This is a report I wrote with Briar Smith, Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication.
Information communication technologies (ICTs), and in particular mobile phones, hold great potential to improve interventions in Africa and elsewhere that seek to provide information to the public. They offer the possibility of amplifying the public’s access to information, strengthening citizen voices, and promoting greater political engagement by the public, all with important implications for peacebuilding. Ushahidi, for example, has received widespread attention for allowing citizens to send reports of incidents during disasters via the Internet or SMS; others have seen social accountability efforts, such as monitoring the actions of leaders, facilitated by ICTs. However, despite much excitement about ICTs, the practical evidence of their effectiveness is lacking, particularly for organizations trying to use ICTs to facilitate governance and peacebuilding outcomes. There are few evaluations of ICT endeavors in the public sphere that can help other practitioners and scholars understand the best ways to make use of ICTs to promote development outcomes. Many media organizations in the development field are interested in using ICTs, but lack the information they need to do so, including which ICT platforms would be the most appropriate for their projects. One ICT platform that is receiving increasing attention is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). IVR automates interaction with mobile phone users using a wide array of pre-recorded material. Computers detect voice and touch tones during a phone call, and respond with pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio. Such a system offers opportunities both for distributing media content and for collecting feedback and other monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data from media consumers. The aim of this project was primarily to add to the knowledge base on how organizations can use IVR to support M&E efforts, though we also address our observations on using IVR as a distribution tool.
The report can be accessed here.