The digital divide hurts the poor by making it harder for them to find the resources they desperately need.
VoterPAC uses an innovative approach to help the needy in California's Central Valley and build contact lists. It provides details on nearby food banks with an automated text helpline, so those without internet access and unfamiliar with online searches can find free food banks.
Infobots are programs that listen to incoming text inquiries, collect details and text back the answer automatically with the answer. Infobots are affordable and enable even small groups to quickly set up their own automated helpline and build contact lists. Infobots cost about five cents to handle an inquiry. Imagine helping a thousand people and building a contact list for $50 while earning their gratitude for helping them.
This blog describes how VoterPAC set up a text helpline to provide information about food banks in California’s Central Valley.
Where is the nearest food bank?
Build contact lists with infobots
VoterPAC aims to help the needy and encourage them to register to vote. Many families in the Central Valley depend on food banks, but struggle to find information on nearby food banks because they don't have internet access and find it hard to search online. VoterPAC decided that providing a free service way to provide this information by text would be a good way to reach more people. Their text based helpline was deployed within a day by following these simple steps:
- Collecting information about food banks from different sources including
- This information was published as a Google doc https://bit.ly/FresnoFoodBanks that is kept upto date with new information
- Information about the service is shared in the community on social media, flyers and QR Codes.
- Residents are asked to text 'food' to 202-858-0303
- An infobot asks them to opt-in to the service and then texts them a link with details on nearby food banks
- Providing the information as a text message avoids the need for internet access and saves them the hassle of making searching online
- Their name and phone number is saved so VoterPAC can follow-up with them as well
Infobot powered helplines offer advocacy groups and nonprofits several benefits:
- Any type of information and documents can be provided e.g. how to apply for an eviction moratorium, list of vaccination clinics...
- The information can be provided in different languages
- A single phone number can be used to provide different types of information depending on the 'keyword' that is texted in
- Opt-in contact lists can be built quickly and affordably
Voter registration in California averages almost 90% of eligible voters, but much less (70 – 80%) in the Central Valley Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties are home to about 1.5 million people – represented by three Republican Congressmen (Reps. Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, and David Valadao). VoterPAC aims to register, rally, and empower the rising American Electorate – people of color and younger voters – in California’s Central Valley prior to the 2022 mid-term elections.
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