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What Digital Data Can Tell Us About Contraception and Teenage Pregnancy

Chris Lukolyo
Nov 19, 2014
 
 
The work of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda includes helping ensure that people have access to family planning and contraception to reduce STI's and unplanned pregnancies. 
 
UNFPA in Uganda has been working in partnership with Pulse Lab Kampala on a pilot project to explore the use of digital data to understand the conversations related to contraception and teenage pregnancy and also to analyze the perceptions towards different types of contraception within a small section of the Ugandan population - those posting publicly on Facebook or responding to U-Report surveys.
 
Pulse Lab Kampala researchers anonymized and then analyzed comments on Ugandan public Facebook pages along with all messages from UNICEF’s citizen reporting platform, known as U-report, from January 2009 to May 2014. The result is displayed in this family planning perceptions dashboard.
 
Figure 1: Frequency of terms used in connection with condoms
 
From our analysis of the image featured at the top of this post, it was noted that condoms were by far the most prevalent topic of conversation in relation to contraception. This table also demonstrates how different methods of contraception trend from one quarter to another as do the emerging topics of discussion in relation to contraception and teenage pregnancy.
 
Figure 1 indicates further analysis with conversations on condoms being mostly associated with words such as safe, free and best, indicating positive perceptions towards condoms as a contraceptive method. 
 

Potential areas for further consideration

 
This tool can be built upon and adapted to be relevant to the requirements of policy makers and programme implementers. The UNFPA team identified the following potential areas for further study:
 

First, if conversations about contraception can be shown to have a correlation with levels of purchase of contraceptives, this platform could serve as a proxy for estimating demand for different methods of contraception. The platform could also be used to benchmark and track the effectiveness of different family planning programmes being implemented. (A barrier to establishing such a correlation 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, retail/purchase data offers an opportunity for investigation of this theory. Pulse Lab Kampala colleagues is currently working to develop relationships with vendors to access such data.)


 

Secondly, this tool can be used to determine which contraception methods are preferred by different groups within the population and therefore to have contraception use serve as a signal for changing behavior within different segments of the population. Researchers are currently segmenting these conversations by age and geographical location. 


 

Third, the sentiments observed towards different types of contraception can serve as early warning signals and calls for intervention. For example if the perception that “condoms are fake” 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, because the dashboard provides an opportunity for Pulse Lab Kampala and UNFPA to track emerging topics of discussion in relation to teenage pregnancy, it can enable agencies like UNFPA to tailor their programming to the needs of the populations they serve.

 
This pilot project offers an indication of how digital data and real-time analytics technologies might increasingly be used for monitoring and evaluation of ongoing programmes as well as for early warning of emerging vulnerabilities and needs within populations being served.
 
Top image: Trending contraception types in conversation
 

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