Solving public health crises with mobile technology

The most widespread Ebola virus epidemic in history began in 2013 and continued for over two years, infecting tens of thousands of people and causing social and economic devastation on a frightening scale.  The outbreak was largely focused in three West African countries, and it was only through the herculean efforts of thousands of community leaders, educators, doctors, nurses, and public health workers that a much wider outbreak was avoided.


Simplified Ebola virus Africa epidemic situation map (December 2013 – January 2016) 

Tackling such a public health crisis requires a tremendous level of field coordination and information sharing in challenging environments, and eHealth Africa has been a technology leader in meeting these challenges during the Ebola outbreak.  eHealth Africa is a US-African NGO focused on developing and implementing technology solutions that connect and deliver public health services and commodities to underserved communities across the African continent.

We are proud that Telerivet plays a part in eHealth Africa’s technology solutions to such important problems.  “During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we needed to rapidly develop solutions to logistical challenges that had never previously been encountered,” says Didi Hoffmann, CTO of eHealth Africa.  “Telerivet allowed us to do this with a minimum of code, in a manner that was both reliable and scalable."

Directing Local Dispatch Teams via SMS

At the height of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, eHealth Africa rolled out call centers in three of the affected countries, which all ran on a web-based application that allowed operators to log and respond to reports of new cases. These operators would then pass on necessary information to local dispatch teams, who would quarantine and treat these cases.


In the affected countries where local dispatch teams often did not have internet access, SMS was the only viable medium for passing this information. In order to enable their application to send and receive SMS messages, eHealth Africa turned to Telerivet.

"Telerivet enabled us to rapidly prototype SMS based solutions and scale with the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa." – Didi Hoffmann, CTO of eHealth Africa

Telerivet's REST API and Webhook API provided an easy way for eHealth Africa's Node.js application to send and receive SMS. According to eHealth Africa's CTO, Didi Hoffmann, "Telerivet's simple REST API and client wrappers made it the obvious choice as a messaging platform."

In Sierra Leone and Guinea, where eHealth Africa acquired three SMS shortcodes from local mobile network operators, Telerivet integrated directly with the mobile networks' systems. In addition, Telerivet's Android app enabled eHealth Africa to send and receive SMS messages throughout West Africa without needing a mobile network integration.

Notifying Relatives of a Patient's Location via SMS

Rapid quarantining of infected individuals, a major part of the fight against Ebola, was done in Emergency Treatment Units (ETUs). But it soon became apparent that there was a lack of trust: once a patient had entered an ETU, there was no way of informing relatives of their status or whereabouts. As a result, patients would refuse to enter the ETUs, a factor that contributed to the ongoing spread of the disease.

To counter this, eHealth Africa developed Trace and Go, an open source application that notifies relatives and loved ones of the status and location of patients via SMS, using the Telerivet REST API to send messages.

"Once again we used Telerivet as a messaging platform; once again it helped us to save lives."


See how other healthcare organizations are using Telerivet to improve communication and public health, or check out Telerivet for yourself at

2015 Technology Roundup

2015 has been a big year for Telerivet. We launched many new features and improvements this year, making Telerivet an even more powerful platform for mobile messaging. In case you missed it, here are a few of the biggest new features:

Airtime Transfer and Top-up

Powerful features for contact management

Automating SMS via Drag-and-Drop

New Data Visualizations

Using SMS polls to collect data? Telerivet now lets you visualize the top survey responses as a pie chart, bar graph, or table. When viewing the data table of poll responses, just click the “Stats” tab.


Featured User: Femina Hip

Fema_coverFemina Hip is a multimedia platform and civil society initiative working with youth across Tanzania. Since 1999, their aim has been to promote healthy lifestyles, sexual health, gender equality, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.

In order to reinforce their message via SMS, Femina Hip uses Telerivet for several different activities:

Providing advice via an SMS hotline

Femina Hip created an SMS counseling hotline after realizing that many Tanzanian youth are more comfortable asking sensitive questions via SMS compared to other communication channels. With this SMS hotline, Tanzanian youth can send in their questions relating to sexual and reproductive health, economic empowerment, and citizen engagement. A member of Femina's outreach team receives the question via Telerivet, and sends a personalized response. In each issue of Fema Magazine, Femina's team publishes some of the SMS questions in the column "Mpendwa Anti" (Dear Auntie).


Live audience interaction

Femina Hip's television and radio shows now have an audience interaction component to them that is run through an SMS system. During each episode a "question of the week" is asked, and audience members are asked to send an SMS answer.

Pushing out information to communities

Femina Hip uses Telerivet to periodically send out information to their audience, especially to inform them about new upcoming media products, such as new seasons of their television and radio shows.

Happy Holidays!

The Telerivet Team

Farm Radio helps smallholder farmers connect using Telerivet

Farm Radio International, a nonprofit that uses Telerivet, was recently featured in a New York Times article about Tanzanian farmers gaining important farming information and techniques through local radio. Farm Radio has partner radio stations in 38 radio stations throughout Africa to “deliver effective programs to serve smallholder farmers through radio.”

Farm Radio uses Telerivet to help these local radio stations boost the interactivity of radio programs by engaging directly with listeners via SMS messages, polls, and subscription services.


The picture above is from the first ever live Beep2vote poll at Radio Nkotakhota in Malawi earlier this year. Using Telerivet, two Android phones were set up to correspond to two different responses to a poll. Listeners simply called the number that corresponded to their response and hung up to register their vote. This system makes it easy for listeners to share their opinions free of charge. For example, a radio station could ask listeners to answer a poll about how they store their maize.

Farm Radio has an open session next week at the 6th annual Information and Communication Technologies and Development International Conference (ICTD2013) in Cape Town. The December 10th session is a hands-on demonstration showcasing how Farm Radio and our Android App can make radio more interactive for listeners. More information about ICTD 2013 and Farm Radio’s open session can be found here.


Telerivet powers Nuru International’s next campaign

Nuru International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty in remote, rural areas by equipping people with the tools and knowledge they need.

In Kenya, Nuru has been working with smallholder farmers in Kuria West district to prevent the spread of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND). MLND is a virus that leads to fungal infections in corn plants, and has a major impact on the livelihood of smallholder farmers, who can easily lose their entire crop to the disease.

This summer, Nuru launched a SMS campaign to provide information to farmers about preventing MLND. To power their communication system, Nuru turned to Telerivet.

The campaign reached its goal: 98.4% of farmers in Nuru's campaign kept their crops free of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease. Furthermore, farmers expressed that they were really happy to be receiving information by SMS.


Now, Nuru Healthcare and their Social Marketing Teams plan to launch a campaign focused on women attending four antenatal care (ANC) visits. The team plans to utilize Telerivet again as a tool for spreading individual reminders and wider-reaching messages.

Lindsay Cope, Healthcare Senior Program Manager for Nuru explains, “We saw great success with the first SMS-based campaign aimed at helping farmers prevent Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease from devastating their farms. Now we are thrilled to utilize similar methods to improve maternal and child health.”

Nuru’s primary way of connecting with women in the community will be through Telerivet’s informational services. The Social Marketing Team linked Telerivet to their Salesforce database which allows local staff to send relevant, real-time messages to a variety of audiences.


Based on their formative research, the campaign will take a three-pronged messaging approach highlighting factors identified to influence a woman's ability to seek four visits. These will include emphasizing what makes it important and easy to attend the first visit in the first trimester of pregnancy, peer and family approval, and linking ANC visits to a healthy start to a child's life leading to future family contribution.  

With only 20% of pregnant women in Nuru’s target community in Kuria, Kenya attending the four recommended antenatal care (ANC) visits, and just 6.2% seeking the first visit in the first trimester, Nuru Healthcare and Social Marketing Teams are eager to launch their upcoming ANC campaign.