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‘SMS 4400’a ‘SMS 4400’ - toll free SMS service for young people in Nepal

© UNICEF Nepal/2010/SShrestha
One of the guests in the SMS Launching ceremony sending SMS to 4400. The toll-free SMS service was launched through simultaneous texting by all guests present in the event.

By John BRITTAIN

"Four... four... zero... zero!"  "Four.. four.. zero.. zero!"

This was the chant that reverberated in the air, as young people and old competed with each other in dancing and belting out various versions of the number "4400" at the launch of UNICEF's SMS service for the young people in Nepal.  SMS 4400, a toll free number where young people can text in their views and concerns, was launched through simultaneous texting by all the guests present in the fun-filled event.

This free SMS text service launched this week in Nepal is quite unique because it mixes old and new media—the web, the mobile phone, letters and the radio.  UNICEF has teamed up with national radio broadcaster SSMK, the most listened to youth radio show in Nepal, which has a following of millions of young people and has been informing and entertaining young Nepalis for nearly ten years now.  SSMK was also initiated by UNICEF and is now being hosted by its partner Equal Access Nepal with support from UNICEF.
 
Every week, SSMK radio will initiate a topic of debate live on air and invite opinions. Listeners can then text in their views and comments on the given topic by sending an SMS, free of charge, direct to the "Voices of Youth" section of the UNICEF Nepal website. 

© UNICEF Nepal/2010/SShrestha
Team of the radio programme, Saathi Sanga Manka Kura, SSMK, presenting a skit titled "Get Connected."

“SSMK has always encouraged their listeners to write in about their concerns and issues through letters and this has worked very well”, said UNICEF Representative Ms. Gillian Mellsop. “But now we are moving one step ahead.  The listeners will, of course, continue to write in their opinions to SSMK, but now they will also have the choice of communicating and responding immediately and making their voices heard through SMS 4400 and UNICEF Nepal’s website.”

This new service provides a platform for children and adolescents to make their voices heard regarding events shaping their lives.
 
UNICEF is aiming to bridge the digital divide and opening new forms of electronic participation through this SMS service, for texting has become a regular part of the teenage experience even in the remotest corners of a country like Nepal where it can take a week to travel to the nearest town.  But with new technology, whole vistas of instantaneous communication have opened up.

“With so many young people wishing to voice their opinions and participate in a larger community - this modern facility will reach out to them all across the country through this exciting combination of mobile technology, the web and national radio networks,” said Mr Deepndra Joshi, the Country Director of Equal Access. “It is targeted at all young people from both rural and urban areas, and intends to help them participate in interesting and relevant discussions.”

SMS 4400 already seems to have sparked a lot of interest within a day of the launch with over 4,200 texts already sent in to the Nepal website and that is even before the first topic has been broadcast live on air.

“It seems clear that there is a real demand for this service among the young in Nepal. They want to voice their opinions,” added Ms. Mellsop. “The service looks set to provide a wealth of interesting materials, like the letters to SSMK, which, over time, can help pinpoint more accurately the principle areas of interest among the young.  This is useful and precious information that we will be able to take into account as we further develop youth participation in Nepal.”

Aside from the "4400 Song and Dance Competition" organised by SSMK, the launch also featured a skit by the radio team artistes on "Getting Connected!"

 

 

 

 

Video

27 April 2010: UNICEF's Bhavna Adhikari reports on the launch of free SMS text programme designed to connect the young people of Nepal.
 VIDEO  high | low


Audio

UNICEF Radio reports on the new mulitmedia initiative that lets Nepali youth debate and discuss important issues via free text messages from their mobile phones.
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