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Tayoa Introduces Free Sms Technology Solution
Source: Tanzania Daily News
Source Date: Monday, November 28, 2011
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government, Institution and HR Management
Country: Tanzania
Created: Dec 01, 2011

In commemorating the World AIDS Day, Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) in partnership with mobile operators in Tanzania are launching '15017 free SMS services', a set of services that allows users in the country to access health SMS information starting from December 1, 2011. The SMS services build upon the success of TAYOA's 117 Helpline services, a nationwide service that has responded to more than one million calls since 2008. The Helpline is free to the end user (callers), thanks to support of Tanzania Communication Regulation Authority and all the major phone operators in the country. Despite the high level of call service, the Helpline addresses only one in five callers trying to get through because of technical and human resource limitations. There is more demand for accurate, anonymous information and advice on HIV and other health topics than TAYOA can currently supply. "We seek to serve a broad base of people -- not only those who can afford to get the line. By offering free service, we are also guaranteeing services to all Tanzanians, regardless of their economic status," says Peter Masika, TAYOA's Country Director. Africa has the second-highest growth rate for mobile penetration after India. According to the ITU which tracks telecommunication trends, one third of Africans own mobile phone. Tanzania ranks fourth in Africa with the highest number of subscribers. According to TCRA (Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority), the number of mobile phone subscribers has increased from less than 300,000 to over 20 million in the past decade. Fifty-two per cent of all youths and adults have a cell phone. The SMS include, for example, proverbs that focus on delivering comprehensive knowledge on HIA and AIDS, access to health care services and related health tips and news. The free service can be accessed by simply sending a message to the Tanzanian shortcode 15017. Texting a Keyword USHAURI or STOPAIDS to 15017 will return, for example, a proverb or tips on HIV and AIDS, information on health clinics near the user. As of December 1, the service will be available to Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Zantel subscribers. Health and eHealth interventions are gaining popularity worldwide. Text messaging projects have been implemented all over the world, including in many countries in Africa. Given TAYOA's expertise and experience, initial interest in this service is to provide education and awareness. The Helpline database of frequently asked questions (FAQ) gives TAYOA a unique perspective on the kind of information the public is genuinely seeking. According to the 2011 report, "Identifying Health Information Needs in Tanzania: Evidence from the Audience Scapes National Survey" , more than three quarters of all respondents had received HIV information in at least the past week. And yet, HIV/AIDS emerged as the leading health topic that respondents wanted more information about. People are getting information and messages that don't address their underlying concerns and curiosities. The "15017 FREE SMS services" system sends daily and/or weekly automated SMS messages to subscribers, prompting them to take action in responding to HIV and AIDS. These messages are collected in a central web-based system developed and hosted by local experts working with TAYOA. The SMS technology is hosted within TAYOA premises and there is flexibility in changing some of its use and requirements. Monitoring and evaluation options will vary depending on the design of each specific project. The immediate second stage of the project will be to incorporate interactive and targeted messages to special key populations who might choose to receive specific messages. "Some of the groups we are thinking about include People living with HIV, who need to be reminded about their medication and clinic appointment. We will also target other illnesses such as diabetes mellitus focusing on prevention strategies for risk groups. The ultimate goal is to use technology in promoting healthier lifestyle to the entire population," concludes Mr Masika. The SMS project is jointly supported by PEPFAR, Finnish Embassy in Tanzania, through memorandum of understanding between TAYOA and Ministry of Science, Communication and Technology, Tanzania Telecommunication Regulation Authority-TRCA, Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Zantel.
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