0800 Rede Jovem: SMS with opportunities for young people

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 22, 2008

Local information and media is one of the areas where mobiles can be an ideal delivery vehicle.  Rede Jovem, a Brazilian NGO created 0800 Rede Jovem, or Mobile YouthNet, a project that reaches young people through SMS on their mobile phones with local opportunities and information about what is going on in their communities. Soledad Muniz talked with Alice Gismonti from Rede Jovem about the SMS project.

In the last year, Rede Jovem has been sending a daily SMS to some 500 young people who live in favelas in Brazil.  The SMS are focused on “the opportunities for young people where they live, that they don’t know about, and that are free”, Alice explained.  The SMS are about job opportunities, cultural and sports events, free courses, leisure activities, and free public services. The project reaches young people from 17 to 24 years old who are or were high school students and who do not necessarily have Internet access.
In Brazil, only 109 out of 1000 people can access Internet but more than three times, 367 out of 1000,  are mobile phone subscribers. Rede Jovem works with Okto, a mobile company in Brazil, as its main partner, and hundreds of community-based organizations that provide information about opportunities, events, and free services.  Youth sign up for the SMS with a local NGO or online and then start receiving information on the issues they have chosen. Recipients indicate their state, city and neighbourhood so the opportunities are close to where they live.
The project has spread from one favela to five in its first year. Young people in each community identify small enterprises, jobs, clubs, theatres, and programmes of NGOs and local grassroots organizations as local partners, and then Rede Jovem contacts them to be included in the network. Partners send updated updated information for the database every month. In each community one NGO functions as the main contact for Rede Jovem through which young people can apply to receive the service. The content team of Rede Jovem sends opportunities via SMS from the Rede Jovem database to registered users accroding to the specific user profiles and interests.
93 percent of users considered the messages very useful and almost 70 percent used it more than five times in last three months. Young people “ also forwarded the message to other people”, Alice noted. Directly or indirectly, 3,300 young people benefited from the service.
Even though it is growing, the project is still experimental and has improved by trial and error. “We changed a lot of things”, said Alice. For example, at first they wanted to establish a community point with local information but then shifted to the current system where the network of community-based organizations provide content. Young people can register online now as well, and not just through the NGOs in the network.
In the next phase, youth subscribers will be able to forward information to the database and to others for free. This will expand the number of recipients and involve them in the process of updating local information. At the same time, Rede Jovem is trying to find new partners for thematic approaches.  Recently, 0800 Rede Jovem won the Nike-Changemakers Sport for a better world competition and will, with the help of Nike, deliver information about local sports opportunities for youth. Rede has also experimented with Frontline SMS to determine whether that can reduce the cost of the project, and is trialing it in one community. 
Alice had this recommendation for those who are trying to implement an SMS info project: “The most important thing is to focus on the content - on the kind of information needed and what kind of benefit you really want to deliver”.
Reported by Soledad Muniz, Buenos Aires

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