Concept Development

© 2009 Josh Nesbit, Courtesy of Photoshare

As with any new programmatic effort, proper planning is essential to a successful mHealth initiative. In public health, funders, ministries, and implementers use a variety of planning processes to link strategic objectives with health outcomes. These processes are also useful for weaving appropriate evidence-based and high impact practices into project design. Adding mHealth to a health program is no different.

The planning steps introduced in this section of the Guide are designed to support implementers exploring the possibility of applying mHealth to a program. Questions like, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” “Who will be using the solution?” and “How does the intended target population use mobile technology?” begin to shed light on two very important points:
  1. mHealth might not be the best or only solution to address the health issue.
  2. The target population(s) must be involved from the beginning to validate and contribute to the design of the mHealth concept.

The factors to consider during concept development will help health program planners gain an in-depth understanding of whether there is a need for an mHealth solution. Is mHealth an appropriate tool to use to address a given challenge?

Specifically, this section of the Guide will help you:

  • Learn about mHealth Capability. What might mHealth look like within my health effort?
  • Explore Possible Solution & Desired Results. What interventions might help achieve project goals and objectives?
  • Develop a Logic Model. How will the mHealth solution address the health problem and lead to its intended outcomes?
  • Conduct a Landscape Analysis to understand more about the mobile industry and mHealth community in your program’s intended country of operation, the key players, and what mHealth projects already exist. In the context of my effort, what do I need to know?
  • Identify and understand your Target Population, with guidance to conduct formative research directly with the intended end users. What do I need to know about the people who would be involved in this effort—and how do I find that out?

If you determine that mHealth is the right tool, at the end of the concept development phase you will have a validated mHealth concept that is ready for Solution Design & Testing.

If you have an mHealth initial planning or concept development experience or resource you would like to share, please visit our feedback form.


“In my experience it takes at least 2-3 years for a program to go from concept to reasonable scale. Planning and testing takes a long time, and implementers and donors have to be realistic about when results will start to appear.

For example, MAMA South Africa took about 3 months to conduct a large stakeholder workshop (with the government, MNOs, NGOs, etc.), define the implementing consortium of partners with associated roles and responsibilities, conduct two literature reviews, define the target audience (including focus groups with users), and landscape likely technology solutions. We needed 1 month for proposal approval from our funders. We spent 4-5 months on technology development, content localization and review, acquiring short codes, etc. We launched the beta version of the service about 10 months from the start of planning, and spent 2 months in user testing. It took an additional 12 months to formally integrate with an MNO platform and to reach 100,000 users. Two years from planning to fully operational is actually quite fast." - Joanne Peter, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action