Bluetooth – remember that?

Bluetooth technology has been around for a while now – so it’s hardly cutting edge any longer. But for Media Matters for Women, it has offered an easy, offline way of reaching remote communities with health information on Ebola where other technologies would surely have failed. A few months ago, we announced that we would support their Ebola work in Sierra Leone to provide remote communities with practical, life-saving audio content on the condition. Since then, the small team of reporters and ambassadors have been busy producing and disseminating a range of local language content on Ebola and other topics of interest. They recently submitted a progress report and we thought we’d share some of the highlights with you.

The project used three local journalists to produce broadcast quality programmes on Ebola and other issues. Each journalist was responsible for setting up three distribution networks for their programming. Within each network were five villages and a key person in each who would keep track of listener numbers and be responsible for sharing the radio programmes with the next village in the chain. In total, the three journalists therefore were expected to reach 45 relatively remote communities.

In the six months the project has been running, the 45 key contacts report that they have reached 7,490 women directly with the programmes (either through playing the programmes to listener groups or through direct Bluetooth shares). In addition, more women have been reached through regular radio broadcasts, meaning that Media Matters’ material has almost certainly been heard beyond their core villages. The programmes cover a wide range of issues, including safe burial practices, Ebola and disabled people, the impact of Ebola on businesses, as well as other programmes on issues like corruption, child labour and access to water. The team have seen some initial evidence of behaviour change and increased understanding of the condition – critical when basic precautions can make such a difference to the spread of the disease.

We hope that the Media Matters solution to providing remote communities with content is one that can be replicated elsewhere. Although Bluetooth is no longer at the cutting edge, it’s exciting to see a comparatively old technology like this being used in such an innovative way.