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Verboice: New Tool for Social Outreach in Cambodia

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, April 18 2013

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Milei.vencel)

Social outreach organizations including the Women’s Media Centre of Cambodia and Better Factories Cambodia have begun using Verboice to reach communities otherwise cut off by literacy or technological barriers – lack of mobile support of local dialects, for example. It has been used to give women and children on demand health information, to increase access to reproductive and sexual health services, and to monitor working conditions in garment factories.

A free and open source tool, Verboice allows organizations to create and run projects using voice so users can listen and record messages in their language or dialect. Since, as Verboice asserts, voice is the most inclusive means of communication, their tool allows organizations to expand the reach of humanitarian efforts through mobile technology. (Mobile penetration in Cambodia was at 86 percent in early 2012, and has continued to rise.) Verboice was introduced by InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters) with funding from The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and Better Factories Cambodia are working to improve working conditions in Cambodia’s export garment factories. Through Verboice, the organizations connect directly with factory workers and educate them about their rights. Better Factories Cambodia set up a quiz in which factory workers can answer questions about salary, work safety and personal health. Marie Stopes International Cambodia has made Verboice part of their post abortion follow-up process, and also a way of education women about safer contraception options. The Open Institute and Women's Media Center in Cambodia have also created an information telephone hotline for on demand health information. Verboice even has a Youtube video with instructions on how to create a health tips hotline.

This technology is still in an experimental phase – the Open Institute and Women's Media Center project began in August 2012 – but so far, for its simplicity and accessibility, Verboice looks promising. It's nice to see an interactive voice response system used for humanitarian purposes rather than questionable customer care at your credit card company.

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