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News || Monday, 31 October 2011

Souktel Mobile Audio Service Helps Somali Job-Seekers Build Financial Skills

Like most youth across the globe, young Somalis know that in order to make money they need a job. But once they find work, how do they save for their future? In a region where most people don’t use commercial banks, the answers to these questions can be tough to find.

With this in mind, US-based non-profit Education Development Center (EDC) and Souktel decided to tap into the strong Somali oral tradition and create a new interactive teaching tool that pairs simple mobile technology, courtesy of Souktel, with audio-based storytelling (recorded by EDC studio actors). The result is a fast-paced mobile audio program called Dab iyo Dahab -- which translates to Gold and Fire – a 40-episode series that  teaches basic lessons in financial literacy, to ensure that Somali youth entering the workforce know how to manage their income. 

The lessons revolve around the fictional lives of Rooble and Batuulo, a recently married couple, as they enlist their uncle Geedi's help with various financial challenges. Each episode is accessed via mobile phone by “listening groups” of young Somalis who are enrolled in EDC’s Somali Youth Livelihoods Program--a job training and placement project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Every week, listening groups use a mobile handset with speakers to listen to the latest lesson. Then, the job-seekers dial a toll-free number and answer questions about the lesson through touch-tone audio surveys. Right answers are greeted with recorded applause; wrong answers lead to an audio message which encourages the listeners to try again.

"The value of this service is two-fold," says Souktel co-founder Jacob Korenblum: "First, it gives job-seekers a leg up in honing their money management skills. Without the need for computers or textbooks, these youth can test their knowledge and build their financial literacy—at any time of day, from their own phone”. He adds: “Second, for EDC project staff, this service lets them track the progress of young job-seekers in real time. Each touch-tone response to every audio poll can be viewed and analyzed—so that staff can see which concepts are being mastered, and where job-seekers are having trouble”.

So far, close to 1,000 job-seekers have completed the course, and EDC has been monitoring their progress every step of the way. Dab iyo Dahab's early success has also grabbed the attention of workforce development leaders back in the US: In August, the service was featured in a special session of the USAID/Stanford University Mobiles for Education for Development conference in Washington, DC.

“We’re really excited about the potential of this service to grow,” offers Korenblum. “We’re hoping to roll it out in new markets as an add-on to our core mobile job information service. We believe there’s huge value in offering job-seekers basic financial training in addition to mobile job matching”.

Learn more about EDC’s work here.

Watch Souktel Speak at the Clinton Global Initiative's Annual Meeting:  http://bit.ly/adjd1J