Mobile interventions have been rising in popularity in developing countries around the world. Mobile apps and services are extensively used by developing organizations and governments, and especially in Africa countless SMS services are launched to offer assistance in the fields of health, agriculture or financial support. It remains important to examine the actual effects of an SMS service: How much difference can an SMS make? TTC Mobile contracted the impact researchers from Avance to find the answer to this question. The impact study resulted in eye-opening outcomes that make a great case for the social impact of mobile interventions.
Interviewing end users and partners
Participants from two different projects were surveyed and/or interviewed and several clients of TTC Mobile were interviewed as well. The two projects, both run by TTC Mobile, differed in location and topic. The ACLO project was an SMS service of the Connect4Change consortium that sent up-to-date market information to small-scale farmers in Bolivia between November 2013 and December 2015. Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby SMS Service is a currently running service under the mHealth Tanzania Partnership that sends health information to pregnant women, mothers of newborns and male supporters since December 2012. 116 farmers of the ACLO project in Bolivia and 374 subscribers of Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby in Tanzania were surveyed and/or interviewed. The results clearly show the great value of mobile interventions:
Mobile interventions led to behavioral change
In terms of behavioral change, nearly all of the participants indicated that the text messages they received had a direct effect on their behavior. 92% of the farmers adjusted the prices of their products based on information they received, whereas 94% of the Tanzanian women and their male supporters changed the way they took care of themselves during pregnancy. For example, they visited the clinic more often or increased their intake of iron folate tablets.
“The doctor had forgotten to prescribe iron pills but after receiving the text I was able to remind the doctor.”
Mobile interventions improved conditions of end users
80% of the farmers said that their income had improved due to the SMS service. In Tanzania, 93.2% of the participants said they gained knowledge from the text messages and 94% of the participants felt like the text messages increased the confidence in their own and in their baby’s health.
“My wife was shy to ask questions concerning the baby’s health and so the messages received were very impactful.”
Mobile interventions have great reach and are cost effective
In interviews, clients indicated that the mobile interventions of TTC Mobile reached more people than the traditional methods they had used previously and that they were better at reaching participants in rural, hard-to-reach areas. Also, clients indicated that the mobile interventions of TTC Mobile were more cost effective than methods that clients applied previously.
”Mobile interventions gave a total different dimension to our project: more reach and faster, more agile and real-time data.”
An SMS changes lives
Research shows: an SMS can change lives. Not only did the text messages sent in these two projects lead to better informed end users, nearly all of the receivers directly applied their newly gained knowledge, which led to improved living conditions. It cannot be denied that SMS offers an effective tool for bringing better health or agro-economic improvement to individuals in the developing regions of the world. And apart from being effective, the tool of SMS is particularly efficient with regard to cost and scale, if we may believe the partners of TTC Mobile that compared mobile interventions with alternative methods.