Polorum is solving the problem of mass communication in rural Africa using the technology in people’s pockets – the mobile phone. Where traditional infrastructure is lacking, mobile usage in Africa is on the rise. We see this as an opportunity to create a speedy, cost-effective channel through which locals, NGOs and public services can deliver the messages they need over isolated, spread out populations. Over 40,000 phone numbers can be stored in our system, which sends out regular texts to all the mobile phones in a community. Run by locals for locals, our system is sustainable because its messages are trusted.
Polorum will enable communications that can:
When Oonagh Mannix travelled to East Africa in 2014, she witnessed first-hand how difficult it was for the local hospital to send messages out to the community. The previous year’s typhoid epidemic had seen a community awareness of only 15%, meaning people continued to drink unsafe water. There needed to be a simple and effective solution to communications and there came the seed for Polorum (formerly ZvakanakaSMS).
A year on, a lot of hard work and some funding later, our team is based internationally in the UK and Europe. We also work on the ground in Africa, in collaboration with a local NGO and hospital. Our pilot employs five local young people.
We partner with NGOs, organisations and tech companies to make sure our system gets delivered to the communities where it’s needed. Our story has been featured in the Startup Interviews.