ghdLAB toolkit: launching an emergency call center for KenCall

by admin on April 4, 2011

A guide to the issues and steps in the process of launching an emergency call center in a resource-poor setting
based on the experience of a student project with KenCall in 2010

written by Hassani Turner, MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Class of 2010

Global Health Delivery Lab at MIT is a course that allows MBA students an opportunity to apply their business acumen to improve real health delivery challenges in developing economies. During the fall 2009 semester, I worked with KenCall, one of Kenya’s largest call centers. KenCall has realized success as a call center, still CEO Nik Nesbitt has a vision of expanding into the health delivery space.  Nesbitt believes that KenCall can use its core competencies as a functioning call center to be the main point of contact between a caller in need of emergency services and organizations that have the ability to deliver such services.

There are many components that should be considered in launching an emergency services call center in a resource poor region.  I believe there are six critical elements that make up a framework that should be thoroughly analyzed prior to a pilot launch. These elements are mapping, logistics, partnerships, financing, marketing, and monitoring and administration.

For instance, while analyzing the mapping element, I discovered a few challenges for KenCall.  Most resource poor regions do not have the luxury of having access to reliable detailed maps that give an accurate picture of land characteristics.  This is specifically challenging for areas identified as slums. A creative way that a region can be mapped is via GPS technology.  In the article titled Youth Group Puts Their Kibera Neighbourhood on Digital Map, the author Susan Anyangu-Amu documents how the organization OpenStreetMap was able to empower Kibera youth to map their community.  Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa with over 1.2 million residents covering a mere 2.5 square kilometers. The author shows that non-governmental organizations, private and public companies can ascertain the necessary services needed in complicated areas such as the Kibera slum through creative technologies such as digital maps.

Beyond the necessary demographic mapping, Kibera is a challenge in terms of resource mapping.  Currently the available resource for transporting an injured caller is a standard ambulance.  However, Kibera has narrow roads which are poorly constructed.  A traditional ambulance would find it difficult to reach any injured individual in this type of community.  As a result, new types of vehicles need to be considered.  One way to circumvent some of the obstacles that a traditional ambulance may have in reaching a patient is through the Riders for Health model.  Riders for Health has successfully outfitted motorbikes with sidecars to reach areas once considered unreachable.

Thoughtfully penetrating a community like Kibera, which has no formal signage or properly constructed roads from which to locate and transport a caller in need of assistance, will be a challenge for KenCall. Still, through resources like OpenStreetMap and Riders for Health, those obstacles can be reduced.  Recognizing the need for such resources is critical early on in the planning process.  The six element framework guides companies in their attempt to flush out these types of issues.

Once a thoughtful analysis of these elements has been conducted, a company can integrate their learnings into a project map which is critical for an organized execution.  A project map can be revised during the process, but initially sets up a visual outline of the entire launch from start to finish.  Further, it establishes internal accountability and accountability amoung various partners.  By integrating the established six elements into a detailed plan for execution, a company can avoid some of the major obstacles that come with launching an emergency health delivery service, specifically a call center, in a resource poor setting.

Download the How to Launch an Emergency Call Center Manual.

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