Using technology and storytelling to equip and empower adolescents to prevent unplanned pregnancy and HIV in Rwanda

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Laura Baringer
Project Director

Implementation Partners

Society for Family Health–Rwanda (CyberRwanda local implementing partner, responsible for all on the ground outreach and implementation)
University of California at-Berkeley, School of Public Health (Lead evaluation partner, responsible for the Randomized Control Trial)

University of Rwanda, School of Public Health (Local evaluation partner)


Packard Foundation

Implementation Dates

RCT period: May 2020 – December 2021
National scale: January 2022 – December 2022

Geographic Scope


Target Users

Client, Health Care Provider

Enabling Environment Building Blocks

Services and Applications

Family Planning Program Classification

Demand Generation


In Rwanda, only 11 percent of adolescents have comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge. Family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) information and programs are often designed to reach married women. Even though Rwandan law allows youth to access to FP/RH care, cultural norms, provider bias, or a lack of information about the need for FP/RH care make finding youth-friendly services difficult for unmarried young people.

These “old school” challenges persist, even in a time of “new school” solutions. Due to the high rates of internet usage among young people ages 12 to 19 in urban and peri-urban settings, CyberRwanda used youth-driven design to create a fun, interactive, and inspirational digital platform that seamlessly integrates economic empowerment with on-demand health information and products for Rwandan youth.

Project/Digital Health Solution Overview

CyberRwanda is a digital platform that aims to improve the health and livelihoods of Rwandan adolescents (12 to 19 years). Co-designed by YLabs with Rwandan youth themselves, this digital Direct-to-Consumer platform weaves together Edutainment (educational entertainment) and knowledge-based content through a webcomic series and a robust FAQ library, with online pharmacy ordering and a health facility locator. Together, these components deliver integrated age-appropriate adolescent health and economic empowerment information, and linkage to youth-friendly services. 

After a successful pilot in late 2019, CyberRwanda is ready to launch an 18 to 24 month randomized controlled trial (RCT) in late 2020. The study will take place in 20 schools across eight districts. 

Using human-centered design and youth-driven design approaches, CyberRwanda has been designed with and for youth throughout every step of the design process; from the design research and ideation phases where we sought to understand the issues that were of biggest concern to young people and what solutions we could implement to address those concerns to our testing of rough and live prototypes.

Evaluation and Results Data

The project will be implemented in two phases:

Phase 1: RCT—Impact Study

We will be conducting an RCT to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of this comprehensive digital platform. A three-arm cluster non-inferiority RCT study will be conducted in 60 schools across eight districts. The three arms are:

  • Control.
  • Self-service model, where schools will be provided with tablets, a hotspot, and trained school ambassadors who promote CyberRwanda.
  • Facilitated model, where schools will be provided the same as the self-service model, plus an activity booklet and trained peer facilitators to engage young people on key topics

Phase 2: National Scale 

Upon completion of a successful impact evaluation, we will launch CyberRwanda on a national level. The second phase of the project will be national-scale implementation, using media, community events, and mass media marketing to promote the launch of the product.

Lessons Learned

From our design research, prototyping, and pilot phases, CyberRwanda has learned:

  • In order to lower the barrier to digital access and increase health equity, CyberRwanda should provide schools participating in the RCT and youth centers hotspots and tablets so that young people—especially girls—without access to a Smartphone or the internet are able to use the service.
  • Systems thinking and a robust stakeholder analysis was critical to the design of CyberRwanda. Connecting young people in need of health products to pharmacists who take pride in serving the community as healthcare professionals was an impactful solution hiding in plain sight.
  • Working with more than 800 young people to help design CyberRwanda has helped to ensure that the platform is informative, appreciated, and truly youth-friendly.


CyberRwanda improves the lives of young people by putting engaging health education content and access to FP/RH products in the palm of their hands. At every step of CyberRwanda’s design—from its very inception in 2016 to its current pilot phase—young people have remained at the heart of the design and decisionmaking process. As a youth-driven design studio, YLabs works in partnership with young people to create solutions to the problems that matter to them, and the success of this project demonstrates the viability of this approach. 


  • Swenson RR et al. HIV knowledge and its contribution to sexual health behaviors of low-income African American adolescents. J Natl Med Assoc. 2010;102(12):1173–1182. doi:10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30772-0
  • Brittingham Sarah, Zan Trinity, Yacobson Irina (2021). So many tools; how to choose? Results from a content analysis of family planning digital platforms (brief). Durham (NC): Research for Scalable Solutions/FHI 360; Available online: