Social Mobile Media to educate, connect and empower Frontline Health Workers in Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa


The use of mobile phones and social media can improve the health services, especially in rural areas. Better training and professional networks enable health workers to provide better services.

​About the project


A number of challenges dramatically impede the effective delivery of health services in marginalised and rural areas. Many healthcare workers, such as nurses, lack access to information and knowledge and work in professional isolation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this light it has been suggested to train and empower health workers and to strengthen their professional networks. In particular, UN organizations such as the WHO, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UNICEF and THE WORLD BANK are emphasising the potential of mobile phones and, increasingly, of social media to support health workers and to address health related development goals. Despite these expectations and the increasing abundance of mobile phones and social media in many African countries, little is known regarding how to leverage the convergence of mobile phones and social media to support rural health workers.


To address this gap, the proposed project aims to accomplish the following goals, by systematically using Social Mobile Media Spaces (SMMS) to support rural nurses in Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa. SMMS are understood as group spaces on social media, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, that nurses access by means of their mobile phones.

  • To develop new and innovative methods to leverage SMMS systematically to strengthen training and professional networks using participatory design including: (a) guidelines and instructions for learners; (b) moderation scripts for trainers and moderators; and (c) policy recommendations for a broader and global audience
  • To apply and validate these methods through two types of research interventions involving thousands of nurses in the target countries
  • To determine scientifically the effects of the SMMS-based interventions
  • To broadly apply and disseminate these methods in the engagement, support and training of rural health workers
  • To increase the impact on practice by validating and widely circulating the practice deliverables through an interdisciplinary advisory board
  • To disseminate scientific findings into academia via publications in leading journal in the respective fields as well as presentations at international conferences and UN-based summits


The proposed project addresses two basic challenges that impede the delivery of health services in rural areas: the poor qualifications of health professionals as well as their limited capacity to build and engage in professional networks. It is expected that health workers who are enabled to better apply the training knowledge in practice and who can engage in the exchange of lessons learned and experiences with extended professional networks are more knowledgeable and can thus provide better health services. Strengthening the professional networks of isolated health workers is expected to increase job satisfaction and it may even enhance their job retention, thus potentially increasing (or at least sustaining) the quantity and magnitude of health services.

Geographic scope

  • Nigeria
  • Zambia
  • South Africa

Research consortium


  • Urs Gröhbiel, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, School of Business, Institute for Information Systems, Switzerland
  • Ademola Johnson Ajuwon, University of Ibadan, College of Medicine, Faculty of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion and Education, Nigeria
  • Michelo Charles, University of Zambia, School of Medicine, Department of Public Health, Zambia
  • Jennifer Chipps, University of Western Cape, School of Nursing, Faculty of Community and Health, South Africa


  • Christoph Pimmer, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, School of Business, Institute for Information Systems, Switzerland

Project link to P3

  • Link to project website

  • Link to project on SNSF research database P3




Further information on this content


Prof. Urs Gröhbiel Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz Peter Merian-Strasse 86 CH-4002 Basel +41 61 279 17 90