Unicef has launched RapidPro – an open-source platform of applications that can, according to the company, help governments deliver rapid and vital real-time information and connect communities to lifesaving services.
Produced by Unicef’s global Innovations Labs in collaboration with Nyuruka, a Rwandan software development firm, and drawing on eight years of experience with SMS-based applications, RapidPro is already being used in several countries.
According to the company, in Zambia, U-Report, an application available on RapidPro, uses simple text messages and basic mobile phones to link people to the resources of the National AIDS Council. Unicef and the Ministry of Health used the SMS application to spread messages about the disease and increase testing.
In addition to U-Report, in Liberia, Unicef and the Ministry of Health have launched mHero (Mobile Health Worker Ebola Response and Outreach), an application available on RapidPro to support efforts to fight the rising Ebola epidemic. mHero is said to report on new cases; broadcast messages about care and prevention; share training information; and allow for real-time coordination between the ministry and the health workers.
In the coming months, RapidPro will also host and support more sophisticated phones, and more applications will be made available through the platform. These include RapidFTR, an Android forms-based data collection software that was developed in Unicef’s Innovation Labs in South Sudan, Uganda, and originated in New York University’s Design for Unicef class. It records information about separated children, including a photo, shares it with other emergency responders, and allows family members to locate a missing child.