With the influx of instant message applications, many have been quick to pronounce the death of the Short Message Service (SMS). However, in developing countries SMS remains the most predominant form of mobile communication. The simplicity and low-tech nature of SMS makes it ideal for both humanitarian situation communications and program outreach in remote areas. From victims of natural disasters seeking relief to mobilization by human rights activists, Ushahidi has seen the  impact that 160 characters of text can have on people's lives around the world.

Sawa World  is one of Ushahidi’s DREAMS Innovation Challenge partner organizations. They host training sessions  about local solutions that can instantly be turned into micro- businesses in rural areas around Uganda. The target audience of these sessions are young women who are at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Sawa World uses the Ushahidi platform regularly to raise awareness of their programs and collect real time SMS feedback for better decision making and increased efficiency.  

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge was launched to build upon existing evidence-based approaches and infuses innovative approaches to better meet the urgent and complex needs of adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Our challenge at Ushahidi is to empower our partner organizations to receive SMS feedback data that can help them to further improve their programs to help young girls stay HIV-free.

Can SMS technology help young girls stay HIV-free? (Image Credit: Project Masiluleke)

“Why is SMS the preferred channel for our partners?” you ask. Every phone with reception can receive SMS without the need for a data plan. Sharifa Nanziri, a Project Manager at Sawa World says, “With the SMS as a data source, we are always certain that almost all our program beneficiaries will be reached.” For the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, Ushahidi goes the extra mile to facilitate toll-free SMS feedback for all our partners in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania so as  to increase response rates. Over the last five months, our DREAMS partners have engaged in over 55,000 SMS interactions, with close to industry standard response rates - clear evidence that text messaging is still efficient. Until the next game changer in communications for last mile communities, SMS rules!