Using Digital Data to Surface Attitudes to Contraception and Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda

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At Pulse Lab Kampala we have been working on a project in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in UgandaIn this pilot project, we are helping UNFPA to use digital data to understand trends in conversation related to contraception and teenage pregnancy. Pulse Lab Kampala is also analyzing perceptions towards different types of contraception within a small section of the Ugandan population, in real-time.  
In this first stage, researchers anonymized and then analyzed all comments on Ugandan public Facebook pages along with all messages from UNICEF’s Ureport platform from January 2009 to May 2014. The initial results can be seen in the UNFPA Uganda family planning perceptions dashboard, which is still a work in progress but which provides a tool that colleagues can begin to use to find out more.

Attitudes to Contraception and Teenage Pregnancy

From our analysis, it has been noted that condoms are by far the most prevalent topic of conversation in relation to contraception. Our analysis also shows how different methods of contraception trend from one quarter to another – something that is worth exploring further.  
We think as it becomes more developed, this tool could be relevant to policy makers and programme implementers in the following ways:
First, if conversations about contraception can be shown to have a correlation with sales of contraceptives, this platform could serve as a proxy for estimating demand for different methods of contraception and for tracking the effectiveness of different family planning programmes being implemented. A potential complication in this hypothesis is that a large percentage of the contraceptives used in Uganda are distributed freely through government, non-profit and community networks. However, for urban areas with established vendors of contraceptives, purchase data offers an opportunity for investigation of this theory. Pulse Lab Kampala is currently working to develop relationships with such vendors.
Secondly, this tool can be used to determine which contraception methods are preferred by different groups within the population. This means that contraception use serves as a signal for changing behavior within different segments of the population. To this end, a further analysis of the available data is being conducted to segment these conversations by age and geographical location.
Third, the sentiments observed towards different types of contraception can serve as early warning signals which could prompt an intervention. For example, we have benchmarked conversation around the perception that “condoms are fake” , but if this was seen to rise, it might serve as a call to action for agencies to either check the quality of condoms available in the market or to address any public misinformation about condoms.
Finally, the dashboard provides an opportunity for Pulse Lab Kampala and UNFPA to track emerging topics of discussion in relation to teenage pregnancy. This provides an opportunity for agencies like UNFPA to tailor their programming and communication campaigns to the populations they serve.
This pilot project, although far from complete, gives some ideas on how digital data and real-time analytics technologies might be used for monitoring and evaluation of ongoing programmes as well as for early warning of emerging vulnerabilities and needs within populations being served.
Image: By Butterfly Works, licensed via Creative Commons

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