With the increasing knowledge about and widespread use of information and communications technology, there is an increased opportunity to reach vulnerable and isolated populations globally.
For example, mobile technologies increase the reach and communication abilities of community health workers, allowing them to affect larger portions of communities and geographic areas. Confidential hotlines, which were described by several speakers, offer one of the most common ways to penetrate a community and affect wider geographic areas. An example is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States, which individuals at risk for suicide can call for help or reach online.
Online platforms can aid in the dissemination and sharing of knowledge among creators, directors, and funders of programs. Furthermore, social media platforms allow an increased dissemination of a victim’s experiences and also make it possible for the victims to quickly receive social support, advice, and companionship. Finally, communications technologies can provide a powerful source of funding for such programs and interventions, as text campaigns allowing individuals to donate to certain causes via their mobile phones and the Internet have become increasingly popular over the past few years.
Speaker Erik Hersman of Ushahidi emphasized the broad, large-scale impact of mobile technology on the spread of information. He said that new technology is lowering barriers and “just by its existence it is disrupting things.” He spoke about the vast penetration rate for mobile phones, noting that more than 600 million phones are in Africa, a continent with a total population of approximately 1 billion.
Speaker John Pollock of Technology Review discussed one example of wide-scale community penetration was the power of social media to impact revolutions. He said that youth were starting the revolution, and, importantly, women were involved. In leveraging social media to build a revolution, people were able to find each other in real-time.
Networks are another important way to penetrate communities with violence prevention messages, as noted by Mr. Hersman and speaker Devon Halley of Deloitte Research GovLab (XBC) and discussed in previous chapters. The advantage of networks is they are more flexible, innovative, and resilient rather than command-and-control hierarchies.
Social support is another meaningful component of interventions and programs that can be improved with communications technologies. Social media platforms can help extend the reach of connections and experience
1 Market penetration is the entry into a community, gaining new users or enhancing current users’ experiences.