Case Study: Mobile phone technology; Listening to the voice of the Haitians

Although 86% of Haitians live in slum conditions the country as a whole has extensively engaged with mobile phone technology. Haiti's 2010 earthquake was an opportunity for The Red cross and IFRC to trial varying disaster responses using new and emerging technologies. 

During the Haiti natural disaster wanted to trial a IVR system (Interactive Voice Resonse). So not only did they want to relay information to the people on the ground they also wanted to receive a response back. So they could know exactly what the situation is across the country.

They used the following methods:
1/ Radio - broadcast across Haiti relaying important live updates.
2/ Text - After a slow to take up response they soon were reminded of the high rate of illiteracy. Many people could not read the texts.
3/ Free phone number. A free *733 was set up to relay live information and also provide a way for people to feedback information when needed. 

The aid agencies were able to track each person who received a text or listened to messages giving them a map of the where people were and where cellular coverage was.

Haitians were encouraged to call a 733 number and complete a voice spoken survey.  HIF's case study says "From the first day, the IVR phone line has been a popular tool with Haitians. Within nine months, more than 1 million calls had been received, averaging one call every 26 seconds and 3,398 calls per day 13. Of these callers, 80,000 had fully completed surveys."

The Red Cross and IFRC have learnt many lessons from this project: A population's understanding and experience using technology and their ability to read is a very interesting aspect of this case study. Could there be a way to create a piece of communication software which required no literacy skills and could be used in any country? Another interesting finding from this project is that time is very important. Whatever the method information needs to be communicated very quickly: 1/ Because its during a crisis so time is precious 2/ Technology uses power, users will want to preserve their phone battery. Information and communication needs to be short and snappy.

See video below it puts everything in context wonderfully!

All information is taken from a case study from HIF's website:

Great learnings all round, very enlightening! :)