response to children with disabilities.