Recent years have seen a spate of efforts to improve life in Africa by expanding access to high-end technology, but something as simple as a text message may yield more immediate results. In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, Lex Paulson examines a UNICEF program called "U-report," which uses text messages to conduct polls, collect information, and spread important news to people in Uganda. Using three U-report texts as case studies, Paulson shows that the program has already paid dividends, disseminating critical information and facilitating direct communication between lawmakers and citizens.
"It's finally a two-way conversation," Aleem Walji, Director of Innovation Labs at the World Bank Institute, told Paulson. "[the] government is paying attention in Uganda because the media is paying attention. That's the magic of the Uganda story."