Communities and citizens around the globe are realizing the role information and communication technologies (ICT) can play in transforming their lives. Governments, like other sectors, are looking to ICT as a key instrument for their own transformation agendas. Whether they are seeking to create new governance processes through citizen engagement initiatives, reduce corruption by providing new levels of transparency and accountability, improve the quality of life of the chronically underserved, or contribute to the green economy by simply making traditional government services more efficient in the use of resources and reducing the carbon footprint, ICT-based strategies are recognized as a powerful agent of transformation.

The low entry cost and the ease of use of modern ICT and mobile devices especially are removing barriers in telecommunications and empowering citizens to connect to government and public service providers in entirely new ways. The low barriers to entry present opportunities not just to extend access to existing services, but to fully reconsider the whole spectrum of public services provided to people. Reconsidering governance and service delivery, in terms of a citizenry empowered with ICT, allows entirely new levels of civic engagement and government accountability and transparency, which in turn enhance public service delivery and the use of public resources.

The impact of ICT is not only an internal process, it also affects the relationship with the citizens improving efficiency, reducing transaction costs, increasing the satisfaction level and supporting the transparency in the public management via the clear data flow among the different levels of government. ICT further creates a bridge with a competitive and globalized world opening many opportunities at social, cultural and economic ambit.

Problem Analysis

Mozambique is on the path to entrench democratic governance. However, there have been challenges affecting progress towards this end notably centered on transparency and accountability. This among others is attributed to limited CSO’s and citizen’s participation in governance thus failing to check the excesses of the state institutions.

Over 1000 NGO’s both local and international have been engaged in service delivery and advocacy work throughout the country. However information gaps have affected effective advocacy and citizen’s participation in governance. Civil society organizations have faced a lot of difficulty accessing and utilizing public documents for effective advocacy to foster transparency and accountability in Mozambique. Government resources and accountability tools like national development plans, sectoral strategic plans, policies, laws and budgets are very critical documents in enabling constructive engagement with government on issues of policy and good governance. However access and effective utilization of these documents that are by large easily available in hard copies than electronic version, is hampered by their form and voluminous nature. Referencing and navigating through the documents is difficult, cumbersome and time consuming considering competing demands of civil society organizations. Although Mozambique’s strategies is to utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to create an efficient Government aimed at simplifying procedures, bringing transparency, accountability and making timely information available to all citizens, this has not yet materialized. Some government institutions, such as public libraries, hospitals, schools, are providing information, but most of these do not use ICT to disseminate information. Thus government has not yet put systems in place to provide useful or relevant information to the general public using ICT, and most of the efforts being made to disseminate information are private.

Furthermore, though the ICT sector in Mozambique has grown very fast over the past 10 years, especially in telecommunications, the benefits have not been exploited by CSOs and citizens in promoting good governance and improved service delivery. This is so because of lack of knowledge in usage of ICT and lack of programs targeting them. The ICT polices have also not been sensitive in empowering citizens participation in affairs of government and challenging the effective delivery of services. These challenges disproportionately affect citizen engagement in governance.

Opportunities for ICT as a tool for promoting SRHR in Mozambique

Mozambique’s Health Sector Strategic Plan -PESS 2014-2019 outlines bold commitments as regards to leveraging modern technology in the sector’s effort to improve service delivery. The strategic plan in the Primary Health Care approach emphasizes the importance of health promotion and the use of adequate technologies in the provision of accessible, locally relevant and acceptable services.

To achieve the strategic goals stipulated by the Health Sector strategic plan, different actors have partnered with the Government in the use of innovative technology to improve service delivery.

In August 2016, the Government of Mozambique together with UNFPA, UNICEF,Coalizão and other partners launched the Action for Girls programme dubbed Rapariga Biz, with the ambitious goal of reaching 1 million vulnerable adolescent girls by 2020. Rapariga Biz trains girls through weekly “sessions” to act as mentors to other girls in their local communities on topics ranging from sexual and reproductive health to menstrual health and hygiene management.

 Another widely used digital innovation in Mozambique is SMS BIZ, also known as U-Report, UNICEF’s free digital youth engagement tool used by over 100,000 U-Reporters nationally – 40% of whom are girls. The platform was initially used by UNICEF Country Offices as a way to hear from youth directly, through regular polling and surveys. SMS Biz equips more than 3000 girl mentors with mobile access to an SMS-based peer counsel service that supports continuous training and answers their most pressing questions and concerns

Problem Analysis

Young people’s access to mobile phones is increasing. Mobile phones have changed the way that young people communicate and get information (PSI, 2016). The evidence shows that digital health interventions are being used to increase youth’s access to SRH information and services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) (Ippoliti & L’Engle, 2017).

According to PSI, from 2015 to 2016 more than 100,000 women and girls in Mozambique used their mobile phones to accept e-referrals for family planning services after community-based discussions of family planning with health promoters.

Despite the policy and innovative technology interventions towards improved access to youth-friendly and quality health sexual reproductive services, many AGYW especially in peri-urban and rural Mozambique remain left behind. Thousands remain vulnerable to inequalities such as child marriages unwanted pregnancy, lack of access to education, and gender-based violence.

In using digital innovations, it is important to consider the different needs of young people on the basis of their demographic characteristics especially in terms of location, whether they are from urban or rural areas. The challenge lies with the technology need for each. Mobile health interventions for instance assume that all people have access to a mobile phone which may not be a reality in rural settings. It is important that frameworks such as the placement of activists with mobile phones and use of manual referrals be put in place to maintain an inclusive approach to reaching the target population.