By 2018, 3.6 billion people – half of the world’s population – are estimated to be using mobile messaging applications. The growth of messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Viber presents an unprecedented opportunity for the international development and humanitarian sectors to engage directly with the populations they serve. However, each messaging application varies in their applicability to development or relief programs, while also posing unique challenges and opportunities.
In its mission to steward best practices in digital development, DIAL and Echo Mobile partnered in 2017 to better understand how, and to what effect, international development organizations have used different messaging apps. Last week, they launched the Messengers website – a new resource providing development practitioners and application developers with findings, insights, and tips on how messengers can be best utilized in daily development and relief work. The website features:
- 6 case studies: detailed analyses of development and humanitarian initiatives that have utilized messaging applications. Based on in-depth interviews, each case explores the decision making and implementation processes and analyzes the results for lessons, focusing on accomplishments as well as unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
- 13 project summaries: focused on 13 organizations that have deployed messaging applications for development projects across different regions and sectors. The findings from each project have been summarized in one-page briefings that provide insights for development practitioners and technologists.
- 1 report: which examines crosscutting insights, similarities and differences in use cases involved in this research, and synthesizing lessons for development and technology practitioners.
The research is currently open to feedback from organizations using messaging apps and applications developers. We’re interested in hearing from you on some of the challenges and opportunities of using messaging applications for development; or whether insights from this study resonate with your experience and expertise. Share your feedback and comments with us using our discussion forum to post under the topic “Provide Feedback on Messengers Research.”
Although the usage of different messaging apps varies case-by-case, these applications have clear and vast potential to help development organizations connect and understand their target audience in profound and powerful ways. Fully realizing this potential depends on a holistic and adaptive project design and dedicated human, financial, and technical resources. It is critical to choose the right application(s) with context, audience, goals, and the realities of one’s own capacity. Additionally, a user-centric approach ensures channels work for the communities they seek to serve rather than focusing on the easiest or cheapest means for implementation.
The Messengers research helps the development sector understand these circumstances as well as provide practical use cases where messaging applications have been most effective for development across different sectors, regions, and organizations.
For additional questions and comments, please contact Maurice Sayinzoga at firstname.lastname@example.org.