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Value of voice: an unsung opportunity

Text messaging remains the most common way of delivering mobile-enabled services in developing countries. However, there are compelling reasons to reconsider the value of using voice solutions as a delivery mechanism – both for scale and profitability. Although the initial costs of implementing a text-based (e.g. SMS, USSD) Mobile for Development (M4D) service are generally lower than voice-based services (e.g. IVR, native voice), the corresponding addressable market of these services is often more limited, constrained by language and technology illiteracy. IVR voice services are also well placed for profit margin expansion due to cost structure advantages compared to running SMS and USSD services.

This note has been designed to inform mobile operators and entrepreneurs why (and when) voice based services should be considered when implementing an M4D program. We will begin by highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of using voice, text messaging or data to deliver services; we will then describe in detail the advantages of using voice.

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