Using ODK to Improve Maternal Care in Ethiopia

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

Training the HEWs with the smartphones and using ODK started over
summer (see training photos at
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."

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