Girl Effect’s director of digital research and learning, Kecia Bertermann, outlines what our work has taught us about designing effective mobile interventions.
In many places around the world, the mobile phone is the most commonly used piece of technology. It’s often the only way an adolescent girl can get online.
A teenage girl worried about HIV can turn to her phone when she can’t turn to her very traditional parents or grandparents, who would only tell her not to think of such things, or her friends, who may not know any more than she does.
At Girl Effect, we are experts in using media and digital technology to reach and empower girls.
Over the past three years of qualitative research and design experience, including workshops and sessions held with girls, we have observed the three cornerstones that create effective mobile interventions for girls.
They are presence, privacy, and control.
Mobile phones allow us to meet girls where they are. Use and access to phones is increasing year on year. Using phones, girls are on social media, they’re on the internet.
At Girl Effect, we are already seeing that weaving messages into popular mobile content is a powerful way to reach girls.
In Malawi, our Zathu brand and website digs into the challenging issues of growing up and uses the theme of friendship between boys and girls to talk about harmful stereotypes and HIV.
Using the media platforms that girls are already on, we can incorporate behavioural messages with encouragement to use referral services, health clinics and other sources of support.
We know that stigma and fear often keep girls from using services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services.
Mobile offers a private space in which a girl can search for sensitive information. Through technology, we can meet girls one to one - at scale.
At the moment Girl Effect is piloting a chatbot in South Africa and the Philippines, through mobile community Springster. This gives girls a way to ask questions privately.
Chatbots use artificial intelligence to simulate real-life conversations but by their very nature chatbots cannot judge, or be anything other than impartial. They also cannot betray confidences.
Our early learning is showing that girls value the anonymity of this kind of interface – and we’re finding that even girls who have never used chatbots before are surprisingly comfortable using this technology.