Dr. Sipho Moyo and Bon Kalindo

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

As technology takes a bigger stake in the social upliftment of the world citizenry, the ONE Campaign, an international grassroots advocacy backed by more than 3 million members worldwide, is launching a unique initiative to make sure the world’s poorest people have a say in the development of the next set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate extreme poverty through mobile phones and SMS.

The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expires in 2015, and ONE Africa Director Dr. Sipho Moyo says this initiative called “You Choose”, which was launched in Malawi in Malawi last month aims to bring African voices to the table as nations consider post-2015 development goals.

“You Choose” is a pilot SMS-based campaign that will form part of the effort to ensure that the design of the next development agenda is open, inclusive; evidence based and puts the views of the poorest at its centre,” she explained.

She said the initiative aims to feed into the UN’s country and thematic consultations as well as the High Level Pane and it will work in close partnership with “My World” and share results on the 'worldwewant2015' web platform.

She explained that through traditional and non-traditional media, “You Choose” will use innovative methods and new technologies to allow people in Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, to tell the High-Level panel the most important issues they would like the post-2015 agenda to address.

“To reach those who do not have access to communications technologies, we’ve used sub-national poverty data to create a target map and leveraged a network of NGOs, faith groups and youth groups to make sure that people in those areas participate in large numbers off line,” she said.

She said they want to reach as many people as they can, especially the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, so that everyone’s voice can be heard. 

‘You Choose’ initiative will feature 3 important principles the first one will be an Open Process through SMS polling which will be used to solicit, channel, and amplify scaled ground-level views.

“The effort will look to expand based on lessons learned and will feed results of priorities and ideas into formal UN design process,” she said.

The one will be an ‘Open Engagement’ where the initiative will enable two-way engagement with, and concrete actions by, ONE members and the general public while the third and last one will be a Global Movement for Open Development where the initiative will mobilise new members, paired with ONE’s 3m existing members, to take immediate and subsequent actions  

People in Malawi are being advised to participate by texting to 57111 and sharing what they think is most important in ending poverty or by going to www.one.org/africa, and completing a questionnaire for the same purpose.

Beside the SMS number, people can also follow proceedings on twitter on @ONEinAfrica and Facebook by find them as ONE Campaign and make contributions.

Dr. Moyo says with the information collected from the campaign they will share it one platform with feedback aimed at enriching the High Level Panel on the MDG discussions, as well as the Secretary General’s report.

“You Choose data will be analyzed at regular intervals, with assistance on statistical rigor from a well-established opinion polling company.  The analysis will summarize the responses to date, highlight any interesting differences or similarities between different groups or countries, and link the results to the on-going post-2015 policy debate,” she said.  

In Malawi the ONE Campaign, a project co-founded by Bono and strictly non-partisan, has engaged two Malawian entertainers to help achieve its objective by encouraging people to send SMS.

Dr. Moyo disclosed when they campaign was launched that they have engaged comedian Bon Kalindo and musician Dan Lufani who joins a list of celebrities that include Hugh Masekela, Lira, D’banj, Chris Katongo, Benni McCarthy, Slap Dee and Mampi.

“You Choose” will reach millions of citizens in Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia, with the hope that thousands will take advantage of this free opportunity to tell world leaders about their priorities. In Malawi, radio spots prompt listeners to participate in the poll by texting ‘VOICE’ to 57111 for free, or dial *570# and follow the voice prompts.  

Different numbers will be used in South Africa and Zambia. Citizens are then asked “what can the government do to help improve your family & friends’ future?” and encouraged to text back their top concern, such as education, health, corruption, food, etc.

Malawi is one of the least developed nations in the world, with over 9 million people living on less than $1.25 a day.  According to the UN Human Development Index, it ranks 171 out of 187 countries.  However recently there’s been some progress: Malawi has already achieved 2 MDGS (Reducing Child Mortality and Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women) and may achieve another 5 MDGs by 2015.  However, Malawi is not likely to achieve the MDG target on combating HIV/AIDS.

“We are working with Civil Society Partners in Malawi to collect citizen views which will be presented to the Malawian government.  The hard data about people’s biggest concerns and priorities will also be presented at the UN’s meeting of the High Level Panel on the new development framework at the end of March in Bali, Indonesia,” says Dr. Moyo.

Kalindo, one of Malawi’s top ranked comedians, called upon compatriots to take the opportunity to be heard.

“Malawi's progress on the MDGs is a mixed bag of tales. We are one of the poorest nations in the world, yet the strong strides we are making in overcoming issues such as hunger, is remarkable,” he said. 

Kalindo said with such milestones are encouraging, and should give Malawians hope that we can overcome extreme poverty in our country.

“It’s time to take stock of our past, and decide what type of Malawi we want our children to grow up in.  For their sake, do not hold back, the SMS is free, raise your voice and be the change you want to see,” he encouraged

The campaign aims to encourage my fellow Malawians to participate in an SMS campaign on the next level of MDGs. The objective of the campaign is to solicit views and suggestions from Malawians on what we want the next goals for eradicating poverty, to be.

“My fellow Malawians, join me in sending as many SMSs as possible. Let’s unite as one in making the fight against poverty a ‘Part of our Life’. Together we can conquer poverty,” said Lufani whose voice together with that of Kalindo has now become a common fixture on local radio stations of the country.

 

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