Empowering youth through innovative data collection

Location: Municipalities in Potosi, Bolivia
Duration: 3 years
Total cost: 786,500 USD

Engaging the most vulnerable populations in monitoring via RapidSMS technology

Problem statement

Despite Bolivia’s progress toward generating accurate statistical information, there is a lack of data available at the municipal level to create effective social policies that address the most vulnerable children’s needs. At a time when budgets and decision-making power is being decentralized to the departmental and municipal levels, this information could effectively guide the distribution of public funds.

On another note, young Bolivians currently lack a voice in shaping programmes and expenditures that affect them. They are not generally involved in gathering information, raising awareness, or advocating for change that affects them and their families. Increasing their involvement can help to guarantee new policies have an impact on their lives.


Accurate information collection is vital to monitoring and improving children’s lives, especially for members of indigenous populations living in hard-to-reach rural areas. The limited information available now comes from the national census and surveys that reflect national conditions as a whole and cannot shed light on the reality of local conditions. RapidSMS text message-based data collection can solve the statistical challenges Bolivia facies. Today, mobile phone coverage reaches 80% of the country and 76% of Bolivian households have at least one cell phone. UNICEF Bolivia can easily deploy this tool to conduct health and nutrition surveys, register children in public health campaigns, track supplies, and promote community discussion. Using RapidSMS data collection would give the country the ability to collect and organize complex data by working together with local people, especially young people, who have basic cell phones.

With the instantaneous ability to post information collected through free SMS texts to the Internet, RapidSMS’ flexibility and wide scope will allow the Government of Bolivia and other organizations to contact people living in the hardest to reach locations and overcome prior obstacles like poor roads, a lack of electricity or a slow postal system. With this real time data, UNICEF Bolivia can improve programming and support the Government of Bolivia to create timely evidence-based policy responses and budgets that address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable children.

Project strategy

This project will start with an initial group of 500 SMS reporters who will be trained to provide information in the form of texted polling responses tied to their individual cell phone numbers (to avoid the skewing of data through repeated responses or from individuals outside the reporting group). Providing this free SMS-enabled service will empower young Bolivians to act as “SMS reporters” who respond to polls, receive factual information and poll results, and voice their opinions on the issues that concern them the most. Collecting this timely and accurate data on the country’s most vulnerable and excluded populations will bolster UNICEF Bolivia and the Government of Bolivia’s ongoing efforts to protect children and families from structural poverty and inequality. Improved youth participation will also help raise awareness on specific issues, improve community-led development and provide information sharing and policy advocacy at all levels of government. UNICEF will share the collected data in full with local government partners.

Objectives of the Action

The overall objective is: To use RapidSMS texting to support data collection and youth engagement activities.

The specific objectives are to:

  • Develop a software application and web platform to manage communication between the young SMS reporters – or “social monitors” – and the central managers of the RapidSMS system.
  • Pilot the initiative Potosi to locate the most vulnerable and excluded indigenous populations, launch effective media-based recruitment campaigns for SMS reporters, and recruit partner non-governmental organizations.


  • Entel – the Plurinational State Telecommunications Company
  • Cell phone companies: TIGO and VIVA
  • The Bolivian Regulation and Enforcement Authority for Telecommunications and Transportation
  • Non-governmental organizations working in marginalized regions

Target groups

  • Young people under 30 in remote and marginalised areas
  • A minimum of 500 “SMS reporters” during the first year of the initiative
  • Adults who send messages on behalf of those who do not have mobile phones but want to make their voices heard

Main activities

  • Develop a software application and web platform for data collection on the situation of children.
  • Raise awareness about the benefits of having a voice heard on issues which concern Bolivian youth.
  • Recruit SMS reporters through media campaign spots on radio and television.
  • Provide training activities for SMS reporters.


Activity Expresed in USD
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
1. Design and implementation of the pilot project
Develop a software application and web platform
Provide training for SMS reporters
2. Communications and advocacy
Raise awareness about the benefits of having a voice heard
Recruit SMS reporters on radio and television
3. Alliance building 50,00050,00050,000150,000
4. Scale up 20,00020,000100,000140,000
5. Technical assistance (Build the capacities of local authorities and NGOs) 50,00050,00050,000150,000
6. Monitoring and evaluation 10,00010,00015,00035,000
7. External communication and visibility 5,0005,0005,00015,000
Total programmable amount 260,000210,000245,000715,000
Recovery cost (10%) 26,00021,00024,50071,500
Total required budget 286,000231,000269,500786,500
Xavier R. Sire,
Knowledge Management Specialist,
Tel: +591.2.2623.284