New Research

Information is Aid:
Voice Post’s Blue Messenger Bicycles

University of Toronto

In South Sudan, over 80 per cent of the population is grappling with high levels of poverty, resides in rural areas, and lacks information that is vital to their lives – including information on public services, health care and basic rights. Through a grassroots initiative, a group of young innovators founded Voice Post in 2019 to promote information sharing and community engagement through its Blue Messenger Bicycles (BMB).

Launched in 2020, BMB includes a team of 50 volunteers who travel around Juba with a blue bicycle and megaphone in order to broadcast lifesaving information to war-affected populations, the geographically isolated and those who cannot travel far from their homesteads. Using the principles of Communication for Development, BMB disseminates lifesaving messaging to citizens around public health emergencies, disaster relief and peacebuilding initiatives in five different languages: Arabic, Bari, Dinka, English and Nuer. In partnership with UNDP South Sudan’s Accelerator Lab, BMB has been able to reach more than two million people.

Developing a better understanding of the factors contributing to Voice Post’s success in reaching the hardest to reach will create actionable insights to bolster grassroots innovation, inform potential scaling initiatives and help deliver lifesaving information where it is needed most.

Hard to Reach

Individuals who lack information infrastructure and face severe information inaccessibility in South Sudan.

Key Takeaways

The unique insights from Blue Messenger Bicycles while reaching the hardest to reach includes:

  1. Cultural competence in messaging delivery
  2. Two-way communication
  3. Direct implementation
  4. Youth empowerment as a secondary goal

Acknowledgements

This research was made possible through the Reach Alliance, a partnership between the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Research was also funded by the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professorship of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. We express our gratitude and appreciation to those we met and interviewed for sharing their insights and passions with us. We sincerely thank Dr. Michael J. Widener for providing us with countless hours of mentorship and guidance throughout this process.

This research was vetted by and received approval from the Ethics Review Board at the University of Toronto. Research was conducted remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.