Uganda has both the world’s youngest population, with more than half of Ugandans under the age of 18, and the highest youth unemployment rate: recorded at as high as 83 per cent in 2008.
U-report is a free, SMS-based system that allows young Ugandans to speak out on what’s happening in communities across their country, and work together with other community leaders and policy makers for positive change. U-report conducts weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of U-reporters that are complimented with regular radio programs that will broadcast stories gathered by U-report as well as newspaper articles that will publish stories from the U-report community.
The following video is a song by One Heart Family featuring Bigdeal about U-report and how it is revolutionizing social mobilization, monitoring and response efforts.
Collaborating on the effort, UNICEF’s U-report team and a group of nine partner organizations meet regularly to determine which issues to discuss with Uganda’s youth, who make up the majority of U-reporters. Topics have included female genital mutilation (FGM), outbreaks of disease, safe water, early marriage, education, health and inflation. Once a topic is decided, UNICEF sends a question via SMS text to U-reporters, who can respond either with a simple menu-based reply or with personal messages. The UNICEF team analyzes and interprets the responses, sharing the results and often following up with additional questions or suggestions.
The project site also has a “National Pulse” which shows what is trending in the U-report community.
It’s disheartening to know that violence against children is a trending topic for this community, but U-report serves as a platform to inform leaders about what the community wants and needs. U-report may also be a catalyst for more responsible and responsive governance; it has sparked interest from Uganda’s government and media, resulting in increased engagement by members of Parliament.
U-report has inspired action within its community to take on the responsibility of creating a healthier and safer environment for all community members. I think that it is inspiring and sets the mark for how to approach mHealth in Africa, considering that WHO reports the African region to be the least active in using mHealth. Information sharing/reporting is a great way for citizens to question whether their needs are being met. U-report has made it so that the Ugandan government must listen to what the community has to say. Voice matters.