Text messaging used for community updates in developing countries

A text message scheme being used in developing countries to transmit weather forecasts, road disruption alerts and more could pave the way for more such developments in coming years.

The SMS Voices project, launched by international development charity Christian Aid in January 2014, allows councillors to contact citizens throughout Africa, from Sierra Leone on the west to Malawi in the east. Run in partnership with Sierra Leone-based governance program ENCISS, the project is said to be having an “empowering” effect on communities, devex.com reports.

Mobile communication is able to reach even the most remote nations, with developing countries now accounting for 55 per cent of the world’s mobile broadband subscriptions.

Texts are also being used a way for citizens to stay in close contact with councillors. SMS Voices trained 45 volunteers made up of farmers, teachers, students, and traders in Sierra Leone’s Bo and Koinadugu districts. The volunteers essentially became citizen reporters, able to text microreports highlighting any issues they were having to the council.

Martin M. B. Goba, Bo district councillor, said: “It’s been challenging, but it’s helping me to improve on my job and to know the problems in my community, so that I can find solutions to them. It has improved my interaction with civil society and shown me how to act immediately and promptly to community concerns.”

SMS is also pioneering new frontiers in African journalism, themediaonline.co.za notes, as local news outlets can text residents of breaking stories.