Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just How Much Difference Can An SMS Make?

By Esther Nakkazi

Research shows that an SMS can change lives. But how much difference can it make? TTC Mobile, a Dutch social enterprise that offers the technology to implement mobile interventions in Africa, Latin America and Asia, contracted the impact researchers from Avance to find the answer to this question.

Researchers found that in two projects found that text messages sent out resulted in behavioural change and better informed end users, nearly all of them directly applied their newly gained knowledge. According to the partners of TTC Mobile, mobile interventions appeared particularly more efficient than alternative methods, with regard to cost and scale.

The impact study resulted in eye-opening outcomes that make a great case for the social impact of mobile interventions. Participants from the two projects run by TTC Mobile were surveyed and/or interviewed and several partners of TTC Mobile were interviewed as well.

The ACLO project was an SMS service of 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 is a currently running SMS service of 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 behavioural 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,” said a respondent.

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,” said a respondent. 

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.” Full study here: Read the entire research report of Avance here

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