Sierra Leone launches SMS system to save lives

Flag-map of Sierra Leone

Flag-map of Sierra Leone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sierra Leone emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002 and has made substantial economic growth in recent years, but poverty and unemployment are still very prevalent. Mobile technology, and in particular SMS, represents an excellent opportunity to communicate effectively with people who have traditionally been hard to reach on areas such as health and flood prevention. Harnessing mobile technology in innovative ways such as this will help save lives throughout the developing world.

The launch of a location-based SMS system should reach up to 36,000 people an hour, with warnings of impending fires, floods or outbreaks of disease. The system is called the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA) and will allow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, with support from the British and Icelandic Red Cross to reach people in need in a matter of minutes. Sierra Leone is only the second country in the world to launch the TERA SMS System and was initially developed in response to the earthquake in Haiti. It is being delivered in partnership with the Sierra Leone’s largest mobile operator, Airtel, as well as two additional operators – Comium and SierraTel – to allow the system to reach 1.5m people.

A year of monthly campaigns have been planned including information ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25th and further campaigns covering everything from cholera, tuberculosis and child health information to flood and fire prevention advice.

The launch of the TERA system is now planned in 40 further countries over the next 5 years, reaching millions of people throughout the world. The collaboration between the mobile operator Airtel, TERA and various charities working in Sierra Leone is an example of how mobile services can really help save lives.

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