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Digital innovation

M-shule: Programme innovation pilot

Providing free Wi-Fi hotspots in areas hosting refugees in the Nairobi neighbourhoods of Eastleigh and Mlango Kubwa to facilitate access to risk communication on Covid-19 and entrepreneurship business training for refugees and the host community.

The M-shule Free Wi-Fi hotspots facility

Free access to risk communication on covid 19 for +1,000 users/month
+600 entrepreneurs to have access to offline business training
+ 500 students to have access to offline education content and gender-based violence key messages

M-Shule is the first personalized mobile learning platform in Africa to deliver tailored educational content and data insights, even through SMS. Meaning “mobile school” in Swahili, M-Shule’s platform uses artificial intelligence to deliver personalized learning support in literacy, numeracy and 21st-century skills over SMS and chatbots, building concept mastery, skill performance, and confidence.

The free Wi-Fi platform provided users the ability to do digital work and earn “points”. These points could be spent on accessing the internet for free. The platform could also host offline content which was openly available without needing points.

M-Shule shares data and insights with stakeholders and organizations to power better support and collaboration. By making 21st-century learning and data management possible with the simplest feature phone, M-Shule unlocks new opportunities for millions of beneficiaries across Sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

The project provided complementary support and data collection systems to DRC’s urban livelihoods team and its beneficiaries. The project addressed the limited human capacity to conduct trainings, business visits, and data collection activities. The time-intensive nature of all these activities means that while the workshops provided are intensive, ongoing follow-up support, data management, and interventions are not as frequent as the team would like.

Affected populations targeted were urban refugees and their host community in Nairobi, Kenya

Success: The project was able to improve business learning by way of SMS technology to provide efficient, regular data collection and insights to the project team, along with “in-service” skill-building and business management support to beneficiaries.

The pilot improved beneficiaries’ knowledge, usage and adoption of best business practices, thus improving the frequency and quality of business data collected and making it easier for the project team to identify gaps and better support their beneficiaries.


DRC Danish Refugee Council ran an urban livelihoods business training program for adult and young adult refugees in Eastleigh, Nairobi. The program aimed to teach and support refugees in setting up or expanding their small businesses and income-generating activities.

The program begins with a 4-day workshop, during which refugees receive an introductory course in business planning, oversight, and management. The workshop is generally tailored from the ILO guide to fit the specific needs of the beneficiaries in the room, including customizing to previous business knowledge and acumen, culture, and language. At the end of the workshop and approval of a business plan, the beneficiaries may receive a small grant to start or scale their business.

After the course, the beneficiaries are expected to apply the skills they have learned in the operation of their business. The program team then follows up with the beneficiaries to track how well their business is performing. Success of this program is generally measured by how well the businesses are doing, as well as the greater impact these income-generating activities have on their individual income, household income, education, health, and the community.

The M-Shule Tech Monitoring and Learning Platform was proposed as a “post-training assistant” platform that provides complementary, post-workshop support and data collection system to the Danish Refugee Council’s urban livelihoods team and their beneficiaries. The pilot platform uses SMS to deliver efficient, regular data collection and insights to the project team, along with “in-service” skill-building and business management support to beneficiaries. The goal of this platform is to improve beneficiaries’ knowledge, usage and adoption of best business practices; improve the frequency and quality of business data collected; and make it easier for the project team to identify gaps and better support their beneficiaries. All of this will lead to better success for the beneficiaries’ businesses, livelihoods, and communities.

Target: 600 beneficiaries in the BDS and CSLA programs under the Danish Refugee Council.

Objectives, Outputs, & Outcomes

1. Design

The six-month project was made up of three phases: design and development; training; and finalization and implementation. This report summarizes the objectives successfully achieved in the three phases of the process.

The M-Shule approach leverages best practices in design thinking to design and implement tools involving beneficiaries themselves from Day 1 in creating a tool that will best fit their goals, needs, responsibilities, and into their daily lives.

This phase involved interviews with beneficiaries; small focus groups; observations during workshops and shadowing during the workday to understand daily behaviors; prototyping and demonstrations to pre-test everything from content to the user interactions; and feedback surveys.

We used a rapid iteration mindset to take all beneficiary feedback into account to ensure that the pilot platform is responsive, easy-to-use, and maximally impactful.

2. Development and training

During this phase, the key goals were to continue platform customization and launch and complete the training phase of all beneficiaries.

- Training Pilot: As this is a new digital project, we decided with the DRC project team to run a “pilot” training with champion beneficiaries to test the training approach, get feedback directly from the beneficiaries themselves, and use these insights to iterate on the training and platform to ensure success at full-launch. The pilot training was held on the 5th of December 2019 at DRC premises in Eastleigh. In attendance were 6 M-Shule staff, 5 DRC staff and 20 beneficiaries. All 20 of the invited beneficiaries attended the meeting. The goals were to test successful execution of the training format and generate feedback for the full training and were successfully achieved.

- Training Execution: After the successful pilot training was conducted and feedback implemented, the full training workshops began on 10th of January 2020. 14 trainings were successfully conducted by 30th January. Trainings were conducted in English, Kiswahili and Somali.

The goals of the training:

  1. Register all attendees onto the platform and create their user profiles
  2. Make sure the audience understood the product, the process of development and thought behind it.
  3. Help the audience see the value that the product is bringing to their businesses and groups.
  4. Set clear expectations for the training and after the training.
  5. Identify and overcome any questions, challenges, and blockages to regular usage.
  6. Finalization and implementation: During this phase, the key goals were to finalize trainings and set up the platform to function for the rest of the years’ implementation.


CSLA and BDS course content was tested and phased on 14th February and all registered beneficiaries activated with an SMS on 21st February with course enrollment and learning progress per user visible on the dashboardM-Shule conducted a training on the live content for a total of 42 beneficiaries (32 men and 10 women) and 2 DRC staff on 3rd March. Of the 42, 35 beneficiaries had started learning on their own noting that it was easy navigating through the platform. The 10 that had not interacted with the platform had not attended previous training sessions (due to unavoidable circumstances, with some having sent replacements).

A physical copy of the training manual was shared with the DRC staff for them to independently carry out subsequent trainings.

Portal training

DRC staff were trained on portal navigation and operation on 3rd March. A hand book of the same had been shared on email before the session.


The final deliverables were data clean up, customizing how data appears on the dashboard and migrating the platform to DRC servers, which was completed on 31st March.