Wanji: Gamified Narratives Delivered via Basic Mobile Phones

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PVI uses tactics and technology to reach people where they are, with the tools they have, in ways that speak to them – motivating increased and more meaningful involvement of communities in creating social change. Wanji, an interactive mobile game, overcomes barriers of literacy, language, distance, and scale – living directly in the hands of each player through a simple mobile phone. It generates deep analytics, so learning can be measured and future games can be more effective.

Wanji uses interactive stories to engage hard-to-reach populations via mobile phones, regardless of language, literacy, geography, or technology.

Project description

What problem are you trying to solve?
With Wanji, PVI aims to combat the digital divide in the developing world by leveraging the Global South’s widespread mobile telephony. Wanji evolves mobile learning in a way that people can use effectively with the tools at their disposal, regardless of literacy, language, or geography.

Communication is how we connect to one another and to the broader world, and for it to impact societal norms and attitudes, it must engage, educate and entertain. People think/remember in story and act/choose through emotion. Wanji harnesses mobile telephony to these basic principles of communication and learning to create a compelling, interactive experience that educates players (about issues ranging from job hunting to reproductive health) and hones critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Wanji solves the dual problems of reaching last-mile constituents in ways that deeply inform and engage them with new understanding and skills.

What is your solution to this problem?
For marginalized populations, little information can change lives in a big way. This solution uses basic telephony to provide interactive, educational learning through spoken audio. Users call a toll-free number, listen to, and interact with educational stories in their primary language – a “choose your own” adventure narrative approach. This allows a geographically remote audience with limited literacy access to salient information in their own spoken language through a tool (mobile phones) they already use.

Because Wanji piggybacks on the mobile phones already in the hands of our target users, it has immediate potential to reach millions of users quickly and efficiently. PVI partners with mobile communications provider Viamo and can deploy the Wanji platform across 16+ countries (primarily in Subsaharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia), with plans to scale to dozens more in the coming three years.

What is your latest update on your innovation?
In 2017, Wanji Games in Uganda, where the games launched, were played by more than 100,000 unique users. In 2018, new Wanji games have rolled out in Cambodia, Kenya, Malawi, and Rwanda, with over a 250,000 calls this year. Through scaling over the next few years, including to larger markets, we anticipate growth in the millions. For instance, Wanji was just made available in Pakistan, where there is a potential audience of 5 million registered users already engaged with IVR Content and 35 million additional potential users once a funding partnership is established.

One example of Wanji’s impact: For a 2015 Teso language Wanji prototype, follow-up surveys found that participants who played the game four times, when compared to a control group, demonstrated a 12% increase in intention to pursue a game recommendation and a 4% increase in brand recognition. Research partnerships have since been developed to robustly analyze in-game data and understand out-of-game longer-term impact.


Lizzie Goodfriend

Paul Falzone


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