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News || Friday, 23 December 2011

Souktel in 2011: Empowering Communities Through Mobile Technology

From SMS safety alerts for Gaza's families to a text-message service promoting fair elections in Tunisia, 2011 was an exciting year for Souktel. As cell phone ownership continued to grow across the developing world, so too did the role of mobiles as catalysts for aid delivery. As the year comes to a close, we look back at some of the key projects we were honored to support through mobile technology in the past 12 months:

Promoting Children's Safety In Gaza

Souktel launched two key mobile services in Gaza this year. The first supported World Vision's project Atfaluna Amaluna (Our Children, Our Hope), which aimed to provide conflict-affected youth with psychosocial support through stress counselling and after-school activities in safe zones. Using Souktel's AidLink platform, World Vision ran an SMS service which alerted participating families about upcoming program events for children and their parents. Close to 7,500 alerts were sent through this service, providing real-time information through a safe, cost-effective channel.

Also in Gaza, Souktel partnered with UNESCO to set up an SMS alert and survey system that warned parents and students of any danger happening near local schools. Close to 30 schools took part in this project, with more than 11,700 students benefitting from the service.

Ensuring Fair Elections in Tunisia

In late October, Tunisia held its first democratic election--and Souktel played a key role in ensuring that voting was free and fair. In partnership with the American Bar Association and the Tunisian Bar Association, our team set up an SMS hotline that let Tunisian citizens report suspicious activity at polling stations via text message. Local Tunisian lawyers then analyzed the claims and pursued follow-up action where necessary. Over the course of the election, the hotline received more than 1,000 SMS incident reports, and close to 100 lawyers worked quickly to address them.

Boosting Access to Micro-Loans in Palestine

In February, Souktel partnered with US-based non-profit CHF International and French NGO PlaNet Finance to offer a new SMS information service for micro-loan recipients in Palestine. The first of its kind, this service helped borrowers figure out how much money they needed to repay each month, when payments were due, and the various options for making loan payments, all via mobile technology. The service now reaches over 1,000 borrowers, helping reduce late payments and loan defaults.

Sharing Best Practices With the Media 

In September, Souktel was honored to share its experience in mobile service delivery for the aid sector with the Christian Science Monitor. Earlier in the year, we spoke with PBS Online about our work with US non-profit Education Development Center to give communities in Darfur and South Sudan a voice in local affairs.