Sunday, July 5, 2009

SMS social network

Here’s a glimpse of the community SMS service we’re developing…The basic idea for the project is to reinforce the “organized diffusion” social mobilization approach, used to spread development initiatives led by Senegalese communities. The project aims to increase awareness about activities and, consequently, increase their impact.

So how’s it work?
Let’s leave the technical aspects aside for the moment and focus on the overall idea.
Tostan is looking to bring its most enthusiastic community development actors together in a network based entirely on SMS messaging. In other words, through one quick and simple action (sending an SMS to our server), a user subscribes to a service that will simultaneously send messages to multiple users located in his/her village and the immediate surrounding areas.
Everyone can be part of the same SMS community: the community nurse and his/her counterparts in neighboring villages, teachers and student groups, women’s groups, Tostan classes, the village chief, the imam, etc. When one person sends a message to the regular, non-premium number, everyone in the SMS community receives it.
For example, the Community Management Committees formed by Tostan frequently organize awareness-raising events surrounding various themes such as malaria, human rights, income-generating activities or the importance of a healthy environment. The only two real ways to spread the word about such occasions are by word of mouth or going door to door. With the community SMS system, the CMCs can inform the most influential members of the community cheaply and efficiently. These people can then pass on the information within their own circles (during the prayer for the imam, during class for teachers, at weekly youth or women’s meetings, etc.).

The SMS community is open to all and only costs the price of a message. When we went to lead trainings during the program’s discovery process, we were surprised at how easy the service was to use in these communities with such an urgent need for communication. The observed levels of motivation and adoption seemed to be extremely high following the three initial trainings in Keur Samba Lauvé, Ouonck and Badiouré.
With simplicity remaining our main goal, we would like to learn more about the communication needs of the villages in order to develop (incha’allah) other SMS services that are ever more practical and user-friendly, and thus, in theory, accessible to all.



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Blog adapted by Salim Drame