Using ODK to Improve Maternal Care in Ethiopia

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Digital Campus is a not for profit company specializing in technology development in emerging countries. For several years, they have been working with Mekelle University (Ethiopia) and are supporting a PhD programme in public health in conjunction with Alcalá University (Spain) and Maastricht University (Netherlands). One of their projects is researching ways in which mobile technologies can help to improve maternal and child health care in rural areas of Ethiopia.

Alex Little, the director of Digital Campus, writes, “_We are using ODK for the rural Health Extension Workers (HEWs) to record the visits they make to pregnant mothers. This information can then be used by the HEWs, their supervisors and midwives at the local health centres to help track mothers who are most at risk of developing complications during pregnancy and delivery. Using the data collected through ODK we are in the process of developing a friendly health information system application at community level to help manage and track these at-risk mothers.</p>

Training the HEWs with the smartphones and using ODK started over summer (see training photos). Initially we had concerns regarding language and date formats, in most of Ethiopia the Ge’ez font is used for local languages (Tigrinya and Amharic) and an alternative calendaring system is widely used. The open source nature of ODK has meant that we have easily and quickly been able to adapt the ODK Collect client to fit our needs and can allow the HEWs to enter text and dates in formats comfortable and familiar for them. We had initially used EpiSurveyor, but being a closed system, we didn’t have the flexibility to make the necessary changes when we needed them.

The project is still in an early phase (feasibility study), but as far as we’re aware this is one of the first projects in Ethiopia using smartphones for data collection. We’d be really pleased from others in who may be doing similar data collection projects using smartphones. So it’s a very exciting project to be involved in and we feel it has great potential.</em>”

Alex has a great set of slides on Using Mobile Technologies to Improve Maternal Health (embedded below). For more information about his work, visit Digital Campus, or his blog (which has lots of great posts) or email him at