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