Messaging Applications for International Development

A research initiative from the Digital Impact Alliance and Echo Mobile

By 2018, 3.6 billion people were using
mobile messaging applications – nearly half of humanity.

Nearly half of the world’s population uses one or more messaging applications, providing an opportunity to connect more people and allow innovative services to flourish. Increasingly, development organizations are seeing the value of using mobile messaging applications to reach both urban and rural populations across the globe. From Uzbekistan to Brazil, messaging applications are transforming how we communicate, connecting more people to one another.

Full Report 

In 2017, the Digital Impact Alliance commissioned Echo Mobile to examine how and to what effect international development organizations have used messaging apps, capturing lessons for development and technology practitioners. Those lessons are synthesized in our full messengers report and exemplified in the project summaries and case studies. From in-depth research into these cases, Echo identified four common use cases where messaging apps have been effective for international development, across borders and within different sectors.

Project Catalog 

Echo Mobile’s research focused on 14 organizations that have deployed messaging applications for development projects across different regions and sectors.

Case Studies 

Echo Mobile and DIAL composed six 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.

Messengers Report

Explore the full report here.

The report provides recommendations for using messaging apps in development projects—including project design and application selection.

Project Catalog

Explore the full project catalog here.

The project catalog provides brief project summaries of the 14 organizations we reviewed, offering a better understanding of how messaging applications have been used in development.

Echo Mobile and DIAL composed six 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.

Case Studies 1-3

Agricultural Value Chain Activity (AVC) USAID Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, DAI enabled thousands of horticulturalists to share technical information and conduct trade through Telegram, the country’s most popular messaging application. Learn More

Amigo Anônimo, Alcoholics Anonymous, Brazil

In Brazil, AA targeted teen audiences with a Facebook Messenger chatbot that provides guidance on alcohol abuse. The bot engaged more than 100,000 users but strained offline resources and presents privacy concerns. Learn More

Ebola Community Action Platform (ECAP) Mercy Corps, Liberia

In Liberia, MercyCorps trained more than 800 Community Mobilizers to use WhatsApp for sharing learnings and discussing challenges in the field but struggled with adoption and engagement. Learn More

Case Studies 4-6

Food Bot and the AIDA Chatbot Builder World Food Programme and InSTEDD

WFP engaged InSTEDD to prototype “The Food Bot,”; a chatbot that collects and shares food security information with beneficiaries. The concept was abandoned after user testing in order to build AIDA, a platform where humanitarian teams can create their own custom chatbots. Learn More

 

MomConnect Praekelt Foundation, South Africa

After connecting more than 1.8 million women to critical maternal health information through SMS, IVR and USSD, MomConnect piloted WhatsApp’s first official integration. Engagement has skyrocketed among women who use WhatsApp, but most still prefer free SMS. Learn More

Shujaaz Well Told Story, Kenya

Young fans of Shujaaz’s comics and radio programs use Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to engage with fictional characters and each other. However, Messenger is limited to one-on-one interactions and WhatsApp size limits have strained resources. Learn More

This research was originally hosted on messengers.digitalimpactalliance.org and has been moved to this current page.