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By Lauren Kotze, Programme Manager, Praekelt Foundation

  

Praekelt Foundation is one of the key technology partners in MomConnect, a groundbreaking National Department of Health initiative. This project supports maternal health through the use of cell phone based technologies and was launched as the official national maternal mHealth service in South Africa in August 2014. Since then over 750,000 mothers have been registered on the platform, and it continues to grow.

 

Mothers sign up via USSD – or quick codes - at clinics during their first antenatal visit, and they then receive two text messages per week during their pregnancy and up until their baby turns one.  The content of the messages is health information and is based on the stage of the mother's pregnancy or baby's age.  Women can also ask pressing questions by sending an SMS to a helpdesk, which in turn provides a feedback loop to improve services.

 

This solves the need for information transfer when a baby is younger than one years old. But what about all the information a mother needs after baby's first birthday to ensure that her baby carries on developing at a healthy pace? Basic ECD educational content for parents and caregivers is currently only available to those who can afford to send their children to a pre-school or those who have easy internet access.

 

The Innovation Edge, the first social innovation platform for early learning in SA, together with the National Department of Health, the National Department of Social Development and the Praekelt Foundation, have identified an opportunity to develop a model for a national-scale ECD service that delivers essential stage-based information to parents and guardians to improve the health and development of their children, up until their fifth birthday. 

 

 

This "ECD extension" to the MomConnect platform would provide access to critical health and nutrition information, as well as information on how to engage with and encourage the healthy development of children. Our vision is that ECD content will be delivered to every mother in South Africa until their child reaches the age of 5.

We aim to create and launch a pilot programme in a select set of districts to test the ways in which the scale and impact of MomConnect can address the ECD knowledge gaps which parents in South Africa face.

 

Phase one of this project will include stakeholder analysis, desktop research, key informant interviews in the ECD space as well as the development of an Implementation and Testing Plan. A discovery workshop was held on 31 March to explore ways to channel existing content in the most appropriate way using technology to target parents/caregivers and explore potential synergies, opportunities for collaboration and possibilities of sharing resources.

The workshop was attended by Elru, The Reach Foundation, Eduze, National Department of Social Development, LightOn, Takalani Sesame, Ilifa Labantwana, DG Murray Trust, Persona Doll Training, Kelello Consulting, Nal’iBali and Wordworks. During the workshop we agreed upon the target beneficiaries, what existing content is available, and who the overall stakeholders are.

 

We are very excited about working with The Innovation Edge on establishing suitable technological delivery models to solve ECD problems that will lead to an improvement of early learning outcomes in young children in South Africa.