In Ghana: Freee News and Information by Phone in Five Languages

Vodafone Foundation partners with HNI to provide news and public service information in local languages

A new service, using cell phones, is to provide Ghanaians with news and information, free and on demand, in five local languages: English, Ewe, Ga, Hausa, and Twi.

The Vodafone 321 service will available on nearly eight million mobile devices connected to the Vodafone cellular network. The system is designed to be user friendly, even for people with limited literacy. 

Dialing “321” will connect the caller to a menu of topics, spoken in the language they prefer. The voice prompts lead the caller to key messages, including current news headlines provided by Ghana News Agency (GNA); Weather Forecasts; Maternal Health; Sexual Reproductive Health; Family Planning; and Water, Sanitation and Health. These key messages will also be available as text via SMS and USSD.

The 3-2-1 Service was created by Human Network International (HNI), an American NGO. The Service has been active in Madagascar since 2010, and in Malawi since 2014. The launch in Ghana represents the first time HNI has partnered with a news organization.

 “The 3-2-1 service clearly offers GNA the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to nation-building and socio-economic development as it brings news to locals in the language they are very much able to understand effortlessly. This is life transforming and a game-changer in the search to create a cohesive nation. As the news organization with the widest network of news gathering in the country, partnering HNI in this initiative unleashes our true potential”, Bernard Otabil, the Chief Executive Officer of GNA said. 

Also contributing to the service are DKT International, Marie Stopes International, Grameen Foundation, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Ghana Health Service, and GSMA. 

The public service messages are created and curated by committees convened by HNI and including representation from government ministries, plus Ghanaian and international subject area experts.

The launch in Ghana is the beginning of a rapid expansion of the service this year into 12 countries in Africa and Asia. By mid-2016 more than 100 million people around the world will have access to the Service, in local languages and with information aligned to national priorities. 

The technology behind the Service is a platform developed by a VOTO Mobile, a Ghana-based tech startup and social enterprise. 

The service’s Nutrition information was supported by UK Aid and GSMA, a trade organization representing nearly mobile 800 operators around the world, including Vodafone Ghana. Government-validated Nutrition content is “a pillar of the 3-2-1 Service in Ghana,” said Kai-Lik Foh, GSMA’s senior market engagement manager. 

DKT Ghana helped to fund and develop the information on Sexual Reproductive Health and Family Planning. “This service has the potential to reach millions of people in Ghana, with important and accurate information, without the caller having personal contact with a health provider,” said Kevin Hudson, Executive Director. “It is an effective, sustainable and cost-effective intervention provided at national level, by health experts and telephone companies without the requirement for donor dependency.”

“These messages are clinically accurate and culturally appropriate,” said Akuba Dolphyne, Senior Technical Manager for mHealth Services at Grameen Foundation, which developed the information on pregnancy through a “rigorous process” with Ghana Health Service and several nutrition experts from international NGOs.

More topics and messages will be added on an ongoing basis. 

“If our experiences in Malawi and Madagascar are any indication,” said Sarah Rogers, Program Manager for HNI, “people in Ghana are also going to love the Service. The news and weather information will generate repeat users, and the public service information will help people improve their lives by having access to trusted information across a wide range of topics.”

“Our telecom partners, end users, and content partners all benefit,” Rogers said.  “A number of new partners are already lining up to develop content for the Service, based on the strength of our business model and the success of our work in other African countries.  It’s very exciting knowing the national reach that we can have with 3-2-1 and I can’t wait to see how the Service continues to grow.”

GNA is a leading English language newswire service to cover world politics, business and social affairs. The Agency is the foremost news agency in sub-Saharan Africa. GNA played a key role in the early days of the liberation struggle in Africa, and helped in the promotion and development of African institutions. GNA plays a very significant role in the development of the media landscape not only in Ghana, but also across the African continent.

Human Network International (HNI) is a global development organization dedicated to bringing the benefits of technology to individuals and organizations in the developing world. HNI works across all sectors to promote the free flow of information between vulnerable groups and the humanitarian and development professionals dedicated to helping them.

Source: Human Network International


Categories: Educational Technology, Non-Profit Schools and Institutions, International News

Tags: African Languages, Ghana, Health, ICT4D, IVR, M4D