Ambulance Taxi Program: To save babies and mothers


Created by: Vodafone

Presentation written by: Carp Maria-Madalina,

Presentation supervised by: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena M. Barbu,

Vodafone: the company behind the program

Vodafone is one of the largest telecommunications companies that provide a wide range of services to consumers and companies. It is a British company with headquarters in London that offers services in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Vodafone is ranked as the forth mobile company in the world in the number of mobile customers with a profit for 2017 of €2.8 billion and revenue of €46.6 billion. It owns and operates networks in 25 countries and has partner networks in 47 other countries. Moreover, the Vodafone Global Enterprise division offers IT and telecommunication services to corporate clients in 150 countries. The leadership style employed by Vodafone management teams is based on three interrelated components: strategic, operational and human leadership, the deployment of these three elements representing the great performance of the company.

As far as social innovations go, Vodafone is involved in many projects that help the vulnerable categories of the society. It uses mobile technologies in order to help people in need; the slogan “Connecting for Good” is what characterizes the projects. The company supports social causes in the areas of health, education and disaster relief.

The Vodafone Foundation allocates Vodafone Group Plc funds to projects that are in partnership with other charities and NGOs. In addition, the Vodafone Foundation has a center of a network of 27 local social investment programs in order to aid vulnerable people by investing in programs that support communities in countries where Vodafone has commercial roots. Since 1991, the Vodafone Foundation has contributed over £560 million to charitable activities worldwide

The “uber” ambulances

The Ambulance taxi program is part of the Vodafone foundation project named “Mobilizing Maternal Health”. It uses the power of mobile technology in order to connect mothers in Tanzania to proper healthcare. The objective of the Maternal Health program is to help reduce the rates of maternal deaths and injuries in the country, thus reducing the number of neonatal deaths. The Maternal Health program is made out of three steps in order to help women in need during childbirth but also before and after this period; the first step consists of educating women in the communities in order to be able to access maternal health systems; in the second step Vodafone Foundation is helping improve health facilities and the third step consist of developing the system “uber ambulance” that offers free transportation to pregnant women to the hospital. Since the beginning, over 4300 women and new-borns were transported to the hospital for free in emergencies through this program.

The Vodafone Foundation wanted to invest into this program because Tanzania is one of the countries with the highest rate in the world of women dying during pregnancy, for every 100000 births there are 556 deaths. Moreover, the number of women that suffer injuries during childbirth (obstetric fistula) is very high in Tanzania, estimated to 3000 cases happening each year. Maternal death rates have not decreased despite the government of Tanzania’s commitment, leaving more than 70% of Tanzania’s 52 million people live in rural areas with limited access to basic health services. Thus, women in need of medical intervention during childbirth are often unable to access the necessary help.

For reducing the deaths of women and helping the women that suffer injuries after childbirth, Vodafone Foundation has partner with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and private donors in order to create the “Mobilizing Maternal Health” program in Tanzania. The program wants to help strengthen Tanzania’s health system by connecting communities to health facilities and their workers. Moreover, it provides specialized training to health workers in maternal and newborn health. Also, education is provided for women in the communities for a healthy pregnancy, safe births and newborn care know-how. Vodafone Foundation also improved health centers and hospitals in the area in order to provide better maternal health care.

In the Sengerema and Shinyanga DC districts in Tanzania, the population of over 1 million is being serviced only by 10 ambulances. Not having access to transportation to hospitals, many women do not survive childbirth or lose their babies. For addressing this problem, Vodafone Foundation launched a 24/7 free maternal emergency hotline.

How it works

An ambulance system was created by training a network of local taxi drivers to be able to drive women in emergencies safely at the nearest health facility. A 24/7 free maternity emergency hotline was put in place so that when there is an emergency one of the taxi drivers can pick-up the location of the women in need via GPS and transport her to the nearest facility for treatment. Each taxi driver is a local that knows really well the area and that is interviewed carefully and informed about the special role he has. The journeys made by the ‘uber ambulance’ are paid via M-Pesa, Vodafone’s mobile money transfer system and once the woman arrives safely at the facility each of the drivers receives a sizable $40 fare.

Source: Sala Lewis/Vodafone Foundation

Positive Impacts

Since the launch in July 2015, the hotline has received more than 2,000 emergency calls, and ‘uber ambulance’ taxi drivers have transported over 4,300 women during emergency to a facility for care; 94% were paid for with M-Pesa; the district pays for the remaining 6%. According to Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, 90 percent of maternal health emergencies in those districts are now managed by the ambulance taxis.

The ambulance taxi program helped with 80% decrease in the number of fatalities in pregnant women being transported during childbirth, meaning that approximately 200 lives are saved each month within the two districts that the program works in.

Source: Sala Lewis / Vodafone Foundation

Program Limitations

However useful the ambulance taxi is, it has some limitations also. Firstly, because some areas are not fully covered in terms of signal, when someone tries to reach the emergency hotline they might reach difficulties depending on the area where the phone call is placed. Moreover, during rainy season many rural roads can be difficult to access so reaching women in need can become a true complex process.


To draw a conclusion, the “uber ambulance” is a strategical innovation that helps with growing the business since it allows customers and potential customers to see that Vodafone cares for the needs of people, thus making this company trustworthy and reliable. It can also be considered a responsible innovation because it aligns with societal values, it uses a technology that is already in place to help women that do not have access to transport to hospital and through this innovation; a clear decrease in the number of fatalities and problems during childbirth has been registered. In addition, this evolutionary innovation can also expand in order to help a greater number of women in need. On the one hand, at the moment, the innovation helps two districts in Tanzania, with some developments it can be able to help more districts in this country but also expand to other countries that might have problems concerning a big need of free emergency transportation for pregnant women. On the other hand, it can develop in order to be able to help not only pregnant women but also people facing other health problems that in case of emergencies cannot reach the nearest facility because of the scarce number of ambulances.


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Vodafone Foundation Mobilising Maternal Health.” Mobilising Maternal Health in Tanzania,

“Vodafone-Who We Are.” Welcome to Vodafone,

Vodafone – “About.” Welcome to Vodafone,

“Vodafone.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,