The Life-saving Power of a Text Message


U-report is an open-source SMS platform operated by UNICEF Uganda, designed to give community members a voice on issues that impact them. There are currently over 200,000 U-report participants and they send up to 10,000 unsolicited text messages in a week.

The objective of the program in Uganda is to understand the data in real-time, and have issues addressed by the appropriate departments in UNICEF in a timely manner. Given the high volume and velocity of the data streams, manual inspection of all messages is no longer sustainable. This talk describes an automated message-understanding and routing system deployed by IBM at UNICEF.

The team employs recent advances in data mining to get the most out of labeled training data, while incorporating domain knowledge from experts. They will discuss the tradeoffs, design choices and challenges in applying such techniques in a real-world deployment. They conclude with a discussion of the societal impact that U-report is already driving in Uganda, and discuss plans for future deployment.