Una Hakika, a Sentinel Project initiative, uses TextIt to enable residents of Kenya’s Tana Delta to submit rumors for verification and provide subscribers with neutral, accurate information in response.
Violent conflict between the Tana Delta’s Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups has resulted in longstanding animosity and persistent distrust. Several factors contribute to this enduring conflict, though land ownership is among the most prominent. Each group’s livelihood relies almost entirely on land use, and issues preventing the procurement of official land deeds render boundaries blurred. In the context of severe poverty, encroachment on one another’s traditional livelihoods, such as the Orma grazing livestock on Pokomo farmlands, or the Pokomo butchering Orma cattle, is a critical threat to the well being of both ethnic communities. Between September 2012 and January 2013, 166 people were killed in nine separate massacres throughout the Tana River area. Primary fieldwork has indicated that much of the violence between the Orma and Pokomo is triggered by unfounded rumors.
The Sentinel Project, a Canadian nonprofit whose mission is to prevent genocide worldwide through early warning and cooperation with victimized peoples, is using TextIt to collect and disseminate detailed reports on rumors that pose an immediate risk of conflict in the Tana Delta via text message. Unlike other SMS based data collection and dissemination tools, TextIt’s Flow Engine allows organizations such as the Sentinel Project to design a series of questions and response rules that automatically direct the user down paths specific to their responses. These interactions, called flows, feel like any other SMS conversation to end-users.
Una Hakika - “Are you sure?” - is a simple premise for end-users: If a person in the Tana Delta region hears a rumor that presents an immediate risk of conflict, they can text-it-in to 21512, a toll-free shortcode. The project uses TextIt’s keyword trigger function to direct all messages received - regardless of content - to an autoresponder flow that allows end-users to:
set the language of all subsequent messages to Swahili.
report a rumor.
subscribe or unsubscribe to Una Hakika’s informational broadcasts.
If an end-user elects to report a rumor, they’re directed to a separate flow designed to:
collect the rumor, saved as a qualitative value in the Rumors field for evaluation by Una Hakika’s staff. Una Hakika’s staff is trained to prioritize rumors using a proprietary risk scale that accounts for a variety of variables.
determine if the situation is an emergency occurring at present.
immediately send email and text message alerts to trained community mediators and other proper authorities.
Once rumors are prioritized in real time by Una Hakika’s staff, their next task is to uncover the truth. This is where their each staff member’s intensive, varied training kicks in. In some cases, the relevant authorities may be an appropriate resource. In other cases, consulting trusted community sources or querying subscribers may yield the truth.
To view rumors and sightings as they’re reported, click here.
Having staff present in target areas as a point of contact for end-users is vital to the success of SMS or IVR-based communication initiative. The Sentinel Project recognizes this, having selected and trained community ambassadors who serve as the human element of their project. These ambassadors educate participants on methods of reporting information accurately and provide hands-on support for each end-user. Their ability to compile and retain meaningful and relevant information ensures that Una Hakika can act on reliable information.
Overall, the young program is receiving high praise from its first 968 end-users. An end-user satisfaction survey conducted April showed high levels of satisfaction across the board. The average rating across all quantitative questions was 8 out of a possible 10, indicating that the users find value in Una Hakika. The highest individual question rating (8.53 out of 10) is in response to the question How much has Una Hakika helped prevent the spread of rumours?, which indicates the project is delivering on its primary goal.
With the information gleaned from this survey and other sources of end-user feedback, Una Hakika will begin to implement new policies to address the most pressing issues highlighted by their user base.
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