WhatsApp Pilots with UNICEF Mozambique

A User Centric Learning Experience

Rodolfo Pedro Silva Junior
Ragia Ngao Amade, 17, rides on a bike with a friend. She volunteers for four hours a day as a counsellor for SMS Biz/U-Report’s counselling service.
UNICEF Mozambique/2018/Nazer

28 February 2019

The challenge

With more than 200,000 registered users, U-Report Mozambique has quickly developed into an important source of information regarding sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and young adults throughout the country. While the platform continues to grow, the innovation team at UNICEF Mozambique continues to be on the lookout for new ways to reach more young people than ever before. That’s why the team is now among the first to bring U-Report together with WhatsApp – and the results are promising.

U-Report Mozambique is a SMS-based system that is free of charge to users thanks to an agreement between the Government of Mozambique and the Mobile operators of the country. U-Report regularly runs polls and surveys that allow young people to make their voices heard. An additional important element of the service is the counselling service: registered users can ask their questions to trained youth counsellors and receive answers by SMS, anonymously and completely free of charge.

Always looking at improving and expanding the potential of the service, the Mozambique innovation team decided there was a good opportunity to pilot an instant messaging channel in addition to SMS. Instant messaging could improve the service with faster counselling responses, and a more interactive experience. In addition, it allowed to answer U-Reporters requests for more content.

But how could we be sure we’d meet the users’ expectations during the initial pilot stage? The UNICEF Mozambique innovation team started by creating a poll to ask U-Reporters two simple questions: if they had access to the internet on their phones and if they would be interested in being WhatsApp U-Reporters. The results were astonishing: 95% out of over 20,000 responders said that they were interested in joining U-Report through WhatsApp.

A new service

Based on this feedback, the Mozambique innovation team decided to work with UNICEF’s global Office of Innovation to take up the challenge of bringing U-Report Mozambique to WhatsApp, starting out with a target of 10.000 registered users in the first 3 months.

Figure 1: Mozambique U-Reporters interested in WhatsApp.
UNICEF Innovation
Figure 1: Mozambique U-Reporters interested in WhatsApp.

During the planning process for the WhatsApp integration and after analyzing the advantages of the WhatsApp channel, the innovation team realized that they had to create a new type of content for this channel to differentiate it from the SMS channel.

A few brainstorming sessions later, the team had a draft version of an automated menu of frequently asked questions (FAQ), which would allow users to quickly navigate through an automated FAQ menu prepped with counseling information at any time of the day.

This solution would take full advantage of the 65,000 word text limit and emoji support found on WhatsApp, while pushing the word limits of the RapidPro platform that powers U-Report to accommodate the information already available for counselors on the frequent asked questions document. The final version of the FAQ menu had 13 categories of 10 topics each, related to sexual health and reproductive education.

SMS BIZ counselor and Aida Novela (SMS BIZ coordinator).
UNICEF/Mozambique/Claudio Fauvrelle
SMS BIZ counselor and Aida Novela (SMS BIZ coordinator).

Current Status of the WhatsApp Integration

Since its deployment on 28 July 2018, the Mozambique U-Report WhatsApp has been growing steadily. It has now reached 3,375 registered U-Reporters, which represents 25% of the 10,000 expected registration target for the first 3 months.

Another surprise was the level of engagement of Mozambique U-Report WhatsApp users to our FAQ menu. U-Reporters were instinctively using the WhatsApp channel without asking for any support. Even though they were early adopters, U-Reporters could easily navigate through the FAQ and submit questions to the counselors through the WhatsApp Channel.

For the first month of implementation, FAQ menu was consulted over 6,000 times, with “Dating” followed by more serious questions about sexual health being the top U-Reporters topics of choice. Knowing what is the most sought information and guidance, thanks to the metrics generated by the FAQ reports, will guide the development of new U-Report content and it will also help concentrating the U-Report counselors training, according to the U-Reporters preferred topics.

The first month of U-Report WhatsApp has given an insight on the potential of the integration of WhatsApp based channels to compliment the original U-Report SMS support in Mozambique. During the planning process, the team was particularly worried about having U-Reporters doing another registration flow for the WhatsApp Channel. Following the pilot, the team is now working to find solutions that enable smooth transition from SMS to WhatsApp channel.

On the bright side, taking advantage of the WhatsApp channel, U-Reporters are already experiencing faster responses from the counselors when compared to SMS. This reduction on the average response time was detected by analyzing the reports generated by the Mozambique U-Partners page. The U-Partners page is the dashboard accessed by peer counselors, through which counselling services are managed and questions are answered. It’s through this page that a counselor can reply to a user in total anonymity and follow through any case that requires more than just one counselling message. WhatsApp improvements also extend into the prospects of creating new exciting content with integrated pictures and links, which would allow for more graphic U-Report content on flows and campaigns.

For the near future, the Mozambique innovation team would like to integrate games, quizzes and possibly an interactive story based on a radiophonic program where U-Reporters will be able to go through the storyline and choose the best answers according to their own opinions.

There is still a long way to go before all 20.162 U-Reporters interested in WhatsApp register through WhatsApp, but it’s already clear that U-Reporters in Mozambique are always willing to engage and try new U-Report features. The UNICEF Mozambique Country Office team is committed to produce U-Report content based on U-Reporters feedback and allow for a more seamless user experience throughout the U-Report platform.