The Changing Sound of Content

Silent White supports his growing family by selling dry fish that he catches in Lake Malawi. He does not need a formal education to know that fish only dry when there is enough sun. Every day he dials 3-2-1 to listen to the weather report in Chichewa, the only language he understands, to know if it will be a good day to dry his fish. 

Tsangambelo tends to his farm in Ihorombe, Madagascar. As the quiet of the evening sets in, Tsangambelo calls 3-2-1 to play “The Foreseeing Farmer”, an audio adventure game that prompts him to make decisions. His choices result in increases or losses of zebus, a Malagasy cow and important source of wealth in communities like his. The game teaches him “how to increase zebus, to protect crops from floods, and about insurance.” He reflects that the game has “really helped [me] to make decisions in life, it gives information and advice about agriculture, and it motivates me to play… because it is fun!”.

Emilie, a mother of four living Faradje, DRC calls 3-2-1 to listen to the audio drama Elembo or “Footprint”. On a break from her housework, her three-month-old in hand, she delves into the storylines that follow women’s issues, loving how the livelihood lessons are embedded in such an engaging story. Later with friends she discusses the lessons they learn through their favorite characters, such as being able to choose when to have a child. 

These stories represent the impact of the changing sound of content on the 3-2-1 Service. Since 2010, the 3-2-1 Service has provided millions of users information on diverse topics such as health and agriculture in their moment of need by making available free audio information in local languages accessible through any mobile phone. Our users need the 3-2-1 Service not only in a moment of need, but also for many other moments throughout their lives – for planning, learning, and entertainment.

So we have added dynamic and edutainment content, information that is updated daily or changes sequentially based on users’ interactions. In 2019, 45% of the content consumed on the 3-2-1 Service was dynamic. This year, educational audio dramas written by Social Dialogue Group, UNICEF and Population Media Center have reached over 400,000 people in countries like Botswana, Nigeria and DRC. Interactive narrative audio games designed by Peripheral Vision International have attracted over 330,000 players in seven countries and cover topics ranging from family planning to agriculture insurance. Daily educational lessons for children curated by Ubongo have been listened to over 170,000 times by children and adults alike in Tanzania and Nigeria.

News (provided by partners such as Hirondelle Foundation and local radio stations) and weather information (powered by Earth Networks) empower users to make decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information. In 2019 so far, 44% of our over 5.3 million listeners have listened to news and 35% of them have heard their local weather forecast. Since news launched in Mali earlier this year, 820,000 users have listened to over 12.6 million news key messages. Two thirds of those news listeners have explored other topics, demonstrating that dynamic content attracts users to other essential educational information.

Dynamic, interactive, and edutainment content is helping expand the use, reach, and impact of our 3-2-1 Service. It provides the weather Silent needs for his business planning, the game Tsangambelo enjoys for learning, the drama that teaches Emilie important life lessons, and millions of other users access to relevant, engaging, enjoyable and actionable information through the mobile phones that are already so integral to their daily lives.