ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY: SMS Voices (Sierra Leone & Kenya)

Role: Communications designer & project co-ordinator.


 

Remote citizens across the world can struggle to engage with governing bodies who often reside in (and prioritise) urban areas. As mobile prevalence increases, SMS is becoming a practical tool for improving information sharing and active citizenship within more remote populations.

Working with award-winning communications agency – On Our Radar, we built a unique communications system that connect remote citizens to their local councillors using SMS. Across Sierra Leone and Kenya, we invited farmers, teachers, full time mothers, students and traders to participate and become community reporters. Each was training to used text messaging to highlight issues of local concern to their local councillors, by sending them anonymous micro-reports via SMS. Each report includes factual material crowdsourced from their communities, covering any of the five thematic areas: youth, governance, access to services, gender, and justice and security. These messages are received by participating local councillors, who also received training. The councillors are asked to respond via SMS and explain to reporters their planned response to the problems raised. Rather than going from handset to handset, the SMS reports were transmitted via On Our Radar’s custom-built online platform, which stores the reports online, so they can be tracked by theme, location and councillor responsiveness.

I managed the network of both of these projects and worked to develop engagement strategies that took into account a range of issues related to user connectivity, capacity and confidence.

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