Publication Date
December 1, 2009

This website from newmediadev2009 was a project of a 2009 research seminar developed and taught by Professor Anne Nelson at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in New York, the United States (US). It describes the application of the Community-based Information System (CBIS), designed to build on traditional knowledge systems (TKS) with strategic and technological adjustments to collect community data and distribute them automatically, at a low cost, and in a culturally cognisant manner to help people find answers to their questions in order to aid the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).

It contains three sections: Our Communities, the Tool Box, and Applying CBIS. The first section describes and locates on a map the MVP, a partnership between the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, and the United Nations Development Programme. It describes the unifying characteristics of the MVP and information and communication technology (ICT) goals for the MVP ICT programme in the "Our Communities" section, including:

  • Goal 1: Cell phone access within 2 km of 80% of households in MVP villages (for development of mHealth and telemedicine, for example)
  • Goal 2: 80% of households have access to local community radio where legal/economically viable
  • Goal 3: Institutional data connectivity
  • Goal 4: Functional community-wide emergency response community system



The "Tool Box" section offers a number of applications that can be incorporated into CBIS, including:

  1. Behaviour Change Communication
  2. Edutainment
  3. E-Governance
  4. Health Information Management
  5. Mapping
  6. Participatory Appraisal and Planning
  7. Community Radio




Each of these sections describes the tool, gives examples of projects that use the tool, and states the how the tool can benefit the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the MVP, as well as the conditions of the MVP that affect the application of the tool. By tool category, some of the information includes the following:

  1. Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) - For example, in the area of technology and education: mobile educational applications; text2teach, which gives Philippine teachers a way to text via mobile phone to receive videos delivered over school-based televisions via satellite; and mobile technology involving parents. BCC, as stated here, can be applied to family planning, HIV/AIDS and malaria awareness and prevention, agricultural/farming techniques,; and teenage pregnancy, because it is easily orally transmitted through, for example, community radio and community theatre, using cultural understanding and clear language for communication.
  2. Edutainment - This category includes examples of the telenovela, community radio, community -built stories and films for cultural preservation, and digital mobile applications, including games initiatives for public health, for change, and for exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. It lists mHealth initiatives and radio soap operas, as well. Considering technological barriers that limit the number of media through which edutainment can be implemented in the MVP locations, radio and theatre are recommended for the MVP communities, with reliance on the local media, community organisers, and the population as key in delivering effective edutainment.
  3. E-Governance - Examples include an anti-corruption website that has an online portal for reporting cases, which are then investigated, after which the names of all public officials who have been convicted of corruption are published. It also focuses on a network of community-owned rural internet kiosks through which to access government records. The website includes recognition of community involvement in both maintaining the sustainability of internet access and in advising on content available in e-governance solutions.
  4. Health Information Management - mHealth, the use of mobile phones and ICT for improving health outcomes, is monitored on various websites, including, as listed here, MobileActive, the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, and Kiwanja. Ideas listed here include setting up billboards that ask for feedback via text messaging on mobile phones, and the generation of reports using mobile testing to send data, like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) RapidSMS Nutrition Monitoring System.
  5. Mapping - Community mapping, also mentioned in the participatory section below, is described as being a tool to: raise awareness and educate communities; preserve culture; increase local communications capacity; assist in collaborative planning and management of land; enhance participation in monitoring and evaluation; and aid in conflict resolution. Some tools include Geodjango, Ushahidi, Google Earth Outreach, and CyberTracker. A CBIS with integrated community mapping exercises could, as stated here, enhance the MVP sectoral initiatives in environment, water, agriculture, and health.
  6. Participatory Appraisal and Planning - This section describes decisionmaking processes about development that include communities through physical and resource mapping, institutional mapping, community inventories, models, focus group discussion, trend identification by focus groups, ranking of community priorities , seasonal and historical diagramming, and semi-structured interviewing. Limits to participation and follow-through might include funding problems, lack of tools and trained facilitators, need for quick turn-arounds and short-term solutions, and corruption.
  7. Community Radio - Both traditional and interactive community radio is exemplified with possible applications including:
    • Public service announcements connected to e-governance applications
    • Interactive edutainment radio programming involving text message educational contests - Contests can be announced via radio and replies can be sent via test messaging
    • Market price announcements to inform farmers of current agricultural prices in the closest markets
    • More traditional applications to open spaces for marginalised social groups such as women and youth


The final section of the website, "Applying CBIS", uses pictorial categories to describe: needs, stakeholders, CBIS, sustainability, cost, and the nuts and bolts needs for carrying forward these applications.


Email from Anne Nelson to The Communication Initiative on January 11 2010.