mSwali anticipates Tanzanian expansion next year

Kenya’s mSwali will expand into Tanzania early next year, allowing users to easily survey clients via SMS texts.

mSwali is a web-based tool that uses mobile technology to survey clients and analyse data in real-time.

Rachel Brooks, mSwali co-founder and a Kiva Fellow told HumanIPO that the expansion to Tanzania came after they began receiving inquiries from a number of organisations working with communities in the country, as well as the firms in need of feedback from their clients about their services or products.

The firm released its public version late last year and since then over 70,000 mSwali SMS texts have been sent, with more than 400 being sent a day.

Presently, organisations working with mSwali in Kenya include farmers’ microfinance institution Juhudi Kilimo, One Degree Solar, Adam Smith International and the Aspen Institute. Brooks told HumanIPO that mSwali has played a part in Juhudi Kilimo’s projects in Nyanza, Rift Valley and Central provinces.

mSwali was born after Brooks and co-founder Jeremy Gordon were seeking a solution to solve a research need while working as Kiva Fellows at Juhudi Kilimo.

“We saw how difficult it was to get feedback from the field. Most farmers Juhudi Kilimo was working with were deep in the interior and it took us days to get to them and more days to come and compile the reports. With even delays leading to inaccuracies,” Brooks said.

She added that they saw many of the farmers with basic mobile phones and thought something could be done.

“The mSwali idea then began developing. Jeremy, a mechanical engineer from Stanford with a software background and knowledge of python began working on something, then with my exposure at Microsoft and Adobe, I chipped in,” she added.

Organisations pay from between KSh3 and KSh6 per bulk SMS text messages sent, though the feedback SMS from farmers or clients is free. Those using mSwali to do research can also give farmers incentives in form of airtime.

mSwali’s dashboard is simple to use, with the client signing up and selecting the name or group of people they wants to reach. They can then decide the type of questions to send to the clients or farmers.

“You design a survey, choosing respondents, and send it and get response in just a few minutes,” Brooks said.

mSwali SMS can also be used to register products, manage after sale services, collect customer feedback, track facility statuses and issues and perform high sample size measurement and evaluation.

Brooks says they chose SMS as it could be used “anywhere anytime.”

Challenges exist, however, as many Kenyans have a fear of free SMS and particularly due to fear of frauds. In addition, not everyone uses SMS in Kenya, due to age and gender related issues or illiteracy, she added.

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