Human-Centered Design // Sexual Reproductive Health // Social Impact
Tuonge is a USSD/SMS based platform designed for parents to easily access SRH information and tips on how to approach SRH issues with their children. Adopting a model of gradual learning, content is curated by gender, age, and subject. A support hotline feature also connects parents with existing local community health services and workshops.
Project completed with Antonia Jara Contreras, Nelofar Taheri, Thomas Hartley, Yuying Zhang, Kennedy Kioli, Eliud Munuve. GoGlobal program organized by Imperial College, Royal College of Arts, Nairobi Design Institute, and Gearbox
Fieldwork & Testing
Over the three weeks, interviews were conducted with parents, pharmacists, adolescents, teachers, as well as various local SRH-focused organizations like Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), and Dance4Life. Valuable insights were gathered to push our design forward. Journey maps of parents and children were created based on insights and different content, age-appropriate topics, and output medium were tested. We realized traditional methods of books were inadequate and the solution needed to be something that is free and readily accessible.
Driven by a deep rooted cultural misconception, SRH topics are often stigmatized as being a taboo with the fear that providing children information will lead to the practice of sex. Kenya has one of the highest reported numbers of underage sex and unplanned pregnancies, starting as early as the age of eight. With 18% of adolescents bearing a child, an average of 378,400 unplanned pregnancies and 590,000 new cases of HIV in youths are reported annually. Adolescents and youths are often ignored when it comes to standard SRH service provisions, as such, it is imperative to address their needs and we believe the potential to promote healthy behavior comes from the parents. Our fieldwork suggests that parents do feel responsible for communicating these issues with their children so they have control over what is conveyed, but often speak from experience and lack accurate information. Concurrently, most children prefer information provided by their parents as suppose to teachers.
Our target users are young Kenyan parents of medium to low-income area who have newborns to 16 year olds and a mobile phone that may not be a smartphone. These parents lack accurate SRH information, but have the desire to learn and educate their children.
With 80% of the population in Kenya possessing a mobile, 30% of which are smartphones and 50% of which are non-smartphones, Tuonge is a USSD/SMS platform designed for non-smartphones. USSD is a text-based system many Kenyans use to communicate with their service providers from topping up minutes to data balance enquiries. Available in Swahili and English, Tuonge readapts a familiar platform to a new context allowing parents to quickly access SRH information.
Based on models of gradual learning, SRH topics are filtered by gender and age. We hope parents will start SRH conversations with their children earlier, instead of one awkward sex talk, we propose multiple smaller ones over a child’s development. Topics range from boundaries and respect at a young age to the use of contraceptives during adolescent years. Concise information and conversation starters are provided via SMS paid by our service. A feedback feature allow users to help us improve our platform and content overtime. Data collected can be used to enrich topics discussed in schools, clinics and workshops.
Tuonge will be registered as a social enterprise for potential future cash flow, engaging with communities and partner with NGOs such as FHOK and Radio Alliance to distribute our platform. As we expand our offerings, market and introduce new target users, we hope to partner with the government as an asset and focus on the data collected to improve SRH education in Kenya and East Africa.
A detailed version of the business plan can be found here
Vision & Validation
We aim to empower parents so they feel confident in discussing such topics. Above all, we envision a future where youths and adolescents in Kenya begin to learn about SRH at a young age and are in control of their health. To validate our idea with the target communities, we distributed our beta platform on a local community radio, Ruben FM. Over the hour long segment, we onboarded 30 users within a 5km radius
Tuonge was exhibited at GoGlobal 2019 exhibition hosted at IHub, Nairobi, which coincided with Nairobi Design week. It was a great opportunity to present our idea to the general public and industry professionals.