VOTO Mobile connects businesses, government, social institutions and NGOs with rural communities. The result is improved access to information, education and vital services.
How a platform to contact any phone on earth is mobilizing positive change for millions.
VOTO Mobile is a Ghana-based tech startup and social enterprise making it easy for businesses, government departments, social institutions and NGOs to communicate with African communities. Using any mobile phone, the platform instantly reaches across distance, language and literacy barriers to deliver vital information and give under-served communities a voice.
VOTO’s application is widespread—a mother can receive maternal health information from a local clinic; a policy-maker can study the supply chain and efficacy of vaccinations; urban planners can monitor water usage and distribution to better map service delivery throughout a community.
Today, VOTO is used by over 500 organizations to improve the lives of millions of people across 29 countries.
More than 3 billion people cannot access the internet. That means around half of the world’s population lack a vital communication channel for updates, education and access to resources. In Sub-Saharan Africa, barriers of language and literacy complicate things further in rural communities.
As a result, many worldwide organizations struggle to engage with essential audiences—from local government and community institutions through to international NGOs.
Without access to communication platforms, underserved communities miss out on vital materials and benefits: healthcare, education, participation in determining government policy and more.
At the same time, it is difficult for organizations to develop or design improvements to community services without an insight into the realities of how the areas operate.
‘VOTO Mobile increases participation in the services delivered to citizens, empowering communities to engage in conversations that drive positive social change.’
VOTO Mobile is a web-based platform for simple and cost-effective mass communication via any mobile phone. It addresses challenges related to information access, community education, service delivery and accountable governance.
VOTO uses mobile phone technology to deliver key messages to remote and rural communities around the world. The platform is capable of calling any phone on the planet and is available from any browser, enabling contact via:
VOTO can deploy interactive voice reaching technology to all basic phones, eliminating the barriers of location, language, and literacy levels.
- Voice Recognition (IVR).
The tool does not require people to read or write, to speak English, to own a smartphone or to download an application.
- Two-way communication.
VOTO is the only service that integrates incoming and outgoing voice, SMS and analytics into one simple platform to facilitate every possible mobile-based mass communication. The platform allows organizations to build polls with advanced features and deliver them to huge rural audiences for grass-roots feedback.
We partnered to play a foundational role in the early development of VOTO’s mobile engagement service.
Through the provision of early-stage equity, EWB assisted throughout initial product design and the development of marketing and sales strategies in preparation for pilot.
‘Our expertise has helped VOTO partner with global organizations to significantly increase response and engagement rates, and foster valuable communications with some of the most isolated populations in the world.’
By embedding seven Long-Term Fellows and eight Junior Fellows, VOTO Mobile secured access to key talent in business management and strategic support.
‘I started working with VOTO on their Operations team. I’m now leading one branch of our Operations Team, the Partner Success Team. We currently work on the virtual implementation of international projects through skype and online project management tools. The team is currently four people; the goal for the end of this quarter is to have smooth-running independent staff delivering on client needs.’
– Jocelyn Light, April 2016, EWB Long-Term Fellow with VOTO Mobile.
We have also placed significant emphasis on sustainable business development, to secure a pipeline with over 20 organizations prepared to engage in prospective projects.
Additionally, VOTO Mobile has hired an international business development manager to galvanize further opportunities at global scale.
Community improvement through better communication.
VOTO Mobile opens the door for cost-effective, simple and impactful conversations between African communities and the organizations that support them.
The resulting information drives health education among communities, creates improvement in the way services are delivered to citizens, and contributes to more accountable governance and organizational operations.
The VOTO platform encourages communication through:
- Gathering feedback.
VOTO allows organizations to collect real-time information from citizens and people in communities. As a result, NGOs and governments can monitor the effect of projects by engaging directly with the people effected – at a fraction of the cost of in-person interviews.
- Promoting healthy behavior.
Simple updates and seasonal announcements equip people with the information to make positive decisions in health, hygiene, agriculture and education.
- Gaining insight to design policies.
Through VOTO, agencies can quickly poll the priorities and needs of large numbers of people.
- Offering transparency.
Keep communities involved in discussion of budget plans, project updates and service accountability.
- Reporting on events and occurrences.
Communities can quickly and safely report events, outbreaks or issues.
- Research and journalism.
In-platform analytics allows users to conduct long-form studies on services and community engagement, or to seek out and report on grass-roots public opinion.
The benefits of these dialogues are widespread. There are positives for communities and organizations through three varieties of interaction:
Organization to community.
VOTO provides a web-based, ready-to-run mass message delivery service which can be instantly accessed by any organization with internet access. This can empower community organizations to:
- Deliver timely maternal health information to expecting mothers in rural areas.
- Issue public health notifications around seasonal diseases or health concerns. In partnership with UNICEF and the Government of Ghana, VOTO is leading mass awareness raising campaigns and surveys to encourage knowledge and awareness of Ebola.
- Invite people to assembly meetings to contribute to administrative discussions. VOTO has contributed to developing community district government panels. Made mostly from marginalized community members, the panels rate and prioritize the development of schools, health clinics, and water infrastructure.
- Announce new government services for communities.
Community to organization.
VOTO reaches all mobile phones and offers both SMS and voice interaction message delivery. It does not require participants to read, write, speak English, or download an application. As a result citizens can:
- Report on broken or underperforming infrastructure.
- Request community services.
- Ask questions of government representatives.
- Report corruption.
With a range of polls and survey tools, organizations can source community opinion through numerical and sentiment-based surveys. These interactions and insights can:
- Determine citizen priorities for district planning.
- Run baseline surveys for infrastructure allocation.
- Increase engagement and participation in discussions around community initiatives.
- Provide feedback on projects and their local on-the-ground impact.
Key achievements since EWB investment.
Scaling to positively impact the lives of millions.
Through improved access to information and the resulting policy developments and community initiatives, VOTO Mobile has positively impacted over 3.5 million people.
Scaling operations to multiple countries.
After extensive trials and ongoing service delivery in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and India, the VOTO platform is now available in 29 countries throughout the world.
Partnering with large scale service providers and international organizations.
VOTO Mobile is used by over 500 organizations with a 100% retention rate among major clients. This includes a four-time increase in work from World Bank, three repeat contracts with UNICEF, and over 20 individual projects with a top Silicon Valley technology company.
Triggering the influx of a range of competing similar services.
In the years following VOTO Mobile’s incubation, the Information and Communications Technologies for Development sector has noted a proliferations of platforms similar to VOTO. This trend signifies the viability and significance of VOTO’s approach.