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20 November, 2014 - 10:08 By News Desk

ARM and UNICEF bankroll $750k talking tech venture in Africa

Dominic Vergine, director of sustainability and corporate responsibility at ARM

Cambridge UK technology star ARM Holdings has joined forces with UNICEF and humanitarian tech company Literacy Bridge for a $750,000 initiative designed to use audio technology to help save and enhance lives in Ghana.

Superchip designer ARM and UNICEF are bankrolling the majority of the cost of a programme that promise huge humanitarian paybacks in healthcare and agriculture.

The venture will focus on bringing life-saving maternal and child health information to Ghana, utilising Talking Book mobile devices. Talking Books were developed to give people without literacy skills access to audio recordings that address life-saving health and agricultural advice. 

The ambition is to scale this quickly, doubling the reach within the year.

The Health Behaviour Change Program uses Talking Books to reduce preventable deaths in impoverished rural communities in Ghana while improving the health of pregnant women and mothers of young children. The initiative will reach around 50 of Ghana’s poorest communities.

Talking Books were developed in 2007 by Literacy Bridge to give people without literacy skills access to audio recordings of interviews, songs, and dramas that address life-saving health and agriculture advice.

The multi-year ARM-UNICEF-Literary bridge alliance will deliver health education to 40,000 vulnerable people in the most remote villages in Ghana. The announcement comes on the day the UN General Assembly meets in New York to discuss how it can use innovative approaches to make the vision of the Convention a reality for all children. It marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The team will assess the project’s impact on several behaviour change objectives, including:-

• Ebola and cholera prevention and treatment options

• Treatment of diarrhea in children using Oral Rehydration Therapy

• Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life

• Identifying and treating diseased crops

• Creating and applying organic fertiliser using manure from livestock

• The importance of planting seeds in rows of beds instead of mounds

ARM and UNICEF are providing most of the financial support for this $750,000 project. ARM, an existing supporter, is also collaborating with Literacy Bridge to reduce technology costs and further improve the energy efficiency of the Talking Books as they utilize ARM processor technology.

Dominic Vergine, director of sustainability and corporate responsibility at ARM, said: “Literacy Bridge set out to design a mobile platform that took account of the challenges often found in the developing world including the availability of power. 

“The focus was on delivering quality local language education in the most energy-efficient way. Repurposing existing technology wasn’t a viable option but Literacy Bridge’s new approach with the Talking Books is succeeding and early trials of the technology have shown huge potential for both philanthropic and business benefit.”

Cliff Schmidt, founder and executive director of Literacy Bridge added: “This expansion is an important step in testing the scale of our programme. With UNICEF’s leadership in the issues that affect the lives of children and ARM’s leadership in using technology to create a better world, we couldn’t have a better pair of partners as we look towards reaching millions of children in the coming years.” 

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