Firm launches messaging platform on public beta

CEBU-based engageSPARK, a not-for-profit social business, has launched the latest version of its SMS and voice messaging platform into early release or public beta.

Using engageSPARK, non-government organizations, governments and businesses can launch interactive messaging campaigns including emergency alerts, health announcements, medication reminders, and sophisticated surveys. This can be accomplished within minutes, from anywhere in the world and with no technical expertise.

Mobile phone technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, with about seven billion mobile phones in use. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of those are in developing economies like the Philippines. engageSPARK founder and CEO Ravi Agarwal moved to Cebu
from Silicon Valley because he wanted to leverage mobile technology for social good.

He learned from many NGO leaders that they wanted to use mobile to interact with their beneficiaries, particularly because many beneficiaries don’t have reliable Internet access but do have a mobile phone that can be used for SMS and calls.

The high costs of designing, creating and maintaining an SMS & Voice system, though, prevented those NGOs from large scale mobile interaction with their beneficiaries.

Agarwal decided to create a system that anyone can use. “If you can use Facebook or email,” Agarwal says, “you can use engageSPARK. It’s that easy.”

While in private release in September 2014, engageSPARK teamed up with international NGO Mercy Corps to help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Mercy Corps and its partners gave cash transfers to 20,000 beneficiaries and wanted to interact with them about financial literacy issues, like savings. Mercy Corps used engageSPARK and was pleased with the results.

“At the click of a button we were able to see how many beneficiaries picked up the call, how long they listened to the message, and responses,” said Mercy Corps Program Manager Vaidehi Krishnan.

“Training and the application of training skills is one of the most difficult to report back on; engageSPARK’s reporting tools made it very easy to link the benefits of the training to donors and a wider audience.”

When Typhoon Hagupit was coming, Mercy Corps and engageSPARK were able to act quickly.

Because they already had 20,000 contacts and the system was in place, they were able to send early disaster preparedness messages. Recipients responded enthusiastically, saying, “Thanks to your messages we did not feel abandoned during this typhoon.”

“We are very excited for 2015,” says Agarwal. “Our goal is to help as many people as possible. Now that our early release version is public, we have the capacity to work with many more organizations, and we are one step closer to our goal of improving the lives of millions of poor people worldwide.” (PR)
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