I. Information and Communication Technology and Development: Understanding the Millennium Villages Project: Our Situational Context

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is a partnership between the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise and the United Nations Development Programme. It is founded on the concept that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved in even the poorest and most remote rural communities in Africa by "combining the best scientific and local knowledge to chart a course for ground-level, community-based support for agriculture, health, education, infrastructure and business development."

The MVP operations take place at 12 sites in 10 different countries. All sites are characterized by (INFO HERE). Although each site exhibits these similarities, each village is part of a distinct culture and has its own unique resources and challenges. This heterogeneity poses a challenge for the development of a single Community Based Information System (CBIS). Because location mattersin development, no single CBIS will be put in place, but elements from our research will be used to inform location-specific CBIS.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of undernourishment in the world, with one-third of the population below the minimum level of nourishment.
  • At least one million people in Africa die from malaria each year, 90 percent of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • A woman living in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy. This compares with a 1 in 3,800 risk for a woman from North America.
  • More than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea.
  • In one out of four African countries, half the children enrolled in the last year of primary school do not pursue their studies the following year.


(click image to enlarge)

A. Unifying Characteristics of the Millennium Villages Project

All MVP sites are:

  • Hunger hotspots where chronic hunger is widespread
  • Often accompanied by a high prevalence of disease, lack of access to medical care, and a severe lack of infrastructure
  • In countries where the national governments are committed to achieving the MDGs
  • Linked to national–level processes to ensure that the success can be scaled up by governments
  • Operated at a cost of $110 per person/year
  • Equipped with basic radio and mobile phone infrastructure.*

*This is not currently the case for all sites, but will be the case of any sites where our CBIS model would apply.

II. The Millennium Villages Project and Information and Communication Technology (ICTs)

A. The MVP ICT Program Overview

Goal 1: Cell phone access within 2 km of 80% of households
Goal 2: 80% of households have access to local community radio where legal/economically viable
Goal 3: Institutional data connectivity
Goal 4: Functional community-wide emergency response community system

B. Mobile Technology in the MVP

Patricia Meahan, the Earth Institute's mHealth and telemedicine adviser, discusses the challenges of implementing mobile technology applications in the Millennium Villages.

C. Need For Community Based Information Systems in the Millennium Villages Project

III. Developing a Community Based Information System for the Millennium Villages Project

Community-based information systems (CBIS) can take different forms, but in general, information flows from the community to a centralizing system that distributes the information either to an agency that can use it to enact improvements or back to the community itself. CBIS can deal with any type of information. Common examples include monitoring the health of a community or gathering and disseminating information about agricultural prices for better market information. One specific example is a health CBIS in Kenya. The information that this system is concerned with is collecting births and deaths, environmental health (latrine use, water treatment), prevention and immunization completion, number of cases of specific illnesses (malaria, diarrhea, etc), food availability, monthly expenditures and food expenditures. The data collectors in this case are health care worker and village elders. This system uses a low-tech approach -paper surveys and chalkboards- to collect the information. Once gathered, the information goes to government agencies and NGOs.

In the Millenium Villages, a similar CBIS approach is using SMS to collect this kind of information. Health workers go to their communities, visit children and gather health information. They input this information into their mobile phones using specific codes that they have been trained to use. This goes straigth into a computer database through which health workers and clinics can have accurate records and monitor the health of patients. BBC short podcast about m-health.

A. Components of a Community Based Information System for the Millennium Village Project

Key components of a Community Based Information System might include:

Current Project Phase:

Answer "what is a community based information system". Research specific focus areas: public services/e-governance (Anjali and Diana), community radio 2.0 (Diana), local health information (Eric), edutainment (Amy), behavior change communication (Amy), community mapping (Denise), and participatory appraisal and planning (Jaclyn)

11.13.09 Meeting with Patricia Mechael and Rafaella, CBIS Project Coordinator for Millennium Villages Project

1. Current Status of CBIS in the MVP's
-Concentration on Organizational Planning and Institution Development
-Intertwine Information Systems and knowledge management processes
-Early December Senegal workshop in East and West Africa - to discuss the future and concept of the Community Information System.
-8 of 14 project sites are working on drafts of concept notes.
-Sites have already budgeted and implemented community centers and radio; Matt has been working with more than half of 14 sites in terms of development community radio.
-Common themes in notes on innovative ideas: Establishing a community/training/multipurpose center for each village that will offer opportunities in areas such as social networking and mobile banking.
- No analysis of outcomes of ICTs have been developed yet. Currently developing the monitoring and evaluation plan.

2. Organizational Needs
- need for overall project concept and vision
- different activities have developed from ICT and Community Development standpoint
- new ideas have come up and concepts have evolved
- need more info in terms of behavior change communication technology
- need more innovative pieces to tie it together- tie community together- this is where funding is needed.

3. Global Vision
1) Consolidate sum of CBIS activity and form strategic vision of CBIS and how it supports project goals
Seeing how we can really consolidate and be strategic of vision of information systems and how it supports project goals
2) Which project technologies are appropriate and can further enhance project and MGD goals?
3) What are the types of innovative activities that would be appropriate to each cluster?

4. Knight News Challenge

Deadline for submission of ideas: December 15th
- Must have an innovative title, and clear strategy for what our aim is.
-Firm statement of goal and objective

Particular interests of the Knight News Challenge are in innovation, in terms of either how different components of the project are individually innovative or how they together equal innovation.

Choose 3-4 innovations to pitch to Knight that keep with the overarching themes. Think in terms of:
What is the replicability potential?
What is an idea that Knight has never heard of?

See Knight website for details at . Especially search out tips, past projects, etc.

5. Contribution of Team

-development and consolidation of Global Vision
-Get list from Matt of areas, and look at the technology components for other projects, and how it can be applied to the MVP's
-Project teams need this information summarized and accessible
-Need fresh ideas and new inspiration in regards to what's available
-What "lenses" can our team apply to some of the cross-cutting issues being examined within the MVPs for CBIS? For example, when researching areas such as literacy, education, gender, empowerment, link these components linking back to 8 MDG’s. How can we leverage innovative technologies to apply to mandates of the MGD's?
-Keep in mind long-term goals of mandates- what is it that's trying to be accomplished? What precise impact do we want the CBIS to have?
-Work on developing a proposal for Knight News?
-Possibly work on developing a proposal for funding from the Gates Foundation?

6. Next Steps

By the end of November, develop a Strategy and Concept Paper which maps out consolidated vision and goals across all sites. For example, given site experiences what do we want to build out and take it from there?then pick-

Gather any recommendations to have for innovative idea- refining those before the Dec. 15. Review with Rafaella towards which directions to head.

Focus on the new media technology elements.

Possible Plan of Action:
1. Come up with an outline- send it to Patricia, Rafealla, Matt DUE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17?????
2. They review, feed existing info into this and streamline. They will identitify gaps and additional information that needs to be included.
3. Wait until end of 11/20 week, get better draft from Rafaella. Revisit timeline for class and timeline for this.

Next Steps:

  • Expand our understanding of the tools available for CBISs.
  • Develop a framework for identifying the optimal tools given a more specific context (i.e. what tools work best and where?)
  • Consider how to integrate multiple tools into a cohesive CBIS
  • Review instructions and materials from Raffaela Kozar
  • Set-up an outline submission deadline and a strategy paper deadline

Class Feedback, Resources:

Do you have comments or resources we should look at? We welcome your comments here!

Internal Resources - MVP


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