Friday, March 15, 2013

Progress: DRC field Staff roll out SMS Feedback System to Qardho District in Somalia

Abdirahman and the SMS Feedback team managed to introduce our SMS Feedback System to 8 communities in Qardho District, Somalia.

 On March 2nd 2013 our SMS Feedback team travelled a grueling 240 km over bumpy and at times unsecure roads from Bossaso to Qardho to integrate the SMS Feedback system into our Community Driven Recovery and Development (CDRD) program to 8 different rural communities. The CDRD program supports in this region several community projects that range from the building of community centres, health posts, schools, and the expansion of Berket (clean water projects). And now with the implementation of our SMS Feedback System in these areas, the DRC will be better able to monitor progress through direct communication with the beneficiaries themselves. For their part, the beneficiaries in these remote areas can communicate their frustrations, appreciations and suggestions on the progress of various community projects supported by the CDRD program. The process as we roll out the SMS Feedback System into new areas of Somalia is simple but not without its challenges. When the team visits a new community they provide them with a number to which anybody can send SMS messages. The beneficiaries are encouraged to send as many relevant messages as they would like, whether they are complaints, questions, or just observations on how to improve the community projects as well as their overall thoughts on the impact of the CDRD program. However, the lack of infrastructure and the remoteness of some of these far flung communities can at times limit the amount of messages we receive. These obstacles include but are not limited to:

  • Poor network coverage in rural villages 
  •  Frequent power shortages that prevent people from charging their cell phones.
  • Illiteracy among the most vulnerable beneficiaries means that they have to rely on third parties to deliver messages.
  • The wide diversity of Somali dialects can sometimes cause communication difficulties

Despite these challenges, the SMS Feedback team still managed to receive a substantial number of messages, specifically 15 in total from all of the communities in Qardho District following the introduction. In keeping with our theme of transparency and accountability these can be viewed on our webpage Abdirahman Abdillahi Muse, an SMS Feedback team member who has traveled to various districts and rural communities throughout Somalia reported that the locals in Qardho expressed enthusiasm when being introduced to the process of sending SMS messages. These positive reactions of the people in Qardho are replicated among communities throughout Somalia where our SMS Feedback System was previously introduced.

Compiled by Abdirahman Abdillahi Muse
Edited by Leila Elmi

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Appreciation and Criticism: SMS from Beneficiaries help DRC maintain Accountability and Transparency

Communication between aid workers and beneficiaries in Somalia through SMS has allowed the Danish Refugee Council to monitor and improve the way in which it delivers aid in the field.

By DRC SMS Feedback team, February 2013

The SMS Feedback System was developed with funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and launched in 2011.Its purpose is to provide aid recipients in isolated areas of Somalia with the means to communicate with aid providers.

Over the course of three months the SMS feedback team has received over 21 SMS messages from towns and cities all over Northern and Southern Somalia including Mogadishu, Galka’ayo, Ainabo, Salahley and Sheikh. More often than not, these are messages of appreciation or simple inquiries into the day to day work that DRC does throughout the region. Sometimes however, the SMS feedback team receives frank messages of complaint or annoyance. These are the most useful messages as it allows the SMS feedback team time to address problems as they arise and to notice them sooner than they otherwise would have in the past. It also gives aid beneficiaries greater say on the kind of help they receive, not to mention a greater awareness of the impact of DRC work in their communities. The following exchange between a man in Salahley District and one of our Community Driven and Recovery Development (CDRD) project team members in the field highlights a typical exchange:

Translated SMS: We agreed that the DRC would complete projects in Salahley in two years, but the DRC has postponed projects, and the delay is your responsibility. We are asking ourselves why this has happened. DRC is what you told us fake or is something wrong with your projects?

The above complaint was forwarded from Salahley to the SMS feedback team where it was investigated before sending back a reply. This process is repeated daily on a large scale between aid beneficiaries and aid workers. The language is often frank as the above message demonstrates, and the individuals are not shy about letting their feelings be known. For the aid workers, this process enables them to be accountable to the communities they work in. Most importantly however, this process is completely transparent in that anybody can access these communications online at our CDRD page and our various social media outlets such as facebook, our CDRD blog and twitter. In this way information is constantly being shared between aid beneficiaries, DRC staff, and donors. This free flow of information is key to improving the process by which DRC provides humanitarian relief throughout Somalia. 

Report prepared by Abdirahman Abdillahi Muse

/edited by Leila Elmi

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Galka’ayo Field Trip Report

November 20/11/2012

The seventh phase of SMS roll-out project took place on November 11th 2012, in Galka'ayo district. We visited a total of twenty new communities. Seven of the twenty communities we visited were located in rural villages where the CDRD has already overseen the construction of new community centers, health posts, and other initiatives related to community development.

Day 1
We successfully carried out awareness campaigns in all twenty of the communities in the Galka'yo district and some surrounding rural villages. In Southern Galkayo we visited: Garsor, Wadajir, Horumar, Howlwadaag, Midnimo, Bandiiradley, Arfuuda, Dagaari, Saddeh-Higlo and Galinsoor. In Northern Galkayo we were able to visit: Horumar 1, Horumar 2, Israac 1, Israac 2, Israac 3, Israac 4, and Israac 5. We also visited the rural villages Cagaaran, Bacaadwayn and bayra. So far we have received SMS feedback from the twenty communities we visited, indicating that the people have a good understanding of how to use the SMS feedback system at this early stage effectively.

Day 2

On the second day of our field trip we held a feedback training workshop at the DRC office in Galkayo in which 5 members of the DRC field staff participated, three from northern and two from southern Galka'ayo. The participants were very engaged and asked many relevant questions. That evening, we visited one community while accompanied by the field staff. We demonstrated effective ways in which the participants could mobilize communities in order to distribute the project visibility and sharing guidelines. They indicated that they understood the practicalities of the SMS feedback program and found it very useful.

That same afternoon we visited Israac 4 community in order to test the feedback system. We were warmly welcomed by the CPIU of Israac 4 and the community in general. We distributed project guidelines, posters, and brochures that explained exactly how the SMS feedback program functions. They demonstrated a good grasp of the concept and the practicalities involved.
Field Trip Objectives
  • Roll out Beneficiary SMS Feedback system to Galka'ayo District and Abudwak
  • Mobilize the beneficiaries, inform and explain to them how the SMS feedback system works and how they can use it. 
  •    Establish good working relations with the community project implementation unit (CPIU), village committees, DRC field staff and team leaders to help us implement the project effectively and act as our contact person in the field. 
  •          Training the field staff to gain the skills necessary to specifically implement the SMS feedback program. 
  •          Help make the field staff aware of how to maintain the internet configuration on the phones and the feedback system. 
  •          Address and answer any concerns or questions the beneficiaries might have for us.
 Day Three
On the third day of our trip we visited five communities in southern Galka'ayo. We had constructive discussions with the local CDRD teams and were able to answer questions as well as gain valuable feedback from teams on the ground about any concerns or suggestions.
Day Four
On day four we visited four communities in rural areas of southern Galka'ayo where the CDRD teams were implementing sub-projects. We traveled on land for about 100km to reach southern Galka'ayo which is known to be and insecure and high risk area. We encountered several checkpoints manned by free clan militia. We could not have safely undertaken this journey without the support of the local people for which we are very grateful.
During the remaining days of our trip we were able to work in northern Galka'ayo and visited ten new communities including two rural communities.  The people we encountered were tough and asked me many great questions related the project and DRC. We answered all their questions until they were satisfied and we were satisfied that they knew how to properly use the SMS feedback system.
Technical challenges when sending SMS
  •          Somali language difficulties such as different lingo and accents
Safety and Security in general
  •      The CPIU committee complained about the CDRD fund and pointed out that $15000 USD is not enough to build a community centre or health post.
  •          Beneficiaries have high expectation from DRC as they get communication system.
  •          Using 3 different feedback numbers can be a challenge and confusing.
  •          Distrust between communities thus hindering integration.
  •          Poor internet connection which interferes with timely SMS feedback.
  •        Power shortages making it difficult to charge phones. 
  •      Militia interference with the sending of SMS messages to International NGOs. 
  •         Some areas were inaccessible to DRC because of clan warfare and insecurity.
Lessons learned
  •         Galka'ayo is a city divided in two by clan rivalries. Part of it is unofficially a part of Puntland and the other part is part of South Central Somalia.
  •         Quality of life is affected by a lack of infrastructure such as proper schools, hospitals or security apparatus.
  •         There is a proliferation of weapons win Galka’ayo with a large portion of the population owning guns, which adds to the insecurity and the potential for violence between different clan militias.
  •          Pirates have a visible presence in Galka’ayo adding to the insecurity as they too have weapons as well as cash.