TAYOA introduces free SMS technology solution

IN commemorating the World AIDS Day, Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) in partnership with mobile operators in Tanzania launched ‘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.

Source – Daily News