By Joseph Zaleski
In her address before the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to alleviate starvation in the Horn of Africa and build a more secure food supply for the future. Governmental organizations and NGOs are not the only ones supplying innovations and assistance – Secretary Clinton also noted several partnerships with private companies.
One of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) partners is Souktel, a mobile phone service based in the Middle East. Information and communication lines are valuable commodities in a world that is growing more connected every year. The founders recognized the potential for burgeoning mobile phone networks, and began their JobMatch service in 2006. Souktel creates databases, message surveys, and instant alerts that can be sent out and received via mobile phone. The platform tries to better-connect job seekers with employers through basic Short Message Service (SMS) texting.
More recently, Souktel has applied this system to international development work. By expanding their service into northern and eastern Africa, messaging services are being used to connect mobile phone users in previously impenetrable locations with aid and relief workers. This AidLink program allows development workers to create text message surveys with real-time feedback from those most in need. It can be used, for example, to send the location of new emergency relief centers or to make sure that hungry rural populations are actually being served.