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500 Million Dumb Phones — A Smart Place to Start

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500 Million Dumb Phones — A Smart Place to Start

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500 Million Dumb Phones — A Smart Place to Start

Repost: Written by me, originally published on HNI.org

I drafted and edited both the speech and the PowerPoint presentation delivered by Kellen Eilerts.


When does Georgette need reliable information for family planning methods, malaria, or health care?

“She needs the information when she needs it.”

That was the obvious conclusion to a thought experiment posed at The International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit by Kellen Eilerts, HNI’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

‘Free, On Demand SBCC’ Social Behavior Change Communication

The conclusion may be obvious, but HNI’s 3-2-1 Service represents a departure from the “push” approach upon which the development sector has long relied: radio, TV, billboards, etc.

These “push” methods do not allow Georgette to have any input on what information she receives or where and when she receives it.

SMS in particular has been the dumb phone equivalent of spam e-mail, blasting out information that is frequently misdirected, contributes to message fatigue, and does a poor job of engaging people with low levels of literacy.

But that’s not using these devices to their full potential. Even these phones that some may call “dumb” can actually be quite smart, and can provide people with a “pull” channel.

The SBCC Summit was held in February [2016] in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attended by more than 700 SBCC practitioners from 50 countries, and hosted by the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3), the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Sponsors included The Communication Initiative.

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