In Bangladesh, the BBC World Service Trust is delivering English language lessons through SMS:
BBC Janala (‘Window’) has turned the mobile phone into a low-cost education device by offering hundreds of 3 minute audio lessons and SMS quizzes through people’s handsets. By simply dialling 3000, almost anyone can learn with new classes each day ranging from: ‘Essential English’ for beginners, to ‘How to tell a story’ for those more advanced.
With 39% of callers returning to the service, BBC Janala has outperformed the majority of other value added mobile products in Bangladesh which typically achieve a 5% return of customers. The beginner’s content is experiencing a 69% repeat rate. To date 1,030,583 lessons have been accessed, with users engaging with Janala’s interactive services – including audio quizzes, English story recording and direct feedback – an additional 130,000 times.
In insecure environments, such tools offer useful ways to reach out to audiences and provide useful services directly. This could work in Afghanistan, in Somalia, Sudan and so on.