1 million people from 15 countries across the world have joined hands to become agents of social change in their communities. These 1 million people stepped forward to no longer be passive recipients of social services but become active participants in the national and global development process. Now their voices can be heard and they can influence change at the national and international level using U-Report.
U-Report is a social platform that gives people, even those using a basic mobile phone, access to life-saving information, and allows them to interact with decision makers in real-time even in places without Internet connectivity.
This open source platform allows people to speak out on issues that they care about in their communities, encouraging citizen-led development leading to positive change.
The U-Report programme works by allowing citizens to respond to polls asking for their opinion and feedback on a variety of social and governance issues. The data is mapped and analyzed in real-time giving government and development partners insights into the needs of their citizens. Starting in Uganda in 2011 with the Scouts leading the way, the program grows every day and has increasing application to UNICEF’s work.
Aboubacar Kampo, Chief of Health, UNICEF Nigeria says U-Report mobile technology has helped UNICEF reach families about Ebola, Polio and newborn healthcare in areas where health workers cannot and the Country Representative, Jean Gough, is ambitious for the future adding: “We want U-Report to become a landmark and reference for community empowerment and accountability. Similar to how people with access to data and good connectivity use Wikipedia, we want U-Report to be someone’s first point of reference to check a fact or find out information.”
In addition to the near 500,000 Nigerians using U-Report, U-Report has given people a voice in:
- Liberia: U-Report was quickly mobilized as a response to the Ebola outbreak. Already, more than 52,000 Liberian youth are registered to the free mobile-based service. They engage daily around Ebola-related questionssuch as signs and symptoms of Ebola, proper hand washing techniques, safe burial practices, and stigma around survivors.
- Zambia: more than 84,000 youth use U-Report to get free counseling services about HIV/AIDS. Oftentimes, youth may feel more comfortable anonymously texting their questions about HIV/AIDS rather than talking inperson. Using U-Report, youth can text their questions for free. Results show that those enrolled in the program increase their likelihood of going for HIV/AIDS tests by 30% and that there’s a demand from youth to know thefacts and get access to information.
- Uganda: with more than 295,000 U-Reporters, youth successfully got the national government to change legislation. When the parameters to apply for a grant did not realistically meet the resources accessible to the applicants, they voiced this problem via U-Report and within weeks, the policy was changed.
Cleopatra John was one of the first U-Reporters and says: “For me, as a young girl in Uganda, our culture trains us to be quiet. U-Report lets us speak out. We need government to know about the things that are happening in our community.”
For Cleopatra and her fellow Scouts striving to change their communities for the better, she carries a powerful message: “Let everyone know: yes we can make a change. We can stand for what we believe in. We can make a difference. Let’s transform this world. Let’s be more effective. Let’s be more in touch. Let’s stand together with one voice and let that voice be heard.”
UNICEF is continuing its journey to build and strengthen the tools for her vision to be realised.