HNI Knowledge Banks
HNI creates Knowledge Banks of critical information and then partners to distribute that information
Centre Mandrosoa Website
The foundation of HNI's work in Madagascar is its Malagasy website -- Centre Mandrosoa www.mandrosoa.org. Because Madagascar lacked a central hub for relevant, reliable, easily understood information, HNI realized that simply deploying ICT would have minimal impact.
After HNI identified content partners and collected their materials, HNI convened groups of these partners to thoroughly review the information and to select the most appropriate messages and media. These expert content committees emphasized clarity and relevance.
The materials were then organized according to 12 categories, including agriculture, health, business and employment. Each category appears prominently on the Mandrosoa homepage and features print materials, voice recordings and instructional videos. These multi-media tools enable HNI to reach everyone, including the roughly 29% of the population that does not read well enough to benefit from text materials. The website provides comment and feedback sections that allow users to request more information, post their own experiences or request that other topics be added to the knowledge bank.
Centre Mandrosoa averages 30,000 hits per month. Usage patterns, including comments and feedback left by visitors, establish that the site is becoming a trusted information source.
Tolotra Mandroso - Information On Demand
HNI's partnership with Airtel Telecommunications brings 140 essential health, agriculture and microfinance messages to users throughout Madagascar, on demand, 7 days a week, for free.
Airtel mandrosoIVR(audio) Service:
Users reach the service by dialing a toll-free number. They listen to pre-recorded insructions and choose from a list of options by selectingnumbers on the keypad. The directory architecture is designed for easy navigation. Within a few seconds - a maximum of three 'clicks' - users arrive at the requested information.
The voice messages are in Malagasy. Each is 10 to 12 sentences long and well adapted to low literacy audiences. Users also learn how to ask questions, provide suggestions and share answers by using their mobile telephone.
Users can also contact the HNI knowledge bank for free by selecting from a menu of options on their telephone. In about 15 seconds, Airtel sends back a text response pre-approved by the panel of experts that HNI coordinates. In Phase ii of the project, the response will be both a text message and voice SMS.
Free Subscription Service:
Users of the system also have the option to subscribe to specific topic areas. These users receive additional messages periodically on the topic of interest to them.
Toll-Free Feedback Number:
The Tolotra Mandroso service provides a unique opportunity for people to directly influence their knowledge bank: a toll-free number for users of both the SMS and IVR directories to send feedback; ask additional questions and request information that they would like to see added to future additions of the directories.
Increasing ICT Access, Knowledge and Skill - HNI Telecenters
HNI works to improve the knowledge chain by creating a network of telecenters in towns that previously lacked access to the internet. Telecenters must be financially sustainable, but their objectives are enabling community growth and developmentand overcoming the entry barriers to computer and internet use.
Collaboration with Peace Corps
HNI and the United States Peace Corps have agreed to post volunteers with Small Enterprise Development (SED) expertise at all franchised telecenters throughout the country. At each site, volunteers build peoples' capacity to use the internet to find answers to questions that matter to them. Volunteers often introduce the Internet by showing people how to access information on HNI's project website. Peace Corps volunteers are particularly suited for this work; they are trusted members of their communities and have the required ICT training, education, and work experience.
Daily Periods of Free Internet Access
All HNI telecenters offer free internet access, typically 15 minutes per day, per visitor. Combined with the presence of a trained Peace Corps volunteer and HNI's project website, the periods of free access offer individuals the chance to experience the internet for themselves at no initial cost. People gain exposure to new technologies and communication tools that they otherwise might not explore if required to pay for initial time spent online.
Free Community ICT Training
Telecenters offer weekly trainings, many for free, that cover a range of ICT topics: the internet, e-mail, instant messaging, and basic software programs (Word, Excel). Peace Corps Volunteers and the local entrepreneurs who operate the telecenters conduct these trainings. Telecenter staff also offer more advanced ICT trainings for people with prior computing or internet experience. This training ensures that people are able to make the most out of their time online and obtain the information and services they desire.
Community Integration for Long Term Success
HNI's strategy is to fully integrate Telecenters into each community by promoting local supervision and ownership. Each center must be financially self-sustainable. Local ownership and responsibility is key. In order to promote local investment in the success of the telecenter, HNI shares responsibility with local officials to: recruit the local entrepreneur to operate the telecenter: supervise the ongoing work of the entrepreneur; and, monitor the telecenter's contributions to local and regional development.