Monday, August 3, 2009

A year of Drugs, Sex & Mobile Phones

One year has passed and so many things has happened since we "officially" launched Drug Advice Support (previously known as idmtalk). Drug Advice Support (DAS) is one of our large projects, part of our Living Lab activity, and it emerged out of a need in a community that were experiencing the scourge of drug addiction and violence. Using men and women from the community we started a journey that will change our lives and thousands others forever. This service uses mobile phones as a medium to connect with people all across South Africa offering advice and support to those in need (Mobile Active description of DAS).

Since then we've been in more than 50 articles (that we are aware of!!), 3 television appearances, more than 20 radio interviews and we still believe that we have so much to offer of how technology can be used to make a difference in the lives of many. We've had our server crash, got a team from UWC (Wesley and Paul) using the Chisimba platform as a basis for DAS to co-develop with the community a system that could support the large number of requests. With 19 registered advisors (4 Full time)who all come from the local community of Bridgetown, Cape Town, South Africa the following are some indication of what was achieved during 250 hours online (31 July 2009):

- Number of Subscribers: 9,193
- Number of Messages: 746,440
- Number of Conversations : 30,685
- Number of Conversations related to drugs: 18,963
- Average number of conversations per session: 30,685 / 250 hours = 122.5 per hour or 245 per session
- Maximum number of conversations 473 and the Minimum 21
- Average number of Messages = 1422 per session (Max 3678, Min 234)
- Average number of conversations per Advisor in a session = 24 (Min 4, Maximum 56)

Other interesting statistics were:

- TiK (Crystal Meth) was the most popular drug with 6637 related conversations followed by Heroin with 3223.
- 13% [1211] of subscribers were using this service to get support for a family member.
- 4% [403] of Subscribers are getting offline help/support or counselling after using the service (This is known cases through feedback conversations).

This clearly shows us an example of where mobile phones can be used for social good and make the difference in the lives of literally thousands in a nation. Bare in mind that all this was done with very little resources bu a group of extraordinary individuals passionate about reconstructing their communities.
So through all of this we cried and laughed together, celebrated when DAS subscribers were victorious and saddened when they were struggling, but we've made it and we are still standing. So what makes this year so special that others want to read or hear about it? Simple it is about people caring about other people and giving the little that they have to see lives being Reconstructed. A special thanks to the team of DAS who makes this more than a project of Drugs, Sex and Mobile Phones, but one of where we united can make a difference in our communities and nation.


Anonymous said...

Wow, a year has passed already! Time flies when you are having fun. Congratulations to the Drug Advice Support team! Well done.

Marcha Neethling said...

Hi Marlon
I am Marcha Neethling. Writing to you from Praekelt Foundation

I would love to talk to you / find out if synergies exist and how we can possibly work together, on 2 of our major projects:

1) Project Masiluleke
is a mass HIV campaign with variou components. You can read more about it here:

we are specifically interested to talk to you about the use of mobile, remote, anonymous counseling.

2) TxtAlert
is an appointment reminder system. patients currently communicate with the system by means of Please Call Me's which they send to an administrator. Would be interested to know how we can also possibly offer a mobile, remote support service (cost effective) to our current cohort of patients but also with the aim of expansion.

Would you be willing to chat to us?

If YES, then I can suggest a few dates and times and will provide a conf call number. Would also like to invite our MD, Gustav Praekelt to this discussion.

Let me know please