Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fun Mobile App to Dispel Sexual and Reproductive Health Myths

By Esther Nakkazi

A mobile application to dispel sexual and reproductive health myths won the ‘#HackForYouth’ Hackathon organized by Reach A Hand and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda.

The 3G Tree@viQ is an incentive-based mobile application, which will provide young people with information about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

It is simple, basic, interactive and fun said Natalie Cojohari, who works with UNFPA in Moldova and was the head of the winning team, 'Put It on', at the three day Hackathon (22-23 July) held at the Sheraton in Kampala. Teams ARSHiCA and Olympians for Tulumbe also faired equally well and others included Funky Omega, Hactivate Youth, Lighting Youth and Hack 10.

Natalia and some members of the winning team at Sheraton
The hackathon followed principles of “user-centered design”, actively engaging young people in the development of solutions that are based on their real needs and experiences. It was graced by the Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on youth and Chris Baryomunsi, the Uganda State Minister of Health. It attracted young people from 13 countries.

Although the winning team developed the app for especially the youth in eastern Europe, it can also be adapted elsewhere. The region is burdened by increasing rates of HIV and STIs with no sex education in school and what is available is not accurate but also has the advantage of high mobile phone penetration.

Ms. Cojohari explained that there are many sexual and reproductive health myths in eastern Europe like; you cannot get pregnant if you have sex for the first time, it is safer to use two condoms, if you wash your genitals with Coca-Cola after sex you will not get pregnant.

So the app will basically be a quiz based on myths and if the player wins they will be incentivized with free data, airtime or meal. Ms. Cojohari said it will increase the users' self-esteem and improve their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.

At the pitching session, teams came up with innovative solutions which were interactive, informative and educative to youthful users in their privacy, customised with appropriate content for particular regions that offer unconventional solutions to promote young people’s knowledge on SHR.

The apps ranged from those that could aggregate data; offer vouchers to young pregnant girls to get SHR services; send youth friendly messages; chat in privacy with a certified e-volunteer about SHR and an app that gives access to information to empower against sexual harassment.

The judges said the 3G Tree@viQ was well packaged, the quiz gives the youth a challenge and since at that age, everyone wants to beat the system, it will keep them engaged and rewarded at the same time improving their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights in their privacy.

Moving forward, UNFPA will help the youngsters deal with intellectual rights issues and get the app registered. Momentarily, they only have bragging rights.

At a time when young people are always looking for data and they want to seek for sexual and reproductive health information in comfort and privacy, a mobile health solution is one way to do it. It was a fruitful event and to me, all the teams were winners at least in the area of rapid innovations.


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