SMS soars in developing countries
It's no secret that SMS remains popular in developed countries. From one-time pins, automated delivery notifications and business to customer communications, SMS forms the core of many communication strategies across the globe.
But, what about the use of SMS in developing countries? Does SMS provide a reliable platform for streamlining healthcare, boosting agriculture or aiding in disaster relief in areas with limited to no Internet access? The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, SMS communications can be hugely effective in reaching people who would otherwise be considered 'unconnected' or unreachable via social media or e-mail. The power of SMS in these cases is transformative!
Let's take a look at the agricultural sector, for example. Before SMS, farmers based in remote areas used to have to cart all of their produce off to market, where they would have to negotiate prices while trying to avoid having to transport unsold produce back to the farm. Now, with the help of SMS as a link between farmers, the market, and the buyers, farmers know local market prices and buyers know what quality and quantity they can expect to find.
Below, we take a look at a few more examples where SMS is being used in areas with limited Internet access.
SMS for disaster relief
During large-scale disasters (such as an earthquake or hurricane), affected areas often suffer damage to power cables and Internet access. This means clear communication becomes almost impossible. Without SMS, disseminating information about escape routes, relief camps and donation lines could take weeks or even months!
One of our clients, URAM, realised the potential of SMS in such cases. They have taken an innovative approach that ensures the effective delivery of time-sensitive communication during an emergency or natural disaster. URAM integrated our SMS API with a Raspberry Pi computer, which then connected to various digital mobile radios around the city. With this SMS API integration in place, the system is ready to send SMS messages via the radio SMS gateway when emergencies or natural disasters affect communications infrastructure in the area. This is a prime example of how SMS can literally save lives!
SMS in healthcare industry
SMS is already being used to change the way healthcare services are being delivered. For example, one of our beneficiaries uses SMS to increase access to mental health support groups for adolescents in South Africa, through its 'Project Khuluma'. You can read more about this initiative here. SMS is also being used as a tool to remind people to take their medication on time, to let pregnant mothers know about the best health practices throughout their pregnancy, and to help keep track of stock and prevent stock shortages in the care facilities.
SMS in education industry:
One of the most critical roles that SMS can play, particularly in Africa, is in enhancing education and fostering higher levels of literacy. In Uganda, for example, an organisation has been using mobile phones in specially designed education programmes to help children with hearing impediments to communicate. This is a major development, because in many developing countries, children who are deaf don't have access to special education and technology. By teaching these children to use SMS, educators can integrate learners with impaired hearing into the classroom settings and open up entirely new channels of communication, boosting self-esteem and promoting social inclusion.
Another challenge faced by the education sector is that of communicating with students who have little to no Internet access outside of the classroom. One of our clients, BizSchool, has overcome this challenge by sending SMSes to students' phones. SMS has helped them communicate efficiently with the students regarding meetings, events, course details and any last-minute notifications or updates.
The power of SMS as a tool to bridge the connectivity divide and transform communities in areas with limited Internet access should not be underestimated. SMS is ubiquitous, it's reliable and, most importantly, it's accessible by everyone with a mobile phone. When considering how effective SMS has been in the cases above, we are reminded of how the simple SMS is, in fact, already helping to change lives for the better.