First-of-its-kind Text Messaging Application Drives Unprecedented Response Rate
BELLEVUE, Wash., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Working with Trilogy International Partners' wireless subsidiary in Haiti - Voila, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are pioneering the use of text messaging technology to fight cholera in Haiti. The new messaging application, developed by Voila, and the first of its kind globally, allows the Red Cross to send customized text messages via SMS (short message service) to phone users in defined geographic areas -- unlike traditional SMS services, which require broadcast messages be delivered to every subscriber on a carrier's network. Using the new service, the Red Cross can provide Haitians with advice and offers of aid that are relevant to their particular circumstances; that capability has driven unprecedented response rates, with life-saving consequences.
The Red Cross is fully utilizing the application in its efforts to combat the cholera epidemic. Immediately following the first suspected cases of Cholera on October 21, the Red Cross began sending text messages to Voila customers specifically in the affected population around the Artibonite region, advising on good hygiene and safe water practices to help contain the spread of the disease. Shortly thereafter, the Red Cross began targeting messages to the Port-au-Prince region with information around prevention, cure and treatment. Approximately 500,000 text messages have been sent since the epidemic was identified. The Red Cross will soon start texting subscribers instructing them to dial *733 for a recording in Creole with more detailed information. All calls are free of charge.
"This system saves lives," said Marcel Fortier, the head of delegation for the International Federation of the Red Cross in Haiti. "It complements our existing approaches to public health information, but it expands our reach dramatically."
According to Brad Horwitz, CEO of Trilogy International Partners, the Red Cross approached Voila immediately after the January 12 earthquake with a specific communications challenge – how to send targeted aid messages to audiences that could benefit from them, without broadcasting to others for whom the information would be irrelevant or confusing. Voila's software affiliate created an application that allows the Red Cross to focus messages to mobile phone customers that are located near specific aid centers or within specific areas that are affected by an epidemic or a natural disaster. The application allows the Red Cross to define, message-by-message, which groups of phone users it wants to reach, and that allows the messages to suggest specific actions and solicit specific user responses.
"Voila is known for its capacity to innovate," Horwitz said. "Through our partnership with the Red Cross, we were able to leverage the benefits of our network to create a long-term, sustainable solution that's a win-win for everyone - the NGO, the people they are trying to serve, and the network operator. The Voila application enables messages to be more relevant, more action oriented and, therefore, more effective. It also reduces network congestion, so messages can be sent more quickly and efficiently."
The Red Cross has been using the program in Haiti for nine months, with impressive results:
- A vaccination campaign launched four weeks after the earthquake was aimed at protecting 130,000 people from measles, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Using the Voila SMS application, approximately 16 million text messages were targeted to Voila subscribers within range of the aid center, providing information about the service and specific times for vaccinations. As a result, more than 152,000 people received life-saving protection.
- For 8 days in March, the Red Cross targeted SMS messages to 350,000 Voila subscribers in flood prone areas of Port-au-Prince with information about small steps they could take to protect themselves such as clearing out drains to prevent flooding or signs to identify that a landslide is coming. Recipients were instructed to call *733 for more tips and advice. At the end of the campaign 37,000 people had called the hotline. The Red Cross estimates they would normally only reach 3500 people with this level of information.
- In September, when a 14-foot storm surge was predicted to hit Haiti as a result of Hurricane Igor, 50,000 text messages were sent warning subscribers specifically near the Northern coastal region, giving instructions on how to prepare or relocate. Messages were again sent letting them know when the danger had passed.
Based on the successful pilot program in Haiti, Voila and Trilogy International Partners are working with the Red Cross to deploy the new messaging application on wireless networks around the world, including Pakistan, which is still recovering from the massive floods that occurred this summer.
About Trilogy International Partners, LLC Trilogy International Partners, LLC (Trilogy) is a privately‐held company based in Bellevue, WA. Trilogy invests in wireless telecommunication operations in international markets that exhibit strong opportunities for significant growth. Trilogy and its businesses owns wireless communications systems in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and New Zealand, holding licenses to provide wireless services to over 31 million people. For more information on Trilogy, please see its website: www.trilogy-international.com.
SOURCE Trilogy International Partners