The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is the second largest country in Africa in terms of surface and the 4th African country in terms of population with over 67 million inhabitants. Currently, the estimated number of people in DR Congo living with HIV is 440.000 (1.1%). The DR Congo government has shown growing interest in expanding HIV/Aids services and improving the quality of services but is often challenged with the necessary infrastructure and resources. On the other hand, people have increased access to mobile phones and in 2013 there were around 29 million mobile phone subscriptions covering 40% of the population. Mobile technology shortens distances and in countries as big as DR Congo mobile phones create enormous opportunities to improve communication in both urban as well as rural areas.
Over the past few years, access to mobile phones has increased explosively in Bolivia and reached over nine million users on a total of nearly eleven million inhabitants. It creates an enormous potential as communication tool in social marketing campaigns, for example in reaching beneficiaries of water and sanitation projects.
It all started one year ago; the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. This disease is highly contagious and is often fatal if untreated. At this moment there is a confirmed total of 26.277 cases (suspected, probable and confirmed) and more than 10.000 confirmed deaths. Sierra Leone is one of the hardest hit countries. Last month we sent out 50.000 messages about the 3-day-stay-home – campaign, in collaboration with Airtel Network and the Embassy of the Netherlands for Sierra Leone. The purpose of this campaign was to inform and educate people about Ebola, its symptoms, proper ways of burial and the importance of early treatment. People were told to stay at home across the country while volunteers went door to door educating them on Ebola prevention and encouraging sick people to seek treatment. In total, since January, we sent out more than one million text messages to over 100.000 individual participants.
Today, TTC was recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by the international non-proft organization, B Lab, with a score of 126 on the annual ‘B Corp Best for the World’ list. This list honors businesses that belong to the top 10% of the 1200 Certified B Corporations from 20 countries and over 49 industries worldwide.
Airtel Tanzania, Tigo, Zantel and the Vodacom Foundation are the African operators that have taken the lead in the Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service (HPHB) (also known as the Wazazi Nipendi SMS Service) in Tanzania. Their bundled services served over 500,000 Tanzanian men and women, whom cumulatively received over 40 million informative safe motherhood messages and reminders, since its launch in 2012.
In many emerging markets like Zambia, agriculture accounts for the overwhelming majority of rural employment. Therefore providing farmers with timely and relevant information regarding production, market prices and agricultural finance among others will not only improve their income but also improve production and in the long run lower food prices for the populations.
That‘s why TTC, together with IICD and National Agriculture Information Services (NAIS), as part of the Connect4Change (C4C) consortium, has launched a SMS service to provide important information to farmers for example market prices, best practices for farming, and weather updates among others. This service, which is interactive, will also make it possible for farmers to give feedback on ongoing programs and ask questions to the NAIS and get quick response. This will go a long way in solving the problem of delayed feedback between the farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture.
When I first heard about TTC and its activities in mobile solutions for emerging markets, I couldn’t imagine its effectiveness and impact. And even after reading an article of the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) about the usage of mobile phones of people living in remote villages in Africa, I couldn’t believe that they are able to call or to receive text messages. I wondered; how on earth is it possible to have access to a mobile network while living in an area without even having clean drinking water? And above all, why would you even want to own a mobile phone when you’re not certain if you have enough money to buy food for dinner?