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Mobile phone app to empower communities

A mobile phone app designed to give people the power to improve sanitation in their communities could help prevent the spread of diseases. Developed at the RCUK-funded Nottingham Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, Taarifa is a novel mobile phone app which allows people to report sanitation problems to local authorities using SMS, web forms, email or social media. These reports are then acted upon to carry out repairs, improvements or new infrastructure – giving citizens the power to affect changes in their own communities.

The platform involves partners from across the world, and is currently deployed in Ghana, with plans to extend across Africa, South East Asia, as well as in the UK.

In 2013, the mobile phone app won the World Bank’s Sanitation Hackathon, a global drive to engage researchers in communication technology in real-world problems relating to health and sanitation.

“Over 2.5Bn people worldwide lack access to proper sanitation, yet over 1Bn of these people have access to a mobile phone. The key is to use rising access and other communications technologies to generate solutions to challenges such as limited access to toilets or limited feedback mechanisms that citizens can use to voice needs and complaints”. Jae So, World Bank.

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