Over 85% of the population of Senegal currently uses mobile phones—powerful and practical tools in an increasingly connected world. A recent article posted on MobileActive.org entitled How Tostan is Using Mobiles: Literacy and Community Empowerment remarked that “there is much to be gained by communities that are mobile literate and able to take advantage of strong social networks.” With the recent implementation of a pilot SMS text messaging project, to be incorporated in 200 villages in Senegal within a year, Tostan is doing just that. To harness the growing interest in mobile technology and take full advantage of its potential to act as a tool for literacy-building and communication among social networks, Tostan has partnered with UNICEF to launch Project “Jokko”, which means “communication” in Wolof. The project utilizes text messaging to provide a practical, low-cost system of instant communication among groups, facilitated by a RapidSMS powered mobile list-serve.
The platform has been integrated into the Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP) to reinforce literacy and math skills. It will also facilitate access to community services, particularly health alerts, and be used for entirely community-driven activities such as discussion, mobilization, or announcements of upcoming events. In fact, the program is the first time that Jeff Wishnie, Director of Social Engagement at ThoughtWorks and a member of the project development team, has seen the RapidSMS application being led by the community. And an unexpected, added benefit: a local school teacher in Kagama, a community in Casamance, reported that attendance has risen since the introduction of mobile literacy into the Tostan education program.
To read more about Tostan’s initiative to include mobile and SMS technology into the Community Empowerment Program, click here.