The Child Helpline System is an Open Source Case Management System that supports reporting and case management of abuse cases of children through various channels of communication including calls, SMS and CHAT. Child Helplines are operational in more than 147 countries around the World. They play a critical role in Child Protection Systems by providing a reporting mechanism by adults and children on incident or risk of any abuse, violence and exploitation happening against any child.
To date the Child Helpline System has been implemented in more than 7 countries in Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana and Swaziland. The 3 Child Helplines in East Africa handle approximately 5,000 calls and 400 cases per day. More countries in Africa have expressed interest to deploy this year including Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Other regions that have expressed interest to implement the solution include Europe and Central Asia.
In 2016, the UNICEF East and South Africa Regional (ESAR) Office in Nairobi and Child Helpline International (CHI) conducted several activities to strengthen collaboration of the two organizations on activities geared towards reducing violence against children and ensure enhanced protection in ESAR. One of the key activities/ projects coming out of this collaboration was a study conducted by CHI and supported by the UNICEF ESARO which assessed the situation of child helplines in the ESAR with a focus on data collection systems including individual case management systems (software) being used by the countries in ESAR.
Through the study by CHI, which covered Burundi, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar among other countries, it was discovered that while most child helplines in the region use some kind of software for case management, the space was so fragmented with mostly bespoke solutions that often did not meet end-user expectations in all the country offices surveyed and most were struggling with limitations in scope and function and with no sufficient technical support from their original designers and developers.
While the initial cost of development was mostly covered by individual UNICEF offices in most countries many of the helplines supported did not have continued technical support for the installed platforms (case management software) and thus over time, the helplines were running on obsolete technology with frequent breakdowns and increased risk of data loss including privacy and data security issues.
Moreover, with the changing landscape for technology and communication channels, CHI discovered that most helplines would like to enable or include alternative channels of communication for reporting cases as well as outreach to clients, added to integration / interoperability with newly installed government owned child protection databases / management information systems (CPMIS but to make these critical software updates required making such individual bespoke updates to the individual platforms in all the countries which was considered very expensive and inefficient. In many of the countries, the original developers / consultants were not available to provide the technical services of upgrading the platforms.
To deal with these challenges, UNICEF and CHI international decided to embark on an effort to design and develop a generic child helpline case management solution for the ESAR starting with the upgrade of the helplines in three countries; Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – including Zanzibar to the same helpline software. The generic helpline is designed with an architectural approach that favors configuration for specific use-cases / customizations as opposed to bespoke software engineering for each context.
Bitz IT Consulting has partnered with UNICEF ESARO to design and build the generic helpline case management system providing architectural provisions that allow each of the country offices that deploy the helpline software to customize key aspects of the project to their context, this includes integration/interoperability with country specific child protection management information systems as well as customization of case forms, call work flows and communication channels among other customizations.
To further build on these efforts, it’s been proposed that although the generic helpline is currently being built according to FOSS principles and practices, it is also very important to develop a strong open source community around the product to ensure continued development and evolution of a standard’s based, cost effective and reliable child protection case management software product with wide, cost effective and reliable technical support for the platform (especially local tech support) in each country guaranteeing long term sustainability of the helplines.
With this in mind and with the technical guidance and coordination by the UNICEF ESAR Office, three country teams from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania comprising of child protection experts from UNICEF country offices, government stakeholders such as the Ministries in charge of child protection affairs including Ministry of Gender and Social Development in Uganda, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Social Protection in Kenya and members of civil society and NGOs dealing with child welfare issues in those countries came together and conducted a requirements gathering and analysis exercise for a generic set of features that cut across all the three country context as well as assessing key customizations that are necessary for each of the individual country contexts.
Currently, it is estimated that there is an almost 80 percent overlap in features / required functionality across the three country offices giving a minimum viable set of requirements/features with enough value for all countries. It was also determined that the bulk of the required customization had to do with integration or interoperability with national child protection databases in each of the individual country offices.
The group therefore commissioned the development of a Generic Helpline system that can be deployed in different countries with minimal country specific customizations. The development exercise and support is expected to run for 2 years from 2018 to the year 2020 and is fully funded by UNICEF ESARO.
However, this support from UNICEF does not include the development of a vibrant open source community which, as explained above, is critical to the long-term sustainability and evolution of the helpline into a standards-based, cost effective, easy-to-deploy and reliable child protection case management system.
With this funding, the goal is to build an OpenCHS Community of Practice to coordinate and consolidate contributions and efforts from various partners. Therefore we intend to establish a curated and moderated one-stop virtual space for engagement, knowledge sharing and learning amongst OpenCHS implementers, developers and users.
We are a diverse team that has come together to make sure that the OpenCHS community of practice becomes a reality. Each member of the team brings onboard something different and unique to the community.
Child Helpline International is a collective impact organization working to defend the rights of children and youth worldwide. The network consists of 181 member organizations operating in 147 countries around the world (December 2017). Since its founding in 2003, it has supported the creation of new child helplines and strengthened the network by sharing what has been learned from the best of them, with all of them. Having helped to start Child Helplines across the globe and its diverse geographical reach in many countries CHI glues together the OpenCHS CoP to achieve its objectives.
UNICEF ESARO Located in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) coordinates and supervises UNICEF’s work in 21 countries: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The work is organized around UNICEF’s key priorities in the region: Young Child Survival and Development, Children and AIDS, Basic Education and Gender Equality, Child Protection, and Emergency Preparedness and Response. They support Child Helplines in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region. Over the years they have provided both Technical and Financial support to the Child helplines and to the development of the Child Helpline System. Their technical guidance and participation will be vital to the community of practice.
UNICEF Europe and Central Asia have also expressed interest in joining the community of practice. Their participation is key to the recruitment of members (countries) from this region.
3 Governments through the respective Ministries, departments of Children Services and Child Helplines are the principal clients of the Child Helpline System. The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Gender and Social Services supports Childline Kenya, The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development supports Sauti Child Helpline and the government of Tanzania through the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children supports C-Sema a Non-governmental organization that runs the Child Helpline in Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. Participation of government Ministries and departments is seen as vital to the success of the OpenCHS solution as it provides an avenue for integration to the governments Child Protection Information Management System.
Bitz IT Consulting Ltd (http://www.bitz-itc.com) is a leading Kenyan software development and consultancy firm that specializes in developing open source software for hotlines. The company was founded in 2007 and has delivered software projects across the African continent. Bitz ITC has collaborated with UNICEF in development of the Open Source Child Helpline System for integration with CPIMS and GBV systems in the continent for the last 5 Years. Bitz will use its experience to manage the development process of the OpenCHS community of practice and moderate on the collaboration and also use its team to set the collaboration environment. Together with our partners Bitz technical team will provide support to those who have deployed the solution and offer technical support to those new members who will be deploying the solution. They will also coordinate contributions and efforts within the community to improve the OpenCHS, documentation, training and offering technical support to the members in the community.
The stakeholders aim is to support the building of a community of practice to serve as an organizational home for the open source Child Helpline System (OpenCHS). We intend to build a more diverse and collaborative contributor community responsible for expansion of the OpenCHS, making accessible documentation and support for users of the system. This collaboration and sharing of information will enable stakeholders in countries around the world where the Child helplines exist to receive a roadmap for documentation, technology transfer & training, code clean-up and governance through a mature fully Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Initially the CHS has been maintained by a single organization which has led to fragmentation and siloes in the Child Protection ecosystem and Child Helpline Solution.
Initially CHS systems deployed around the continent have been rigid whereby for a country to change some aspects of the system such as location fields, Case Category fields and generally any country specific customization would require redevelopment and changes to be done from the source code. The new release has come with the use of dynamic forms (x-forms) whereby country specific customization can be done by the local support teams by adding those requirements in an Excel formatted sheet and uploading it into the deployed system. Because of the nature of the collaborative approach we are looking forward to in the community, such added functionalities which are required will be achieved more easily through contributions from other members who will be exposed to the solution. The matrix below shows the activities that have been completed so far:
Workshops held in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to initiate the upgrade process
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Requirements gathering exercise done in Uganda, Kenya, Mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar
Functional Requirements Document (FRD)
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Design of Helpline system Modules, data flow diagrams, data tables, metadata and integrations with external child protection systems
System Design Document (SDD)
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Release1 Core Modules
Core Modules include Case Registration, Case Management, Case Escalation & Follow-up, Quality Analysis, Dashboards and Reports.
Generic Helpline System
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Additional communication channels including SMS, CHAT, Mobile App, Teleworking
Additional Communication Channels
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Training Manuals, User and Technical Manuals
Fully Funded by UNICEF
Building OpenCHS Community of Practice
Setup online OpenCHS CoP, Maintaining a shared online space for community member communication, documentation and supporting materials
Member recruitments Promoting the CoP through events, build a shared roadmap for community collaboration, Identifying opportunities for merging of code bases, or migration to a shared code base
OpenCHS Community of Practice
Improvement and Enhancement of the OpenCHS
Better User experience, Multi-lingual support, Self-installing packaging
Better application, easy to deploy
Additional 3 Countries in 3 regions to deploy
Expand users by supporting 3 countries in 3 Continents to deploy
3 more Child helplines as Users across 3 continents
Use Cases, User Stories, and Activities
The OpenCHS use cases include Case Registration, Case Management, Case Escalation and Follow-up, Quality Analysis, User Roles dashboards, Reports representing functions or processes taking place in the Child Helpline call centers and externally for referrals of cases.
During the writing of this proposal we have reached out to the wider OpenCHS community mostly implementers of the solution and they were excited with this initiative. Below are some of the feedback that we have received so far.
“This is a great move James. We have really struggled for support and sometimes response times have been very slow. The community will ensure that our internal IT personnel have capacity to support the solution.” Kenneth Ayebazibwe, Ministry of Gender Labor & Social Development – Uganda
“We are excited to be part of the community of practice. The system is required in Europe & Central Asia region and the community will provide a platform for developers to understand requirements for this region.” BP Panwar, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia region.
“We will be happy to assist developers integrate the Child Helpline System to the governments Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS). Integrating Child Helpline System to the CPIMS makes CPIMS a better system.” Newton, Developer Department of Children Services – Kenya
“Wonderful initiative that is long overdue. Developers will have a platform to engage and come up with enhancements to the CHS. Am glad to participate on the backend technologies.” Jimmy Wanyama, Independent Consultant -Telecloud
- Year 1: Develop and launch the Community of Practice platform, knowledge management (curation of resources), promotion of the Community of Practice, as well as relationship management and moderation of member engagement in order to build a strong, heterogeneous and active community,
- Year 2: Develop strategies to sustain the Community of Practice
- Creating a digital home for OpenCHS knowledge sharing, collaborations, and technology offerings thus Provide a Platform for technology transfer and training for users and implementers of the OpenCHS.
- Coordination of activities and processes related to organization and integration of data collected from various sources, annotation, publication and presentation of the data in a format that adds value for all stakeholders.
- Maintenance of international standards and best practices for CHS ensuring proper integration into workflows, transactions, and technologies.
- Identifying opportunities for merging of code bases, or migration to a shared code base, to strengthen the efforts on CPIMS services;
- Developing a shared technical roadmap for the solution where applicable; and,
- Providing or coordinating technical support for members and projects through the community.
- Development of specifications for interoperability of the OpenCHS to the CPIMS
- Expand the OpenCHS software APIs and workflows for use with multiple Child Protection Systems;
- Develop documentation and supporting materials for the OpenCHS software; and,
- Provide technical support to community members for implementation and use of the software.
- Fund raising strategy to support sustainability of the CoP beyond the 2 years of the initial funding.
- Enlisting more Child Helplines from among the 147 countries to be members of the community. Their contributions will be factored in future upgrades and releases.
- Identifying opportunities for interactions of members to strengthen the knowledge base, resource library, and technology offerings within the community
- Building a shared roadmap for community collaboration on CHS tools and technologies, while encouraging the sharing of individual product and organization roadmaps within the community for identification of alignment and collaboration opportunities.
- Performing an assessment of the open source CHS landscape (functions, technologies, implementations, support /community) to guide content prioritization, identify opportunities for consolidation, and engage additional community participants.
- Promoting the Community of Practice in order to increase the pool of members and volunteers
- Undertaking outreach presentations
- Participating in outreach events
- Marketing the Community of Practice via web and social media channels
- Travel to promote the OpenCHS Community of Practice
- Developing and distribution of Promotional Material
- Managing content within the Community of Practice in order to ensure it is relevant and up-to-date
- Developing and identifying content to share with Community of Practice
- Curating content that is uploaded by Community of Practice members
- Managing the taxonomy of content to make it easier for users to find what their looking for (e.g. through effective tagging of key words)
- Signposting Community of Practice members to available content
- Facilitating the engagement within the Community of Practice to connect members and encourage participation
- Maintaining a Community of Practice members list
- Identifying pools of experts within the Community of Practice and subsequently signposting members of Community of Practice in need of support towards them
- Triggering discussions relevant to the Community of Practice within the community forum
- Capturing and packaging learning within the Community of Practice
- Gathering member feedback using polls/surveys, for example, regarding future system enhancements
- Support facilitation of webinars/presentations through the Community of Practice
- Sending out reminders to the community for contribution
- Maintaining the Community of Practice platform
- General platform administration
- Maintaining a shared online space for community member communication, documentation and supporting materials, and other community functions as needed;
- Troubleshooting issues associated with the use of the Community of Practice web platform
Expected outcomes from this funding include:
- A robust OpenCHS community of practice that developers, implementers, and users can share and collaborate on technologies, materials, and informatics;
- A community that identifies and builds out OpenCHS interoperability standards-based and needs-based workflows for integration into the larger facility-level and upper-level Child Protection ecosystem.
- Expansion of the OpenCHS system that is flexible, easy to deploy and use, mature APIs for integration to external systems such as CPIMS, GBV or any other Health system.
OpenCHS Digital Health Technologies
We plan to utilize existing digital health tools and technologies. We will therefore bring together several existing mature common tools and technologies to incorporate in our development. Some of these mature tested tools include Enketo, X-Forms, RapidPro, Superset for dashboards among others. Choice of technologies are listed below:
2 - Sentence overview
OpenCHS is a system that captures abuse cases against children reported through calls, SMS, CHAT or other communication channels and is run by Child Helplines supported by Child Helpline International (A Network of more than 147 countries) and UNICEF. Our consortium aims to build a Community of Practice to serve as an organizational home for the OpenCHS whose main goal will be to bring together users, implementers, partners and stakeholders in the health domain to develop the workflows, transactions, technologies, and supporting materials therefore developing a more robust solution that is easy to deploy, accessible by many more countries and that can be implemented with local technical support.
The primary purpose of this proposal is to request funding support for advocacy activities for the initiatives of building a robust community of Practice that has a wide membership across the globe, improve the product for ease of deployment and use and support an initial 3 countries across 3 continents to deploy and use the current OpenCHS.
The OpenCHS CoP will be a digital home for stakeholders, members, partners, developers and implementers to share knowledge, provide inputs and give feedback. It therefore provides a great platform for the wider Child Protection Information Management Systems (CPIMS).
Up to this point we have established support from partners / members we count on in this process of building the CoP.
- UNICEF East and Southern Africa Region with 21 Member countries
- UNICEF Europe and Asia Region with 21 Member countries
- Child Helpline International with more than 147 members
- Childline Kenya
- C-Sema Tanzania () NGO that runs the Child Helpline in Tanzania & Zanzibar
- Sauti Uganda that runs the Child Helpline in Uganda
- Ministry of Gender and Social Services Kenya
- University of Nairobi Department of Computer Science -Developers of the CPIMS Kenya`
- University of Dar-es-Salaam developers of CPIMS Tanzania
- Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development Uganda
We expect this list to grow during the first and second year of the CoP even as more members join. We also have independent consultants onboard who bring specific skills to the community.
We will make effort to present at conferences, symposiums and seminars as well as organize events to promote OpenCHS initially in the regions of Africa, Europe and Asia as well as receive feedback.
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) provides channels to promote the CoP. When possible, television and radio appearances also provide the opportunity to promote the CoP.
Initially we plan to have weekly feedback sessions which will be conducted online. As stated we will bring in the right innovative Enterprises through proper recruitment. We will bring relevant topics in the CoP for discussion and do a proper documenting of the CoP discussions and eventually implementing the best ideas in the best way possible.
The CoP will make public all ongoing work for input and feedback, as well as, directly request input on materials quarterly. Moreover the OpenCHS community will actively engage with the other global goods awardees to seek out collaboration and share their experience in building a CoP.
Self-Assessment on the Global Goods Maturity Model
Digital Health Atlas
Please see the MAPS Toolkit on the link below:
Work plan and Schedule
Our work plan is guided by the proposed activities listed above. Please see attached OpenCHS Gantt chart that enumerates milestones and indicates the member or partner responsible to oversee that particular process. The Gantt chart can also be accessed on Google docs link below:
Measures of Success:
We target to work with our partners to enroll as many implementers and users of the system as possible. Our partners Child Helpline International have a network of 147 countries. Our other partners UNICEF ESARO and UNICEF Europe & Central Asia have a combined membership of more than 42 countries. We will work with all stakeholders to define what metrics to use to measure the success of the OpenCHS community of practice. Initially we have grouped below deliverables over the period of 2 Years.
Create an Online Digital Home
Virtual Community Established housing appropriate communication tools and processes
Identify opportunities for interactions and collaborations
The community houses a group of organizations and a codebase for sharing CHS expertise, best practices, and code
Community members can easily see the OpenCHS roadmap and identify opportunities for overlapping goals and interests.
Processes for identifying and prioritizing content, goals and interests are clearly stipulated for the community members and partners.
Recruit as many members as possible including other domains of interest such as HIV, GBV
Implementers are Child Helplines
Regions / Continents
More distribution in these 3 regions
Promotion to other continents /regions to use OpenCHS
Apart from the existing partners bring others on board
We intend to onboard developers in applications such as RapidPro, RapidSMS, Enketo, Superset, Druid and other applications / technologies in use by OpenCHS
Surveys / Success Stories
A safe platform for implementers, developers, users is provided for them to share their success stories
Workshops / Conferences
Hold 2 promotional workshops in 2 regions improving membership to the CoP (1 to be held in Africa and the other in Europe & Asia region)
User Interface Enhancements
API development and Self-installer Packaging
Roadmap strategy for development of release of version 2.0
Improved User, Training and Technical Manuals
As more members join the CoP more users of the solution will come onboard enhancing the global good of the OpenCHS solution.
*Based on community contributions start development of version 2.0 by end of Year 2
Governance Structure and Sustainability
Being an open source community the OpenCHS community will see social capital as the main capital. This will therefore mean prioritizing people management so that contributors feel a sense of belonging and needed and that their contributions add value to the project.
The OpenCHS community will be governed through a well-developed charter that is simple and clearly understood by members. We have proposed to have a qualified Health Systems Management expert lead this process of developing a governance charter. While building this community of Practice we will aim to adopt a governance structure that balances between autonomy and control. At this early stage of building the community we will focus on expanding the CoP. In this regard the focus will be to expand the Child Helpline CoP by improving the Open Child Helpline System (OpenCHS) and by making moderate use of a wide selection of governance mechanisms. As many members across the different continents will be encouraged to join the community. Initially we will encourage knowledge sharing by members within the domain but eventually contributions from outside the organization will also be welcomed. Strong leadership of the community will be essential at this stage but with low disciplinary authority. By end of the 2nd Year we hope to have a probing community where knowledge is shared with members throughout (and outside) the OpenCHS CoP and focus will be on generating new practices, exploring new knowledge domains, improving operational efficiency supported by a governance structure that replaces direct managerial control with indirect nurturing of the communities routines.
Some of the guiding principles that will help in forging the sense of a community and management of the community will include:
- Membership – Clearly defined criteria for membership hence promoting the feeling of belonging. The process will be open and transparent.
- Influence - Establish a platform for members to influence community and community to influence members
- Fulfillment of needs – Members will feel rewarded in some way for their participation
- Emotional connection – Whether it’s the Child Helplines across the globe, government Ministries, donors such as UNICEF, PLAN International, Save the Children and any other stakeholders, they will have a sense of shared history and shared participation
- Creating a community charter – This will indicate some of the values that the community lives up to as well as expectations in the community
- Our technical team will create a dashboard that monitors metrics of contributors such as showing how active a particular members have been. These can help to show activities of volunteers. If say a particular volunteer who has been very active all of a sudden is not as active a decision can be done to may be call them and check on them.
Long-term sustainability of the OpenCHS community is important. Child Helpline International currently has a membership of 147 Countries. Out of these about 7 countries are using the OpenCHS. Apart from Africa, the enhanced OpenCHS has received interest from more countries in Europe and Asia. It is therefore very important that a sustainability strategy is adopted to ensure that the community benefits from the social and financial capital investment that will go into development of this community.
If successful, the funding will get the CoP up and running. We intend to build the Community of Practice by bringing on board more members who will become active contributors to the community. Since most of these members will also be implementers of the solution, we anticipate a robust OpenCHS community of practice. Tensions in the community may lead to a fork often with negative effects on the solution. Building a heterogeneous community of practice is therefore critical to us and therefore:
- The community must be perceived as supportive, diversified and independent so that the governance will be appealing to both old and new contributors.
- No legal obstacles that could hinder development or distribution of the OpenCHS across the community of practice membership
- A culture that encourages re-use and distribution of the OpenCHS as much as possible.
- Documentation of the source code and the OpenCHS solution to be properly done
- Most importantly for the developer members is that the technologies utilized in this solution are also applicable in other domains. An example is the call, QA and case registration modules. These can independently be plugged into other solutions such as gender based violence and other health related systems with little customizations. We believe this will encourage developers to participate in contributing to the project and remain in the community.
- Risks are reduced as there is no single firm or organization that has sole knowledge and monopoly of the OpenCHS as it is open and transparent
Overall the long-term sustainability of OpenCHS does present a challenge but we see good recruitment of contributors and right platforms to retain contributors as critical and fundamental to the success of the OpenCHS community of practice. Together with our partners and the steering sub-committee that will be formed we will work together to source for further funding in support of the community beyond the 2nd year of the project.
The application development environments are available on
ü Link to sandbox test environment
ü Setup of code on GitHub for the public is done
-For source code documentation, showcase of work and easy contribution
ü Link to the project Management online Process
- Child Helpline System (CHS)
- Open Child Helpline System (OpenCHS)
- Case Management System (CMS)
- Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS)
- Call Center Managers
- Counsellors (Agents)
- Case Escalation
- Case Follow up
- Case Referral