Finalist category: Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award
Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award, Finalist, 2018
Campaigning with the power of mobile phones.
Amandla.mobi uses cell phones in South Africa to enable those most affected by poverty to set up campaigns on issues that affect them and hold decision makers to account. Set up by Koketso Moeti after using her phone to mobilise her community and prevent them from being evicted, Amandla.mobi has grown into a national movement of over 200,000 people – the majority being black women from low-income communities.
The organisation utilises mobile platforms such as SMS, USSD and Whatsapp as well as social media and their mobi site, to connect users and run campaigns in multiple languages. It is built around how their constituents use mobile phones already (i.e. dialing a USSD code to buy phone credit, talking to a friend on Whatsapp), so no additional expertise is needed.
In a country where the internet remains expensive and inaccessible to many, 89% of South Africans now have a cell phone – the majority of which are web-enabled. Amandla.mobi wanted to tap into this resource using inclusive technology – also ensuring that language was not a barrier, as few websites exist in the country’s other widely spoken languages such as isiZulu, Setswana and isiXhosa. The first campaign launched was in isiZulu, using SMS and USSD, and since then they have continued to test, iterate, monitor and adapt their tech strategy. Practically, this has meant using a number of different communication channels but with a common database so they can move with their members as they shift platforms. They also use data to drive campaign strategy by testing different messages, tools and tactics.
In just three years, amandla.mobi has run over 300 campaigns and worked with over 40 partner organisations. Founder Koketso Moeti has been recognised for her work by Barack and Michelle Obama, in being selected as one of 20 Inaugural Obama Fellows in 2018. The organisation is now developing new mobile activism tools including a donation platform to allow members to make donations without a bank card. They are scaling up internal capacity and will be running an internship programme to train a new generation of women from low-income backgrounds in how to support communities in their campaigns to overcome poverty.
The strategic plan is to grow into a movement of half a million active members by 2020, a number they believe to be a key tipping point in bringing people power back into South Africa’s democracy.