Adolescent girls are one of the hardest groups to reach in the world. The challenges they face are often under-reported, misunderstood or not discovered. Without an accurate understanding of their realities, solutions designed to support them are often irrelevant or ineffective.
Our brief was to create a digital ecosystem that enabled marginalised young women to become qualified interviewers – known as TEGAs (Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors), for them to safely interview their peers and surrounding community members, and for the data they collect to be securely sent, stored, and automatically analysed in a secure, central data hub.
The barriers we needed to overcome were largely emotional, and environmental:
TEGAs had a lack of confidence in their ability to conduct interviews, fear of judgement from their community, fear of harm from having an object of desire -a smartphone.
Environmental factors were low internet connection, no / low digital literacy, low literacy, lack of reliable access to electricity, negative community perceptions of girls with mobile phones, increased risk of robbery and cynicism surrounding the ability of TEGA to collect robust data.
The product: TEGA
TEGA is a groundbreaking digital eco-system comprising an android data collection app, a highly secure data hub with the capability to securely store and programmatically analyse qualitative data, and the world’s first SMS help button.
Given the high level of risk, we placed safety at the heart of every decision we made from design to development. Some of the features we created to ensure safety were:
To help TEGAs commute safely around their communities, and confidently address any concerns community members might have about her conducting interviews, the TEGA app housed a personal video from her community leader stating she had permission to conduct her interviews, instructing the blocker to talk to the community leader if they had any further questions.
To further reinforce her safety, we designed (what we believe) is the world’s first SMS help button. Should she feel in danger, the TEGA could push her panic button and a close proximity trigger tree of community members would be alerted of her location - even if she has no internet connection. This button has never been pushed in a real life situation but the average response time for false alarms is 15 minutes - twice as fast as the UK ambulance service.
To overcome low levels of literacy, we co-created an emoji dictionary. This allowed girls to communicate to us exclusively via emojis, negating the need for written language skills.
Ensuring data safety all devices were password protected and data was encrypted to government level standard (256 bit). We took inspiration from Snapchat by automatically erasing all research data from the device the moment the data was sent to the secure data hub, to mitigate data privacy risks, should a girl researcher (a TEGA) lose her device.
To increase her confidence in her ability, and ensure the data she collects is good quality, Market Research Society created a bespoke MLearning three-month training curriculum and qualification programme. This curriculum is disseminated virtually, and is ‘gamified’ to increase engagement and motivation. TEGAs unlock new colours and levels as they progress. Their qualification increases internal and external validity of the research and gives TEGAs’ employable skills beyond their life as a TEGA.
We overcame low internet connection challenges by designing TEGA to be fully operational without an active internet connection, exploiting technologies inspired by torrenting software in order to transmit data in environments with intermittent internet connection.
Today, TEGA has trained, qualified and economically enabled 450 marginalised girls, who have conducted over 17,000 interviews. The data they have collected is used by leading development organisations such as DFID, DFAT, and USAID to create new or improved programmes that have positively impacted the lives of over 18 million girls and their surrounding communities.
TEGA has won numerous awards including ‘Best Innovation’ by the Market Research Society in 2016, Honorable mention in ‘Social Good’ category of Innovation by Design awards, and Campaign Tech gold for best research in 2017.
“I’m sure my parents are always happy and they are feeling great with all I’m doing as a TEGA. I myself feel great because I provide a lot for myself without asking someone else to give it to me. I pay my school registration fee with the payment of TEGA work, at that very time my father was not able to get the money for my registration. I feel great and I got back to school like my other friends”.
TEGA | 18 | Kano
“The TEGA research was an integral part of the DFID Nigeria youth consultations and enabled us to access hard to reach young people in an effective way. The results of the research are reflected in our five-year business plan and have helped ensure that the plan is responsive to the needs of the large youth population in Nigeria. The Business plan will determine the nature and direction of DFID Nigeria’s £1 billion programme for the next five years.”
UK Department for International Development
“TEGA has had significant impact on the way we work. It has much value in the humanitarian sector”
Nick Lacey, Oxfam Project Coordinator
More information about Girl Effect’s TEGA can be found here.