Author: Damalie Wasukira, March 25 2015 - Without understanding context, one can't communicate effectively. Considering context in communication means you consider the framework of related facts, conditions and circumstances within which the communication takes place. These kind of factors influence the way a message is understood by the recipient. For TTC, this means carefully taking into account our target group when starting a project. Ever since our first mHealth project in 2008, the organization has worked in over 25 different countries worldwide, including Uganda, Bolivia, Sierra Leone, Nepal and now United States among others. Logically, with every country comes a different context. Even within a country there always is a different context. Effective communication can be hindered by not bearing in mind the difference in cultures, traditions, religion, politics and a number of other factors. Therefore, when designing and implementing our programs it is highly important to carefully take into account the context.
1. Ebola Awareness Campaigns
Prevention and control of Ebola is focused around awareness raising regarding risk factors and protection of the virus. In TTC’s Ebola awareness campaigns people can participate in interactive quizzes to receive informative text messages. When one of our campaigns was first implemented in Mali, the country did not yet have reported Ebola cases at that time. If we would have sent text messages without carefully considering this fact, panic and commotion could have broken out. We also see that unfounded fears and rumors about Ebola spread quickly and widely. More than ever, it is crucial that people have access to the right information to protect themselves and prevent dangerous misunderstandings. Therefore every piece of accurate information is vital and the way it is being communicated is crucial.
2. Strong convictions to Culture
Another often reoccurring phenomenon that we had to take into consideration in several projects, is the presence of strong convictions to culture. Just like every other region in the world, African cultures also have their own traditions, rituals, long-held practices and age-old acts. Sometimes this also includes superstition or witchcraft assumptions about certain natural processes. Usually, these are beliefs that have been rooted in societies for ages. When sending text messages, you cannot ignore those beliefs people have imbedded in them, and therefore this topic needs to be addressed. In different projects, we have done this by asking the participant about his/her views on certain beliefs.
3. Phone ownership predominantly male
Another example comes from our Program Manager Olivia Nalweyiso; “In order for the maternal and child health programs in Northern Uganda with Health Child to be effective, we had to keep in mind that phone ownership was predominantly male. Therefore, the messages had to be tailor made. This helped not only to get the message across to the mothers but also increased male participation in maternal and child health issues”. In other words, the messages were designed in such a way that they could reach and, more importantly, positively affect both women and men.
Contextualized information leads to higher response
Communication success is greatly influenced by context. Therefore it is important to know your target audience to make sure that the right message reaches the right people at the right time. If you truly want to get a message across, you need to alter the message in a way that it fits its recipients and purpose. We have proof: when information is localized and made context sensitive, people respond better. This enabled us to interact with millions of people. We truly believe that with the right information people and communities can independently improve themselves socially and economically.