Over a year ago, Nokia and Save the Children joined forces to promote children's rights. The cooperation started in Myanmar, focusing on improving the education opportunities for children who live in remote villages. A few months ago, we went to Myanmar to see what has been accomplished during the first year of our cooperation and what areas we should focus on in the coming years.
Less than 23% of children in Myanmar have access to early childhood care and development services, and half of Myanmar’s children do not complete primary school at all. This means that many children leave school without reading, writing, and arithmetic skills that are essential to participating in any society.
During the first year of our cooperation, we supported Save the Children in constructing 58 Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers and setting up alternative services in hard to reach communities. Because of these centers, around 2,200 children are now able to attend pre-school and receive literacy and numeracy instruction.
To define our future goals for cooperation between Nokia and Save the Children we wanted to first meet the children and the personnel in the development centers in Myanmar. We then evaluated the possibilities of using technology for development in villages where people don’t have regular access to electricity and where mobile connectivity quality is poor.
Technology as part of a solution
During our trip we noticed that when working in this kind of challenging environment the solutions need to be tailored to the needs of the people. As an example, technological solutions do not help if there is no electricity.
We had to address this electricity problem as well already during our first year of cooperation. We wanted to enable parents and other community members to use the libraries that are attached to the ECCD centers but the challenge was that they could use them only in the evenings when it’s already dark. As Save the Children had mapped the locations of ECCD centers’ libraries with no electricity, we made the decision to provide solar panels at these locations. The installations have now started and, within couple of months, people in these remote villages will be able to use libraries during evenings – and charge their mobile phones.
We also believe these communities would benefit from a system that allows different township groups to connect and share information in the case of emergencies and in normal everyday activities, like monitoring school attendance. We already have a solution which our other partner, Plan, is using in Uganda for improving school governance. The solution relies on simple text messages, making the system easy to implement in areas with very basic network connections.
We also believe Nokia’s Network-in-a-box solution can provide multiple benefits in a country like Myanmar, which is exposed to a number of natural hazards (e.g. earthquakes, cyclones, landslides and drought). This rapidly deployable LTE Network-in-a-box enables vital public safety communications to be implemented at emergency scenes where wide area network coverage is not available. We plan to implement the LTE Network-in-a-box for a project with Save the Children in India, where our cooperation focuses on improving the resilience of communities in rural India to cyclonic or ravine floods. The solution will be deployed in 6 villages, and will enable critical communication within village task-forces that have been formed under this disaster risk reduction project.
These are just some of the solutions we produced as a result of our trip to Myanmar. During the second year of our cooperation with Save the Children, we will focus on improving the information sharing between the development centers and villages in the country.