Mobile data technology deployed to combat child labor in Morocco

By Jillian Slutzker

March 24, 2015

With mobile tablets in their hands, 22 researchers from Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech will go door-to-door in March in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region, surveying 1,200 households on attitudes, behaviors and demographic information around the issue of child labor.

The study is part of the four-year Promise Pathways Program which aims to reduce child labor in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz area and reach more than 5,500 youth and 1,000 family members. Funded by the U.S. Labor Department, Creative Associates International is implementing the program with several local partners.

An estimated 92,000 children ages 7 to14 are working—sometimes in dangerous and taxing trades like agriculture, domestic labor or artisanal sectors—according to Morocco’s High Commission for Planning.

“We have instant access to information that is collected and we can monitor the quality of the data collected,” says Seddik Ouboulahcen, the local Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the project, speaking about the benefits of a mobile-based study and database.

The information the researchers input in the tablets will be immediately synched in real-time in an Android web-based data system designed by the Moroccan technology for development company MTDS to catalog and analyze risk factors and critical information on child labor in the region.

“Fighting child labor depends on people not technology,” says Sandy Wark, head of the ICT4D department at MTDS. “But I hope that technology can make the work of people who are trying to make a difference easier.”

Deploying technology in the fight to end child labor, Wark explains, can include using data to raise red flags when a child shows warning signs of dropping out of school. These early warning systems would enable teachers and school administrators to take action.

Wark adds that databases and data mapping can be used to make information about existing social services more readily available so that a caseworker can connect a child or her family with organizations that can help.

“In these two examples, you see that the human component is still the most important, but good information systems can also help,” says Wark.

Deploying data at baseline and beyond

Researchers ask parents about their attitudes and behaviors around child labor.

The randomized household survey, along with mapped data on available services, a school climate survey and a participatory rural labor market assessment, comprise the baseline data set for the project.

The baseline data will be integrated into a larger data system the project team will access throughout the life of the project to track the progress of child laborers and their families, create personalized action plans and match those at risk of child labor with needed support from local organizations.

“Using mobile devices to collect data enables us to build a database we’ll use later on for service delivery for work with our beneficiaries,” explains Ouboulahcen.

The household survey asks children about their schooling, work status and work history, including the types of work they have engaged in, hours worked, wages, non-formal work, work-related injuries or sickness and dangers involved in their tasks.

While the primary beneficiaries of Promise Pathways are those under 18 at risk of work or already engaged in work, the family and household environment are critical components in preventing child labor as poverty is often its primary cause.

Researchers will survey adults in the household on economic indicators including the number of household assets and access to services such as healthcare, education, cash transfers, school transportation, micro-credit and bank loans. The baseline will also collect the attitudes of adult household members toward child labor.

“We are asking them to list what they consider the dangers of child labor and to list the risks they perceive of a child dropping out of school,” says Susan Rogers, Senior Associate for Monitoring and Evaluation at Creative. “If people don’t see much danger or risk, then we have a lot of work to do….The perceptions piece is very important.”

Building a well-coordinated coalition

Researchers use tablets to input information from household members into a database of risk factors on child labor.

Combatting a socioeconomic phenomenon as complex as child labor requires a well-coordinated coalition of partners from civil society and government alike. All members of the Promise Pathways team were involved in the design of the baseline and will be key players in the implementation over the next four years.

Three government ministries are part of the team–the Ministry of Education’s Directorate of Non-Formal Education, the Ministry of Employment’s Directorate of Labor and its Marrakech Regional Directorate and the Ministry of Social Development.

The team also includes Moroccan civil society organizations and three international partners—Aid to Artisans, Kuder and the International Initiative to End Child Labor.

Research to end child labor

The mobile database will help the project track the progress of child laborers and their families.

Beyond conducting the mobile baseline survey, Cadi Ayyad University and its research laboratory will play a key role in sustaining efforts to combat child labor in the region as the project progresses.

“It is our intention to mobilize the university in terms of action research on child labor in the Marrakech region. What we want them to do is work on case studies on child labor,” explains Ouboulahcen.

With the aim of growing local capacity to combat child labor, Ouboulahcen says that the Promise Pathways team could provide the university students and researchers with access to data collected throughout the project and its mobile tools, connections with local partners and beneficiaries and technical support on research design and methodology.

“We are hoping by the end of the project we’ll have a number of studies concentrating on the theme of child labor,” he says. “These will help us mainstream practices and raise awareness about child labor in the Marrakech region and have a critical mass of people interested in child labor and working on different methodologies and approaches to reduce and eliminate child labor.”

Certainly at the core of many of those studies and efforts will be technology, deployed in creative and innovative ways as a powerful ally in the fight to end child labor.

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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