SMS Campaign in Missan gives citizens a Voice

08 Mar 2012

imageLocal government officials in southern Iraq review SMS data. Photo by UNDP Iraq 2012

Around 78% of Iraqis use mobile telephones and 12% own a personal computer. In the Missan governorate, staff utilised the rise in technology amongst Iraqis by using a Short Message Service (SMS) campaign to learn more about the needs of citizens to increase public participation in local development matters.

After careful needs preparation, which included focus group meetings and over 5,000 questionnaires; selected citizens of Missan received an SMS from the Governor’s Office requesting them to participate in a public consultation to express their needs and priorities. The campaign included targeting women, youth and vulnerable groups. Staff used social networking sites to support and promote the campaign and citizens who did not own a mobile phone were able to access the survey by email.

The results of the returned questionnaires formed a list of priority projects for essential services in Missan. Citizens voted electricity as the single most important issue, receiving 19% of the vote and the standard of roads, housing, agriculture and water came next.

The campaign is part of UNDP Iraq’s Local Area Development Programme which aims to promote sustainable social and economic development at the local level. The project has actively encouraged citizens to participate in governorate affairs and engage with ministries at the national level to improve local planning and the standard of services.

Missan Governorate has shown how public participation can improve overall decision-making and the campaign proved that personal technology and in particular mobile phones can potentially be an effective source for positive social change in Iraq.