SMS (Text Messaging)
- Face-to-Face, Online, or Both?
- General Type of Method
- Informal participation
- Typical Purpose
- Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
- Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
- Spectrum of Public Participation
- Open to All or Limited to Some?
- Open to All
- Types of Interaction Among Participants
- Ask & Answer Questions
- Express Opinions/Preferences Only
- Scope of Implementation
- Metropolitan Area
The use of SMS (text messaging) for public feedback has increased with the growing number of mobile phone users. Depending on the purpose of the wider initiative, SMS systems can be used for everything from simple voting to long-form Q&A or issue reporting.
Problems and Purpose
SMS (also known as text messaging or 'texting') is a mobile phone-based tool used in numerous public participation initiatives for various purposes. Communication over SMS allows for the sending and receiving of simple and complex messages including, for example, survey responses, long-form issue reports, question and answers, proposal submissions, and voting. SMS is often used in conjunction with other feedback or communication methods as a way to increase participation to those who cannot be physically present. SMS also decreases the costs associated with organizing and running a participatory initiative as it reduces the need for physical spaces of assembly.
Origins and Development
How it Works
Voting by SMS has been used in Mongolia in the following way. First, the government distributed information about an upcoming referendum via SMS to citizens' phones. At a later date, the government distributed a form listing the referendum voting choices, via SMS to citizens' phones. When citizens made their vote using the form, the voting choices were transmitted by SMS to the government agency that administered the election.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
 Hahn, A. (2018). Mongolia’s 2015 referendum via text messaging: Engaging rural and nomadic citizens in public screen deliberation. International Journal of Communication, 12, 4379-4400. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/6134
Piexoto, Tiago. (2012). Mobile phones and SMS: some data on inclusiveness. DemocracySpot. https://democracyspot.net/2012/09/28/how-inclusive-are-sms-facilitators-and-barriers-to-sms-use-among-the-low-income-mobile-users-in-asia/
Piexoto, Tiago. (2013). The Effect of SMS on Participation: Evidence from Uganda. DemocracySpot. https://democracyspot.net/2013/11/30/the-effect-of-sms-on-participation-evidence-from-uganda/
Schuler, Ian. (2008). SMS as a Tool in Election Observation. Innovations (Spring 2008), 143-157. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/itgg.2008.3.2.143
A (Text) Message for Democracy (Open Society Foundations)