A six-member team of researchers published a report on the effectiveness of SMS messages to change voter perceptions in the 2016 Uganda district elections. Using information from Uganda Office of the Auditor General, the team sent texts about local corruption to constituents and measured post-election voting patterns. Compared to the control group, citizens who received negative news about candidates were not less likely to report voting for the incumbent chairperson, but were 3% points less likely to do so for incumbent councilor.
Although the study found that anticorruption SMS campaigns have mixed results on impacting voting patterns, it highlights the functionality of text messages: organizations can send out private messages specific to particular constituents and communicate critical information in closed media environments. Moreover, the accessible technology has enabled services like U-report to send policy polls to over 240,000 Ugandans, helped citizens in rural areas to hold their government accountable, and provided a platform for governments to respond.
The report emphasizes that while SMS can prove useful for organizing, it falls flat without “meaningful engagement.” NDItech is also experimenting with techniques to make messages more conversational. Get a preview of our soon to be released chatbot!
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