Climate Change Awareness and Meteorological Early Warning with the 3-2-1 Service in Ghana (Updated Dec 22)
A free, on-demand information service to educate individuals on climate change and provide extreme weather alerts via simple mobile phone
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
In Ghana there is a lack of information about climate change and a lack of emergency preparedness, both of which are having an immense effect on individuals living in cities. Through our project we aim to raise awareness about climate change, best practices, and sustainable resource use. We will also provide an early warning system with weather forecasts and extreme weather alerts so that individuals can plan accordingly when severe rains, floods, and droughts are expected.
Our project uses an emergent, highly innovative mobile phone information service called “3-2-1,” which works like a search engine where there is no Internet. Individuals use their own simple mobile phones to proactively retrieve information across a range of topics. Callers dial the toll-free number “3-2-1” (with Vodafone Ghana providing the airtime as matching funds) anytime, anywhere, and retrieve the information they need, which is available in both voice and text form. Through this platform we can inform people about the effects of climate change, what it means for them, what preventative measures they can take, and what emergency services are available. Individuals will also have the option to “opt-in” for more information if they want to receive SMS and voice messages containing key information about floods, droughts, and storm warnings across Ghana. The 3-2-1- Service will increase climate change awareness by providing Ghanaians with actionable information, whenever and wherever they need it.
Our beneficiaries are city dwellers. Individuals will be able to receive weather alerts and access information to increase their awareness and preparedness. Due to our partnership with Vodafone, the information will be available in real time so that anyone with a simple mobile phone can access it anytime, anywhere, and free of charge. Our idea will focus on Ghana, but once successfully implemented, we will expand it to more than 13 countries worldwide where we are currently operating 3-2-1.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change has caused an increase in agricultural challenges and crop failure, leading to mass migration from rural to urban areas in Ghana. One of Accra’s largest slums, “Old Fadama,” has more than 80,000 migrants and suffers from complications with waste disposal and sewage. Over the past year, Accra has experienced major flooding, which led to over 200 deaths and significant damage to public and private properties. The Ghanaian Government has shown interest in improving its climate change efforts by creating the National Climate Change Policy (in 2014), but this is not enough.
Accurate, timely, and easily accessible information is necessary for citizens to take action. The 3-2-1 Service helps individuals, civil society actors, and the government make more informed decisions about how to handle climate change in cities. The Service includes a number of key design principles, one of which is its sustainability due to our cost-sharing model and public-private partnership. We have been able to leverage in-kind contributions from Vodafone in the form of free airtime and promotion allowing our beneficiaries to access the content for free.
The Service can be easily adapted, allowing us to add new information at any time to accommodate the constantly changing environment. All climate change messages will be developed by technical experts with the Government. Finally, in order to ensure widespread stakeholder involvement, the messages will be updated regularly according to feedback from target users and built-in usage analytics.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
Human Network International (HNI) is a non-profit dedicated to helping organizations harness information and communication technologies for large scale, high-impact development projects. HNI focuses on 3 important areas of ICT4D: mobile data collection, on-demand communication, and mobile surveys.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
Human Network International launched the 3-2-1 Service in Madagascar in 2010, and then expanded to Malawi in 2014. Due to our success in both Madagascar and Malawi, HNI is now expanding 3-2-1 to over 10 other countries. In Ghana, the 3-2-1 Service will be launched in December 2015.
In Madagascar, the Service contains information across 8 different topics, 45 sub-topics, and over 500 key information messages. Weather emergency preparedness is a main topic in Madagascar and in Malawi we also share weather forecasts. Every month, over 200,000 unique users in Madagascar make over 1 million information requests. In Malawi, our success has been even greater, receiving over 25,000 calls per day!
Although we do not have specific climate change awareness information on our other platforms, this is an area in which we would like to expand. The 3-2-1 Service has proven to be very effective and is easily accessible by even the most low income and illiterate individuals.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
Traditional mass media such as radio messages or billboards have proven to be effective at reaching large numbers of people, but these channels do not allow the target audiences to have input on what information they receive, or where and when they receive it. Other mobile and social media interventions use the same “push” technique, sending out predetermined messages that are frequently misdirected and only moderately successful at engaging individuals with lower literacy levels.
The 3-2-1 Service uses the existing technology of simple mobile phones, providing populations with a “pull” channel and empowering them to access information that is 1) retrievable on demand to meet their immediate need, 2) accessible by lower literates through detailed voice recordings, 3) reachable using simple mobile phones, 4) affordable, and 5) linked to actionable next steps, such as referrals. Callers can dial in anytime, anywhere, and listen to the content free of charge.
Furthermore, due to our partnership with Vodafone Ghana and our B2B model, the 3-2-1 Service is very sustainable, scalable, and cost effective. We can continually update, modify and expand the content on the platform.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
One unanswered question is about the accuracy of the current weather forecasting capabilities in Ghana. Although this is somewhat uncertain, we intend to leverage our existing networks and build further partnerships to ensure that we have the best available weather data. We have a partnership with EarthNetworks who will also be working with TAHMO and the Ghana Meteorological Service.
We also do not know the demographics and phone access of all individuals in the target communities, but we can gather this information. Through the 3-2-1 Service we can also include simple registration questions to learn more about our users and better respond to their needs.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Information may be available, but that does not mean it is easily accessible by all individuals. Without a smartphone or internet access, vulnerable populations often have limited or no means of accessing needed information, especially at a moment of need. The 3-2-1 Service will allow low income and low literate individuals to use simple mobile phones to retrieve relevant, localized content and messages on climate change and weather alerts in the local languages. Furthermore, the Service will be an information and communication platform to promote existing resources and emergency preparedness support services that may not be widely known.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
In Ghana, we collected feedback from the community by speaking to residents in Agbogbloshie, a subset of Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra that is severely affected by floods. All respondents were very excited about the 3-2-1 Service and weather alerts, but they were worried that many people would not be able to access the Service because they do not use Vodafone. This information has made us think about supporting the development of a network of local community mobilizers who can receive and disseminate information from the 3-2-1 Service. We have provided a detailed summary of this feedback in the attached document.
Although this idea will first be implemented in Ghana, we want it to be relevant and replicable in other countries, cities, and communities. For this reason we have included feedback from similar projects that we have in other countries. One of the most interesting findings from Madagascar is that respondents said they do not like general messages, such as information on the roles of government authorities or community officials in times of disaster. Individuals said they prefer practical messages. For example, if their house is on fire, what number they can call for help, or if there is a cyclone and they end up homeless, where they can go for support. This is valuable feedback that we can test when we launch the 3-2-1 Service in Ghana. While still including some general information, we can focus the climate and weather content on actionable messages.
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
In Ghana, our long-term goal is for the Ghana Meteorological Service to take ownership of the climate information service and make it available across all networks. This will allow all individuals to access the content for free.
However, climate change is not only affecting Ghana; it is affecting countries across the globe. We envision our Climate Change Awareness and Meteorological Early Warning Project in Ghana to be replicated, and tailored to the needs of the local population, in every country where 3-2-1 is launched. HNI is currently expanding the 3-2-1 Service to over 10 new countries in the next year. We could provide this information to our 75+ million subscribers!
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
The 3-2-1 content development process is designed to harness expertise from across a given sector. For this project, that will include the Ghana Met Office, TAHMO and Earth Networks on the forecasting side and various CSOs working on the resilience side.
One organization, Act for Change, who supported us to conduct the beneficiary feedback, works directly in communities and puts on plays and workshops relating to a range of topics (sexual reproductive health, WASH, gender, etc.). They were excited to learn about the 3-2-1 Service because they will be able to promote it during their community activities as an appropriate follow-up channel for individuals to access information.
We have also been approached by a few other organizations who are applying via this challenge, including Future Earth Ltd. The representative from Future Earth has said that they will promote the 3-2-1 Service through their Communities Cockpit in Ghana.