Automated Mobile Phone Service Hopes to Stop Spread of Ebola in West Africa
Friday, January 2, 2015
People in rural areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea battling Ebola could be helped by an automated phone service that offers advice about how to avoid contracting the virus.
Startup company Halt!Ebola is using “robocalling” to reach people where information hotlines are not being used.
The company is trying to acquire mobile phone numbers from the networks operating in these regions to enable them to make the calls. When people answer, an audio message with information and advice about the virus is played back.
By using influential people to record the calls in local languages and dialects, Halt!Ebola believes it could help stop the spread of the disease, said Michael Chu’no Ike, the firm’s co-founder.
“Most people [in rural areas affected by Ebola] have access to mobile phones. We want to place calls to them in a language that they understand, and get people who have the same belief system as them – like elders and religious leaders – to convince them to change their behaviours. We believe that this kind of message will resonate better with rural populations,” Ike said.