The Czech public has responded overwhelmingly to the Indian Ocean disaster, giving 125 million crowns (around 5.5 million US dollars) to date. What is particularly interesting is how donations have been made, with mobile phone text messages by far the most popular method. Indeed, Czechs have made over one million SMS donations, very impressive for a country of 10 million inhabitants. I discussed this novel approach with Pavlina Kalousova of Forum darcu, or the Czech Donors Forum.
Do you know if this system exists in other countries in the region?
"It doesn't exist in such a way. You can find in other countries a system where the mobile phone operator organises a collection and donates the collected money to a selected NGO. However, the mobile phone operator does one to two collections a year. In the Czech Republic the Donors Message Service has already served over 35 organisations."
How long has the system been in place and how does it work?
"It is actually a fresh thing; it was launched April 1, 2004. It works very easily. Every organisation gets its own key word that you text message. There is one telephone number for all the donating text messages, and one system of paying - every donating text message costs the same."
After the Indian Ocean disaster how many SMSes donating money were you getting, for instance, an hour? What was the peak of donating?
"The highest peak of donations was half a million crowns within a few minutes, after it was launched in prime time on Czech Television."
You say you first began this system back in April or May last year - did it take long for Czech people to get used to the idea of donating by SMS?
"Actually, it was surprising to us that the people really got used to it very easily. Because the first collection Help the Children already collected over three million Czech crowns over SMS, which was launched in April. I think that's because it is really so easy to donate to a good cause - you can be in your living room watching television and when you get an appeal to send money you just send an SMS."
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