The Project GROW website has been specifically designed in collaboration with African youth workers to be mobile-first, low-data and accessible to all.
In April, we launched growskills.africa, an online resource designed with and for African youth workers so they can go forward and empower the women and girls in their communities. Here, we explain why this design was essential in order for youth workers to have access to the information they need to make their work more sustainable.
Designing an online resource for African women youth workers
In the UK and other Western countries, putting information online typically means creating well-designed PDF documents, with attractive and relevant photos. Through speaking with our partners on the ground, we realised that this wouldn’t be widely accessible to many African women, who often only access the internet via their smartphone. It’s difficult and time-consuming to read a large PDF on a small phone screen.
However, PDFs are useful due to their ability to be downloaded once and saved, using public wifi. This was valuable because we have learned through our work that data costs are one of the main barriers that women face when using the internet as a resource for learning.
Designing low-data and smartphone-friendly resources
We spent time with our partner organisations and youth workers in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria in order to find solutions to this problem, and make our work as accessible as possible. We were lucky to have a group of volunteers from University College London, who did a ‘hack’ on this subject by researching low-data websites and websites that are available offline.
In the end we chose a traditional website, optimised for use primarily on smart phones. We have used very few images to reduce data consumption. The majority of these are vectored images, which use little data to load.
Unlike a PDF, where you can have long chapters, this resource is designed to be read on a phone, and the content was written with this in mind. Each section is short and self-contained, designed to make sense (we hope) on its own, but linked to the other sections in the toolkit.
Sharing with friends and co-workers
We also realised that the primary way for women to share information with others was through Whatsapp or other messenger services, not through email. Our site makes it easy for those who have engaged with the content to share things they find useful or interesting on their phones.
Co-production is essential, and this exercise underlines that it is not just information that needs to be shared—the mode of sharing is equally important. The growskills.africa website has, from beginning to end, been a collaboration of partners.
Without taking our time to reflect and deeply understand each others’ work, challenges and dreams we would have stuck with the easiest and most obvious solution, PDF toolkits uploaded on a website. As it stands, we will have PDFs for those who prefer them, but the website is a resource we are proud of, and seek to continue to improve, so that it meets the emerging needs of women transforming the lives of young women and girls in their communities.