In Kenya I’ve been testing a very simple text-message tool. Anyone can tell a story about life in their community in a text message send it to our SMS gateway (+254-705-956-817). That’s nothing special. But what I find exciting is that if the person includes the word !search! somewhere in the story, they will receive back (to their phone) the best matched story as a series of text messages two minutes later.
The !search! tool works on any phone. No smart phone bait-and-switch here. And it only costs GlobalGiving 10 shillings a day to deliver unlimited texts (about 18 cents). It puts the knowledge of 40,000 community stories in the hands of anyone with a phone. I’m hoping to expose our storytellers and scribes to it.
I also built a more sophisticated version of this for NGO staff members to use. Answer 7 questions about your organization by phone and we’ll email you back a personalized auto-generated report about where your core strengths align with community priorities, and which organizations you ought to be talking to in your community (networking), and what are your missed opportunities to make a bigger difference in the lives of people (community priorities that no local organization appears to be focusing on.)
Sounds cool, but does it really work?
Decide for yourself! You can use Google’s g-chat sms feature to send in a free text and try it. Of course what you’ll get back will be messages inside your Gchat, and google has a tendency to deliver messages slowly, but it works.
Here are examples I’ve run on my phone in Kenya:
“Green Belt movement came society, they showed us how to plant trees and how to take care of them. lack of warmth method failed succeed. !search!”
Out: Clean And Green Is The Environment
Since the green belt movement came to our society, we now know the importance of trees. They showed us how to do planting of small seedling to keep our country green, But because of lack of water their method did not succeed.
In: (What somebody wrote)
“!search! Showering in lake. i got raped. Lake is where everyone does stuff. Or like i got sick from washing my dishes in the lake. Lake only place get water.”
Out: Nyali Beach
At the age of twenty five i got an oppotunity to stay in Mombasa an area called Nyali in Mombasa was was so glamarouse and beautiful and i confirmed the swahili saying that ‘kuingia Mombasa ni Harusi lakini kutoka ni matanga’. meaning it is enjoyable and easy for one to get into Mombasa bot difficult to leave the place. However, during my stay in Mombasa i noticed something so bad once when i had visited Nyali beach i saw young girls walk, kiss and do some dirty stuff with old men at the beach both black and white and this irritated me terribly. When i inquired about i was told that, that was a major issue in that community and that many young girls had left school because of that. As a result of these , the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the area was high and it was very dangerouse to date anyone in the area. This was absolutely shocking and to make matters worse, this practice continued because of the rampant corruption that was in the area. The government had issued a warning that no under 18 person was to get or rather go at the beach and had even deployed policemen in the area to help solve the problem but it was all in vain because the hotel managers bribed them with a good sum of money and therefore the practice continued even though the government had placed in place a good idea to stop the practice but corruption made the idea to fail up to today and it still remains a problem.
“!search! Juhudi children in crisis might be in kitale or Kibera – orphans post-election violence.”
— NAIROBI (http://www.globalgiving.org/stories/9784)
There was an organization known as Uzima foundation which tried to help people in our community.This an organization came up with the issue of helping teens below under eighteen in our community.It offered sponsorship to the ophaned children in our area and also improved the health of our people by collecting some gabbages around the area and building up new latrines.It has employed many people mostly the youth by giving them jobs which could change their living standard and their life more comfortable.
“I wanted to buy a smart phone but the kiosk lady didn’t know about her phones! We argued about battery life. There’s a number on back she refused !search!”
— NAIROBI (http://www.globalgiving.org/stories/4446)
A woman wanted to reach her husband on his phone but discovered that she was out of credit. She instructed her son juniors, to use his own phone to pass across an urgent message to daddy who is at the site. After junior had called, he got back to mummy to inform her that it was a lady that picked up daddy’s phone the three times he tried reaching dad on the phone (woman!!) She waited impatiently for her husband to return from the site. Immediately she saw him, she gave him a very hot slap. Whilst the man was trying to ask why? she repeated the slap. People from the neighbourhood rushed around to know the cause of this. The man asked junior to say what the lady said to him when junior called. “Mteja wa nambari uliopiga hapatikani kwa sasa” meaning “the mobile subscriber can not be reached for now. Please try again later” and the people were amused and nobody could say anything.