Why SMS’ing is good for SOS’ing

Here is a great example of how creative use of a very simple technology (text messaging) is solving a very grave problem: abuse of migrant workers in the Gulf. Curious to see how well this would work outside of the text-heavy culture of the Phillipines.    WHEN the Saudi employer of a Filipina domestic helper ...

Here is a great example of how creative use of a very simple technology (text messaging) is solving a very grave problem: abuse of migrant workers in the Gulf. Curious to see how well this would work outside of the text-heavy culture of the Phillipines.   

Here is a great example of how creative use of a very simple technology (text messaging) is solving a very grave problem: abuse of migrant workers in the Gulf. Curious to see how well this would work outside of the text-heavy culture of the Phillipines.   

WHEN the Saudi employer of a Filipina domestic helper refused to let her return home after her contract was finished, friends sent a single text message that simultaneously alerted authorities in the Philippines and agencies helping migrant workers in distress in the desert kingdom.

It was received by a mobile phone linked to a computer server in the Manila appartment of IT expert Bobby Soriano. The server, bought from a junk shop, immediately routed the text message to the groups that may be able to help her.

"When the SMS (short message service) is sent the system sends back an automatic reply that it has been received and that somebody will call them," said Mr Soriano, who helped developed the system for the Centre for Migrant Advocacy, a local NGO.

Between six and 10 SOS SMS’ a day are received a day, said Mr Soriano. Over half are from Saudi Arabia, where 1.4 million Filipinos work, mostly on short-term contracts.

…Many of the texts for help are from Filipinos complaining that their wages have not been paid or that they are working in dire conditions, said Mr Soriano.

Others, mainly domestic helpers, want rescuing from physical and sexual abusive at the hands of their employers. There have even been messages from seafarers stranded in far-off ports and Filipinos fleeing war zones.

The beauty of SOS SMS’ is that they are directly routed to the Philippine government’s welfare agency for overseas workers and the Department of Foreign Affairs…

Check the full story here.

Evgeny Morozov is a fellow at the Open Society Institute and sits on the board of OSI's Information Program. He writes the Net Effect blog on ForeignPolicy.com

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