The Challenge

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How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income countries? read the brief

Idea

Ringtones to Remember (get that health message stuck in your head!)

Finished your workshop / play / concert about maternal health? Leave behind a Ringtone to Remember - a catchy tune that captures the message from your activity to help reinforce the message once you're gone.
SUMMARY
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 - Microtone: As part of community health campaigns, songs are often used to communicate health messages, now at the end of a workshop, participants can take that song home as a ringtone


 - Macrotone: As part of a national launch of a new program, or for International Women's Day. A celebrity or group of celebrities could record a song to promote maternal health with a catch chorus that could be downloaded as a ringtone.


Song has a long tradition as a medium for capturing and transmitting knowledge and is already widely used as an awareness tool in development programs. The idea is simply to extend it to the mobile phone, with the ringtone being free to listen too and persisting in a community long after a workshop has taken place.


A light-hearted idea, but a serious one - feedback & improvements gratefully received.


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Inspired by:
* Some wonderful diarrheal disease awareness songs I've heard in my time
* The "music to bring information" inspiration
* My love of cheesy music


Key points:
* Utilize the power of a song to get stuck in your head for good!
* Ringtones are FREE to listen to - in many countries there is a prevalence of "missed calling" where a dialer calls a person with the knowledge that they won't pick up. This enables a ringtone to be played without either party having to use up credit. You can play with your phone to hear the ringtone over and over again should you wish
* Inclusive messages for all the community - As many posts have touched on, sometimes women are not fully empowered and may not have access to the cell phone. Jingles should be cool and catch and status symbols for behavior influencers - you can check out my slightly embarrassing attempt at this in the video.


Microtone
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The microtone concept is to leave behind the jingle for a health message song taught at a community workshop. NGOs, and other groups, often run periodic workshops in communities to educate people. It is common to accompany these workshops with a song that communicates the key messages. Now when an NGO comes to a village to talk about maternal health, they can offer people a free download of the song as a ringtone (This may even be an incentive to attend).


Once the NGO is gone, the hope is that a critical mass of people will leave it as their ring-tone and the periodic repeating of the melody around a community will help to reinforce the health message.


More advanced phones could even have the words playing, but I'm assuming that there will be lots of monophonic ringtones so we should definitely cater for that.


Macrotone
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In the advent of a large regional or national push to launch a new program or initiative by an NGO or a government, a celebrity or group of celebrities could get together to make a song. This happens at least annually in the UK to raise money for a cause with sales proceeds going to the charity. In addition to potentially targeting wealthier members of a country to download a single and donate money to a cause, the ringtone version could be made available at a variety of prices - from free upwards.


I'm more excited about the Microtone idea, as I think it plays into existing activities and would be easy to implement.


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/re-ality/1331584601/ - used under the creative commons license and modified for the topic!
What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?
As "What phones do they already have" pointed out, many people still have very simple phones. I think a good constraint on jingle innovation is that it should be viable as a monophonic ringtone. Even really low-end nokia monophonic phones have a composer function that *could* be used to add the ringtone too a phone - although I remember this being somewhat painful - I did used to spend a longtime playing with it. Although it's definitely possible, I am not entirely sure how ringtones are transmitted Over-The-Air. I believe it would be critical for the Microtone model to set-up a method for transmitting this to the community member at no-cost. This may involve co-operation from the mobile operators and may bring cost to the NGO disseminating them. However, my strong suspicion is that the cost of maybe 100 ringtones will be much smaller than the cost of laying on the workshop in the first place. Update: Looking around the Nokia forums it appears you can send a simple ringtone in just an SMS for the really low-end phones. For more recent phones blue-toothing across a polyphonic will probably be easiest. I think it would be relatively straight forward to setup an application/web-service that NGOs could use to send ringtones to community members, and assuming it's in a country where it's free to receive an SMS should be cheap. I will do more research on this and post comments. Anyone who has knowledge of this - I would be really grateful for the feedback.
How could this work in a low-literacy context?
Songs do not require literacy to pass on or communicate vital information. Feedback on potential challenges for this in low-literacy environments very welcome.
Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?
  1. Oxfam
  2. Nokia
  3. Mobile operators
  4. NGOs
  5. Government
  6. Other - Feel free to elaborate in your description of the concept

Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

Sarah Bird

March 16, 2011, 20:29PM
Brainstorm away :D

On the girl band - I was thinking about a band of elders - seriously(!) - I've found that the mother-in-law can be a powerful influence during these times and often a decision maker - we'd have to get her excited about a ringtone too.

local musicians - maybe it would even be possible to make software that you could capture the ringtone and distribute it as part of the workshop.

Diogo Dutra

March 16, 2011, 18:55PM
I was thinking about those NGO's bands, and if a girl band could touch more the womens in villages than o mixed band. This could be in microtone or macrotone. Just to power the influence on women!

What if we have in this villages interventions contact with local musicians and they teaches they how to play the song and the educational lyrics. With the ringtones this could stay on people's head.

Just brainstorming! :-)
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