Population Services International

SMS Connects Retailers in Tanzania

PSI is improving mobile phone service in the most remote areas of the world... but not for traditional purposes. In Tanzania, PSI is partnering with mobile phone providers to transform the way HIV interventions are targeted to reach communities in most need. By using mobile phone networks to build closer relations with private retailers and wholesalers who distribute its Salama condoms, PSI is ensuring its products reach all corners of the country. Shop owners in Tanzania have high levels of personal mobile phone ownership and use. Data from a PSI retailer survey in 2009 showed that 70 percent of rural and 80 percent of urban retailers have a mobile phone.

Tapping into this high mobile phone ownership rate, PSI/Tanzania created a system in which retailers register their involvement by sending a text message from their phone indicating their ward, district and outlet type. They subsequently text the unique numbers found on a scratch card inside each condom dispenser they open. They are rewarded with a small airtime ‘top-up’ credit each time they send a text message indicating they have opened a new dispenser of condoms.

This innovative system will allow PSI/Tanzania to better target condom distribution and communications activities to reach wards with lowest sales, monitor projects and report health product availability.

The three largest mobile phone providers in Tanzania support PSI, and by March 2010, nearly 1,000 retailers had registered in the system. PSI expects to have over 30,000 retailers registered by the end of 2010, allowing them to significantly increase coverage of condoms and life-saving messages around HIV prevention.

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