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Reaching rural communities in Kenya through a COVID-19 Response App
Reaching rural communities in Kenya through a COVID-19 Response App

A case study by Well Beyond in Kenya

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Updated over a week ago

Country: Kenya

Organisation: Well Beyond

Point people and Role: Sarah Evans CEO, Kathryn Bergmann COO

Population served by the programme: Approximately 20,000

Unique characteristics of the setting: Rural Communities

Number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19 at time of publishing: 4797 Cases, 125 Deaths

Caption: (Pre-COVID) Community members in Alamach, Kenya, use the Well Beyond App for water system maintenance.

Briefly describe the key components of your COVID-19 response programme.

Well Beyond is a consulting and technology company that has been building an app to support communities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with their rural water supply systems. In response to COVID-19, we made a sharp pivot to modify the app to provide training on preventive behaviours like hygiene and sanitation.

The COVID-19 Response App provides a series of interactive training modules. It is designed to fill the gap between high-level national recommendations and the tools and knowledge that are available in remote, rural places. The app contains information on disease transmission, creating hand washing stations, making face masks, disinfection within homes and improving sanitation. The app also offers real-time support via chat.

Well Beyond works in partnership with multiple NGOs in Kenya who are then able to use the app in the regions where they work. Our deployment strategy includes an instructional guide for the NGO staff, followed by guidance on how to train community members. This second part of the guidance is specially tailored for each region and is based on the structure of the NGO and cultural and organizational considerations within each community. Each of our NGO partners first teaches their staff what’s contained in the app and how to use it. These staff then roll out the training for members of each community. Physical distancing guidelines have made this process slower than it might normally be, but we are emphasizing the critical importance of this extra measure to protect communities and adhere to local governmental regulations.

Well Beyond's NGO partners are also able to track training completions and collect data on the app’s success. This allows organizations and users to have a greater, more measurable impact.

What process did you use when designing your COVID-19 response programme?

As we always do, we began with seeking guidance from our local teams who advised us about community needs during this time. Our local team in Kenya conducted a survey of our community partners (23 communities were surveyed) to have a better understanding of what information was lacking and needed, as well as which segments of each community were in the greatest need of this information and training.

We used these insights to start re-designing the app with our software developer. We released an initial version of the tool to communities and worked with them to debug and beta-test the revised version of the app. When most of the technical issues were resolved, we began rolling the app out to the next set of communities.

What is one thing that has been working really well so far and is there something other programmes could learn from this?

We are seeing productive community engagement and that gives us confidence for further roll-out of the COVID-19 response app. We are able to track levels of community engagement from within the administrative portal of the COVID-19 Response App. Each of our partner NGOs have assigned team members who receive and answer chats from the community members who are being trained using the tool. The Well Beyond team monitors all chats across all NGO accounts and also checks for technical support requests.

Many of the chats we have received so far have been easily and quickly responded to, and we continue to receive positive feedback on the app. For example, we have seen a few chats with requests to further define the instructions on making fabric facemasks and ‘tippy-taps’ (handwashing stations made from locally available materials). Communities have also been sending photos of their training sessions via the chat feature.

Caption: A Tippy Tap that was constructed using the COVID-19 Response App as part of the roll-out that is being done by International Peace Initiatives in Kithoka, Kenya

At this time it has been difficult for NGO staff based in regional offices to connect with communities and populations so we feel hopeful that this tool, as well as the upcoming iterations of this tool, will continue to bridge this gap. Keeping NGO regional offices in direct and ongoing contact with communities contributes to trust building and is critical for making this initiative a success. The direct engagement is also beneficial for local staff, who are encouraged by these interactions and empowered to continue using the tool and repeat the training with more segments of their community.

What is one challenge that you have encountered and how are you trying to overcome this?

By virtue of being a digital application, the product is only available to NGO trainers who have a ‘smart’ device on which to run the app. Since we began the roll-out of the COVID-19 Response App 3 weeks ago, we have already improved the tool to allow for registration with only a phone number (so that people without an email address can register to use the app), but we are still working toward an SMS version of the tool so that many more users can access condensed versions of the content and utilize the chat support (with only an analogue phone, which is quite common in this region).

How have you been engaging communities throughout your programme and what feedback have you received?

The ‘chat’ feature has proven an effective and enlightening way to be in contact with NGO staff and community members who are using the app and we continue to get feedback about the effectiveness of the training and the tool itself.

Caption: A group of community members completing the COVID-19 Response App training in Olmoran, Kenya

Case Study written by: Sarah Evans CEO and Kathryn Bergmann COO at Well Beyond

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