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News || Sunday, 15 August 2010

Souktel Partners on UN-led Campaign to Measure Impact of Global Economic Crisis via SMS

A global financial meltdown doesn't just affect the US and Europe; as leaders at the G20 Summit in London pointed out last year, it's the world's vulnerable populations who tend to suffer most. Last month, UN agency Global Pulse and leading mobile research NGO MobileActive.org set out to survey 10,000 ordinary citizens in seven developing countries on how the current economic crisis has impacted their lives. To get a high response rate in a short period of time—and to give average Mexicans and Ugandans the chance to have their voices heard at a high level— the surveys were conducted via text-messaging, on mobile phones.

The campaign’s short-term goal, explained Global Pulse director Robert Kirkpatrick, was to “help world leaders understand the human side of...this crisis”, by letting them hear directly from residents of hard-hit countries. In the longer term, Global Pulse aims to use mobile technology to “help the UN develop better... systems to protect the vulnerable during the next global crisis, whenever it emerges”.

Given the massive scale of the project, mobile technology was key to its success: When face-to-face conversations aren’t possible, text messaging is often the next best way for communities to share their views and opinions. To help carry out this “SMS dialogue” in the Middle East, the UN and Mobile Active.org asked Souktel to deliver the campaign’s surveys in Iraq. With previous experience working in the country and a proven track record in aid-focused SMS technology, Souktel was ready for the job.

Ultimately, the Souktel team polled over 2,000 people via mobile phone, thanks largely to a database of phone numbers provided by US-based Mercy Corps, a long-time project partner in the region. Respondents were asked six questions, ranging from their perspective on Iraq's economic situation to how household expenses are currently being met, as well as their general feelings about what the future holds. Close to 1,000 survey replies came in; the results will be posted on Global Pulse's website within the next month.

"This is a perfect example of how Souktel’s SMS software can help aid agencies gather a large amount of information in a short amount of time," explained Souktel co-founder Mohammad Kilany. "Being able to communicate with thousands of community members in crisis zones is crucial for NGOs. And giving these community members a voice on the world stage is equally important”. He added: “We strongly believe that simple mobile technology is the key to helping communities cope with crisis. The Global Pulse project is a critical first step in this direction, and we’re honoured to be a part of it”.

For more information on this project, see: www.unglobalpulse.org